Pie glossary

From throwaway crusts to royal banquet centrepieces, our beloved pie has a weird and wonderful history stowed away behind its pantry door. 

  Illustration by Sue Gent

Illustration by Sue Gent

Cow heel (Cumbria and Lancashire)
The fatty cartilage around a cow’s heel was used to make a sticky and sweet gravy in a pie.

Swan (Nottinghamshire) 
The finest pieces of swan meat, stewed with sugar and spices and served in a Budby pie.

Lambs tail (Cotswolds and Kent) 
After docking the tails from lambs, the wool would be removed, the tails joined and stewed with root veg. Two dozen tails would be required for a pie. 

Sparrow brains
In a courageous tart these were mixed with sweet potatoes and fruit.The name likely refers to the rumoured aphrodisiac qualities of the dish. 

Rook
When young rooks were ‘cleared’ in spring, the breast and legs would be simmered in milk before being baked in a pie.The rest of the bird was too bitter for eating.

Larks
Recommended by Mrs Beeton to be served as an entree, these birds would be baked whole in a pie, bones and all. 

Intestines (Cornwall) 
The appetising sounding muggety pie contained cow entrails, boiled, sliced and mixed with cream and parsley.

Testicles
You could be forgiven for not knowing that ‘stones’ referred to testicles in the 18h century. Blanched and sliced, they were the main ingredient of a lambstone pie, mixed with artichokes and sweetbreads.

Piglests (Cornwall)
Or to be more specific, prematurely born piglets, the main ingredient of a tiddago pie.

Udder
Boiled and sliced with tongue and mixed with raisins, an udder pie was apparently tasty hot or cold.

Words: Steph Wetherell; thelocavore.co.uk

This featured in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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Venison jerky

Using time-honoured techniques adopted by cultures around the world, Jake and Amie of Jake's Cured Meats are your guides to making the perfect hiking snack.

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You’ve been tracking your prey for hours, then finally you get the shot. You lock it in your sights, take a couple of deep breaths, squeeze the trigger: crack! The animal drops, silence. A moment of reflection, respect for the beast. You remove the entrails, leave for the birds. The inescapable symbiosis of life and death. The march back home begins; the glow of embers awaits you. Skin, butcher, roast, eat. Hunger satisfied, you deal with the remaining meat; rub it with salt and hang it in the fireplace. The smoke flows around the meat, transforming it into a perfectly preserved meaty jewel. 

Before refrigeration, food preservation was key to survival. This was often achieved by drying, which allowed a single kill to last for months, providing a powerful protein punch. From the ancient Egyptians to the Native Americans, many cultures developed their own methods for drying meat. This allowed pioneers and adventurers to push ever deeper into uncharted territory. When Captain Scott set off for the South Pole he took with him pemmican – a mixture of dried meat, fat and berries. 

Curing meat is still something of a black art. The complex flavour changes that take place during the curing process is still not fully understood. Good hygiene is essential and always buy the best quality meat you can. This recipe is for venison jerky but you can use any kind of lean meat; beef, lamb or turkey, for example.

Ingredients

500g venison haunch
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp Worcester sauce
2 tbsp honey
4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 orange zest and juice

Method

1. Pop the venison in the freezer for 45 mins to 1 hour. You don’t want to freeze it, just to firm it up slightly.

2. With a sharp knife slice the venison into thin strips.

3. Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a bowl, then add the venison strips. Cover and leave overnight to marinade in the fridge.

4. Once the meat has finished marinating, preheat the oven to 80C.

5. Lay the meat on a baking rack or something that will allow the air to circulate around the meat.

6. Bake for 3-4 hours or until the meat becomes dry and chewy, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

7. Pack into an airtight container and store in a dry, cool place ready for your next adventure.

Words by Jake and Amie, who make cured meat snacks in the Brecon Beacons; jakescuredmeats.co.uk. 

Metheglin: the king's brew

Courtier, privateer, diplomat, swordsman, theologian, alchemist and incurable romantic, Sir Kenelm Digby was the sort of character you simply couldn’t make up. Oddly enough though, these days Digby is most revered among home brewers... 

  Image by Jesse Wild

Image by Jesse Wild

Sir Kenelm Digby  (1603-1665) was a noted foodie, and he kept extensive notebooks of recipes encountered both in London and on his travels. These were published after his death by an enterprising steward under the title The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened (1669).

