This recipe comes from Hannah Glasse in 1740, while the description and some of the inspiration for this type of Christmas Pie comes from Whitby in North Yorkshire, written in 1843. This is not an ‘exotic’ tasting pie from over 250 years ago, this is actually a spectacular looking (and large) Christmas Pie from Yorkshire, filled with wonderfully seasoned game meats and traditional roast birds. If you are out to impress this Christmas then this is the pie to try.
“The Lady” magazine, published in 1843, described a Yorkshire Christmas Pie as: “oval shaped, beautifully illustrated with devices cut in pastry, emblematic of the season: measures 84 inches round— extreme length, 30 inches; width, 21 inches; and height of the crust, nine inches. It contains four stones of flour, and twelve pounds of butter and suet, a brace of pheasants, a brace of partridges, two geese, two rabbits, ten chickens, six ducks, two tongues, one turkey, and six pounds of ham”.
‘The Art Of Cookery’, By Hannah Glasse, Published 1740
To make a Yorkshire Christmas-Pie.
FIRST make a good standing crust, let the wall and bottom be very thick; bone a turkey, a goose, a fowl, a partridge, and a pigeon, Season them all very well, take half an ounce of mace, half an ounce of nutmegs, a quarter of ah ounce of cloves, and half an ounce of black-pepper, all beat fine together, two large spoonfuls of salt, and then mix them together.
Open the fowls all down the back, and bone them; first the pigeon, then the partridge; cover them; then the fowls then the goose, and then the turkey, which must be large; season them all well first, and lay them in the crust, so as it, will look only like a whole turkey; then have a hare ready cased, and wiped with a clean cloth.
Cut it to pieces, that is, joint it; season it, and lay it as close as you can on one side; on the other side woodcocks, moor game, and what sort of wild-fowl you can get. Season them well, and lay them close; put at least four pounds of butter into the pie, then lay on your lid, which must be a very thick one, and let it be well baked.
It must have a very hot oven, and will rake at least four hours. This crust will take a bushel of flour. In this chapter you will see how to make it. These pies are often sent to London in a box, as presents; therefore, the walls must be well built.
‘English Housewifry’ By Elizabeth Moxon, Published 1764
To make a Paste for a Standing Pie.
Take a quartern of flour or more if you have occasion, and to every quartern of flour put a pound of butter and a little salt, knead it with boiling water, then work it very well, and let it lie whilst it is cold. This paste is good enough for a goose- pie, or any other standing-pie.
Talk to your butcher: There is no way of getting all the pie filling ingredients without first talking to a highly recommended local butcher who also deals in ‘game’ meat. The more advanced notice you can give to your butcher, the better quality meat they can source for you.
In the 1700s all of the meat from the game birds and fowl etc. would have been plucked or skinned and used, (the recipe calls for the smaller birds to be plucked and boned, then placed inside the larger birds, right up to the turkey – like a ‘three bird roast’) today we can still do it this way, or we can ask our butcher for just the choice cuts from the birds and game animals we need.
Yorkshire Christmas Pie Recipe
This is a ‘LARGE’ pie, hand raised; and therefore it will take the better part of several hours to make. Try to have patience, and make sure the integrity of the pie pastry (before baking) is strong enough to hold all of the meat. This might sound like a lot of work but your guests will never have eaten a pie as good looking, or as tasty, as this one at Christmas.
For The Pastry:
- 1.2kg (1200g) Plain White Flour (strong)
- 200g lard
- 200g butter
- 300ml Water
- 2 tsp Sea Salt
- 2 Egg yolks – beaten (to glaze the pie crust)
For The Meat Filling:
- 2 turkey breasts (skinned)
- 2 turkey thighs (boned and skinned)
- 2 goose breasts (skinned)
- 2 goose thighs (boned and skinned)
- 2 chicken breasts (skinned)
- 2 chicken thighs (boned and skinned)
- 2 pheasant breasts (skinned)
- 2 partridge breasts (skinned)
- 2 rabbits (boned and skinned)
- optional – 1 large boiled ham (boned no rind)
For The Sauce And Spices:
- 2 tsp ground sea salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground mace
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 250g butter
- 200g shredded suet
- 300ml white wine
- Pastry cutters to make leaf and seasonal decorations
- baking parchment
Making The Pastry:
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, making a well in the centre. Place the water, butter and lard into a saucepan, when the butter and lard has fully melted bring this just up to the boil for a minute or two. Once at the boil remove from the heat, then pour this hot mixture into the centre of the flour. Working very quickly mix with a wooden spoon to bring the flour, butter, lard and hot water into a smooth pastry dough.
Once cooler start to gently knead with your hands to produce a smooth dough which is starting to stiffen a little – add more flour if it is a little sticky and wet. At this stage bring it into a ball and cover the pastry in a bowl – leave to cool for 30 minutes. This hot-water crust pastry must be used whilst still at room-temperature, otherwise it will become brittle and too hard to mould.