Among dishes with fantastic names like “a good quaking bag pudding” or “pease of the seedy buds of tulips”, there are no less than 115 different booze recipes, mainly for metheglin – or flavoured mead.  Kenelm got this brew from “Master Webbe, who maketh the King’s Meathe”. I’ve scaled it down considerably (Webbe’s recipe makes 300 bottles, but eight is probably enough to start with), and switched most of the fresh ingredients for dry ones. It’s strong and sweet, with a rather medicinal flavour.

1. Bring 10 litres of water to the boil. Add 5g of dried hops (I used East Kent Goldings) and boil for half an hour. Putting your ingredients in muslin bags will save you straining them off later.

2. Remove the hops, and stir in 1.6kg of honey. Boil for an hour, skimming occasionally.

3. Add 5g dried rose petals; 2 teaspoons each of dried rosemary, thyme and marjoram; 1 teaspoon of mint; 5g fresh ginger ; a stick of cinnamon and 4 tablespoons of oloroso (sweet) sherry. Webbe liked it with cloves and mace too, but “the King did not care for them”.

4. Boil for half an hour, then strain off the liquid into a sterilised fermenter and let it cool. If you want to check the specific gravity with a hydrometer (or an egg), it should be around 1075.

5. Whisk vigorously, then pitch half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient and 2 teaspoons of wine yeast. By the next day it should be fizzing nicely.

6. Leave it to ferment out and clear (mine took a few weeks), then siphon it off into sterilised wine bottles (corks rather than screw tops). Kenelm reckoned it would be ready to drink in a month or two, but it will keep much longer. 

Joly-Braime-profile-pic.jpg

Joly Braime is a writer and home brewer. He spends his leisure time tramping the moors or filling his coal shed with homemade alcohol.
 

jolybraime.co.uk

 

 

 

 


To learn more about Sir Kenelm Digby, pick up a copy of issue 7, on sale now.

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On Wild Swimming and Anxiety

When anxiety took hold of his life, writer Joe Minihane found that cold water swimming provided an unexpected antidote.

Aside from a solitary dog walker, Brighton’s Kemptown beach is mine alone. Stripped down to my bright orange swimming shorts, the wind whipping my hair across my forehead, I take long strides into the searing cold water. It’s March, the month when the sea is at its most frigid, an entire winter pulled into the depths, ready to slide itself over my skin, into my bones. The breath is punched from my chest as I give myself up to the English Channel’s icy embrace. I count my strokes and slow my breathing, my eyes on the horizon. Herring gulls bob in the swell, oblivious to this human interloper. I drop my head beneath the surface and feel the rush as I emerge cleansed, gasping, eyes throbbing. I turn and swim for shore.

I’ve been indulging in this ritual for seven years. More recently here, in my adopted home town on the south coast, but originally in the bathing ponds on London’s Hampstead Heath. And then across the UK on a two-and-ahalf-year journey to retrace Roger Deakin’s seminal Waterlog. I suffer from anxiety. On those first excursions to Hampstead, initially on summer afternoons to escape the heat and then wet autumn mornings as my love for the water bloomed, I found the fix for an issue that at the time I didn’t understand and didn’t want to. I’ve always been an anxious person. I’m adept at placing myself under enormous pressure to live up to standards that can’t be attained. To be perfect. To control and be responsible for everything around me. I compare myself relentlessly with others and always find myself coming up short. My mind works at an exhausting pace and, at the time of my first outdoor swims, was moving so rapidly that it sent me to a crashing standstill.

I didn’t believe I was good enough in my role as a freelance writer, as a partner, as a friend. I had let the speed of my mind dictate the pace of my life until I could not keep up and found myself anxious, depressed and unable to carry on. In the water, though, I found emotional stillness. There is a simplicity in the act of swimming, especially wild swimming. At its core it is the act of survival. Your limbs need to move in order for you to stay alive. There is nothing else. I would place my feet on the cold steel steps of the pond and drop into the flotsam, the unknowable green beneath me, and feel a sense of calm I didn’t know on dry land.Worries about my professional life, my perceived failure as a journalist and as a person, were cleansed by the head waters of the old River Fleet. The coldness of the water would shock the anxiety from my system and I would walk across the Heath as if in a daze, the world feeling less overwhelming. And so I found a new obsession, one which brought me to Waterlog, Roger Deakin’s 1999 classic about his “swimmer’s journey through Britain” and an idea that would help see me through to a life less frantic.

Deakin’s book is essentially a homage to the subversive. Imbued with an anti-authoritarian spirit, Deakin stole swims in private rivers, swam across estuaries at great personal risk and delved into potholes to see how the water worked its way into the Earth. All to get a “frog’s eye view of Britain”. For him, the water held curative properties. “Water has always held the magical power to cure… I can dive in with what feels like a terminal case of depression, and come out a whistling idiot,” he writes in Waterlog’s introduction. I was gripped by this line. It was the catalyst for me to follow in Deakin’s breast strokes. To see the rivers, bays, lidos and lakes he had swum in. To immerse myself into something impossibly grand and try to find a way out of the anxiety that had become utterly debilitating. The journey became all consuming.

It began life as a blog, Waterlog Reswum, then became a book, Floating: A Return to Waterlog. It reignited old friendships with people who had a shared passion for cold water, fixing the loneliness I hadn’t realised I felt so keenly as a freelancer in London. It allowed me to become steeped in nature, too. I swam alongside great crested grebes at Highgate Pond. I watched reed warblers feed their young as I nosed along the River Lark in the Cambridgeshire Fens. I sat beneath a hovering kestrel, joyful tears pricking my eyes following a cold swim in an isolated pond near the Isle of Ely. The journey taught me to face dangers and fears as a way of conquering my anxiety. On a base level, this meant entering extremely cold bodies of water with little more than shorts and a strong dose of gumption for protection. For me, the cold is a key part of wild swimming’s restorative power. It resets my mind in a way that a heated pool cannot. The dopamine and endorphin rush is the purest high. An initial spike followed by a slow burn that ensures I cannot rush, cannot allow my mind to work at the dangerously fast pace it often wants to. Deakin’s anti-authoritarianism seeped into me, too. At a millhouse on the Avon, I jumped from a firstfloor window into the brown murk and emerged delirious. In a private stretch of the Itchen, kept for the sole use of fishermen, I bathed in the purest water I’d ever seen.

Feeling the power of rebellion match the rush of a cold swim helped me let go of the inhibitions that often made me anxious. I swam in over 70 places retracing Waterlog. The adventure gave me the courage to tell others about my anxiety, and seek professional help to help me stay level when I couldn’t get into the water. Within months of journey’s end, I found myself living by the sea in Brighton. I began swimming almost every day, as high summer slipped into grimy winter. In summer, the path to the water is short. As the nights draw in, that path feels longer, strewn with obstacles: the wind, the bitter cold, the galumphing waves. The list of rituals grow, as a way of assuaging my anxiety about getting into the water, but also to force me in and make me feel less anxious in the first place. Pebbles are kicked to procrastinate. Clothes are folded methodically for speedy redressing. Entrance to the water is swift, less luxuriant than in the summer months. But the buzz, the release, is harder won and therefore sweeter. Swimming in Brighton feels different compared with exploring Roger’s world, but this intimacy brings with it its own charms. It is my own space and yet it is so beyond me, so vast, that I can only surrender to it. I have no control. I must simply respect it and give myself over to its power. To find joy in my insignificance. To float. I don’t stay in for long. There is not a lot of me and the cold works its magic quickly. Perspective returns. Balanced, cleansed, it leaves me ready to take on the world.

Words: Joe Minihane

A skin read

It’s widely said that everyone has a book inside them, less common is the knowledge that some people have actually had books made from the outsides of them. Duncan Haskell enters the dark world of anthropodermic bibliopegy

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Anthropodermic bibliopegy, the process of binding books in human skin, reached its macabre peak in the 19th century and was of particular interest to medical professionals who had access to cadavers. Some examples include the infamous Edinburgh murderer William Burke (of Burke and Hare fame) who was turned into a small pocket book after his execution in 1829, and John Horwood, the first man to be hanged at Bristol Gaol in 1821, whose skin now envelopes an account of his crime. The Historical Medical Library in Philadelphia houses the largest collection, with five such grisly tomes.

A twist to this tale is provided by The Anthropodermic Book Project. Suspecting that some of these alleged skin-bound volumes were nothing more than a tall story, they’ve begun testing specimens using a process known as peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF). Of the 31 tested, only 18 have been confirmed as human.

It remains uncertain whether the practice was sheer vanity, a deterrent to criminals or an unusual reminder of our own morality. What is clear though is that it’s definitely okay to judge these books by their covers. 

Words: Duncan Haskell

Delve into the findings at anthropodermicbooks.org

Anthropodermic bibliopegy features in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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