Preparing The ‘Sauce’ and Spices:
In a saucepan melt the butter over a low, gentle heat. Once the butter has melted, tip in the shredded suet and stir for a minute, then turn off the heat. Pour in the white wine, stir. Then stir in the ground seasoning and spices. Leave to cool.
Preparing The Meat:
Dice all the meat up into similar sized ‘large’ pieces. Place the diced meat into a very large mixing bowl and mix together. Pour over the butter and white wine sauce and coat all the meat with it. Leave covered.
Making The Pie:
Hand Raising The Pies:
Keep the part of the pastry not being worked on covered to prevent it cooling and hardening before use. Care must be taken during the shaping of the pie so that cracks do not appear in the pastry through which the liquid from the pie filling can escape.
Divide the pastry into 5 pieces.
1. The Largest Piece Needs To Make The Pie Walls (12cm wide by 120cm long and 1 cm thick – it is perhaps easier to make 2 x 12cm wide by 60 cm long and 1 cm thick and ‘fuse’ the two halves of the walls together)
2. A Piece To Make The Pie Base (40cm round 1 cm thick)
3. A Piece To Make The Pie Crust (40cm round 1 cm thick)
4. A Piece To Make A ‘Rope’ (a thin sausage shape 120 cm long)
5. The Smallest Piece (And Off Cuts) To Make Pastry Shapes To Decorate The Pie
There is a balance to hand-raising a pie crust, the more you work the pastry, the cooler and stiffer the pastry becomes, so we need to work quickly, but the harder the pastry gets the easier it is to shape.
Grease a large flat baking tray (over 50cm long and 50 cm wide). Place a similar size of baking parchment (50 cm x 50 cm) on it and grease this too.
On a floured work surface roll out a piece of pastry so that it is at least 1 cm thick and that you can cut a perfect circle, 40cm wide out of it. Place this circle of pastry (the pie base) on the greased baking parchment on the oven baking tray. Then brush some water around the outer edges of the base where the walls will join – 3cm in from the edge.
On a floured work surface roll out a piece of pastry so that it is 1 cm thick and that you can cut a perfect rectangle out which is 12 cm wide and 60 cm long . You will need two of these shapes to fit together to make the walls to go around the pie base – or make one shape which is 12 cm wide by 120 cm long.
Before fitting the pastry walls to the pie base roll out a thinnish sausage shape of pastry which is 120 cm long – this will help fuse the pastry walls of the pie to the base.
Place the pastry walls standing up on the pastry base, but not right to the very edge of the base, leave a 3cm gap on the outside of the base. If you are using too shorter lengths for the walls overlap where they join and ‘fuse’ them together using a little water. Brush a little water on the bottom of the pie walls – all the way around – both on the outside and on the inside. Once this is done put the long (120cm) sausage or rope shape pastry piece on the inside of the pie, right up against where the walls of the pie meet the base.
Using both hands, one on the inside, and one on the outside of the pie, merge the pie base with the walls.
This entails pulling up the 3cm ‘overhang’ on the outside of the walls and pressing it into the bottom of the walls, whilst simultaneously pushing in the pasty rope on the inside of the pie, with your fingers, into both the base and walls where they meet – in effect this is ‘sandwiching’ the walls between the pulled up ‘overhang’ on the outside and the pasty ‘rope’ on the inside, helping them stand up and fusing them into the base. What you are making is a very strong base where the walls meet and allowing no liquid from the pie filling to escape.
Take your time, this might be fiddly at first, but it will come good in the end, with a little bit of patience. A pie maker was a skilled job, taking years to learn. If you know this before starting then you will be prepared for it and expect to encounter a few niggles. Go round the base of the pie a few times, slowly, fusing the walls and base together.
Go around the whole base of the pie fusing the base with the walls until it is strong and the walls are standing up straight and are firmly fixed to the base.
When you are happy with the strength and integrity of the pie pastry and the shape carefully spoon into the pie the meat filling and tip over any remaining liquid from the mixing bowl.
On a floured surface roll out a piece of pastry so that it is at least 1 cm thick and that you can cut a perfect circle, 40cm wide out of it. This is the pie crust. Place it on the pie, covering the filling, and using a little water brushed on fuse the pie walls with the pie crust, crimping the edges with your fingers and thumbs.
When the lid is on and sealed the pie is far more stable and you can then use your hands to go around the pie making a much more round shape etc. cleaning the look of the pie up.
Use any left over pastry to roll out and cut shapes (such as leaves and seasonal shapes) to decorate the outside of the pie.
Finally egg wash the outside and the top of the pie case with the beaten egg yolk. Leave for the pie for ten minutes.
Preheat the oven to 150C
Fold in half a long sheet of baking parchment so that it becomes a double thickness, wrap this around the pie tightly so the pie is helped to stand up straight. Use three pieces of string to tie the baking parchment around the pie tight to help keep its shape when baking.
Bake the pie in the oven at 150C for three hours.
Serve warm, or more usually cold. Allow to cool once taken from the oven and when cold keep it covered in the fridge.