What, Where, When:
- Pyes de Parez, a medieval meat pie recipe, is based on 3 substantially similar 15th century English recipes.
- With a filling of slow-braised beef and pork, studded with sweet fruit, and a free-standing lard crust, it is both succulent and substantial.
Pyeß de pareß Take & smyte fayre buttys of Porke, & buttys of Vele, to-gederys, & put it on a fayre potte, & do þer-to Freyssche broþe, & a quantyte of wyne, & lat boyle alle to-gederys tyl yt be y-now; þan take it fro þe fyre, & lat kele a lytelle; þan caste þer-to ȝolkys of Eyroun, & pouder of Gyngere, Sugre, & Salt, & mynced Datys, & Roysonys of Coraunce; þen make fayre past, and cofynnys, & do þer-on; kyuer it, & let bake, & serue forth. Harleian MS. 279 (England, 1430) – Austin 53
Pies of Parys Take and smyte faire buttes of porke and buttes of vele togidre, and put hit in a faire potte, And putte thereto faire broth, And a quantite of Wyne, And lete all boile togidre til hit be ynogh; And then take hit fro the fire, and lete kele a litel, and cast ther-to raw yolkes of eyren, and pouudre of gyngeuere, sugre and salt, and mynced dates, reysyns of corence: make then coffyns of feyre past, and do it ther-ynne, and keuere it and lete bake y-nogh. Harleian MS. 4016 (England, 1430) – Austin 75
To mak pies of paris. To mak pyes of pairis tak and smyt fair buttes of pork and buttes of vele and put it to gedure in a pot with freshe brothe and put ther to a quantite of wyne and boile it tille it be enoughe then put it in to a treene vesselle and put ther to raw yolks of eggs pouder of guinger sugur salt and mynced dates and raissins of corans and mak a good thyn paiste and mak coffyns and put it ther in and bak it welle and serue it A Noble Boke Off Cookry Ffor a Prynce Houssolde or Eny Other Estately Houssolde ( England, 1468) – Myers 58
Take and cut good butts of pork, and of veal, together, and put it in a good pot, and put in fresh/good broth, and a quantity of wine, and let it boil together until it is enough, then take it off the fire. Let it cool a little, then put in egg yolks, powdered ginger, sugar, and salt, minced dates, and currants. Then make good pastry, and make pies of it. Put (the meat mixture) in the pies, bake and serve.
- The pork used is a fatty cut of meat, which becomes very tender after lengthy braising.
- Although the recipe specified veal, I am uncomfortable with modern veal farming and believe that the beef used will be tender enough to not negatively affect the dish.
- A fruity wine was used to enhance the fruit flavors in the dish – fruity wines were prized in Medieval England.
- Beef broth was prepared simply by simmering beef bones and water – as far as I know, there are no medieval recipes for broth, merely constant references to the use of all types of broth, including chicken, beef, mutton and pea broth (for fast days). I chose to match the broth type to the meat in question, but I believe a medieval cook would have used whatever was at hand.
- These currants are actually small raisins, and are the same type of grape used in period where “currants” are referenced. (Myers “Currants”)
- The eggs are used to thicken the broth around the meat, giving a creamier “gravy”.
- This may be a scant amount of sugar compared to what the medieval cook was looking for; however, I didn’t want the final pie to be too sweet.
- As the only real “spice” in the Pyes de Parez, I added a reasonably large quantity of ginger, again to offset the sweetness.
- None of the sources for the Pyes de Parez had a pastry recipe, so I used one from Sabina Welserin – see this recipe for details. Similar pastry was used in the 18th century and is still used today for standing meat pies. Ingredients for the pie crust are flour, water, eggs, salt, lard which I rendered from pork fat myself, and a bit of butter (because I ran out of lard).
- I wanted these to be freestanding pies, and so I used a procedure set forth by Mikkel Frederiksen on his webpage, forming the dough in a bowl, adding a filling, then covering and sealing.
- As I expected these crusts to be eaten, they are still fairly thin and were not blind-baked in advance, as may have been common practice for the larger “grete pyes”(Peter Brears quoted in Recipewise).
Pyes de Parez
2 lbs pork “boston butt” roast, diced
2 lbs beef round roast, diced
1/2 bottle pinot noir
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup minced dates
1/2 cup Zante currants
2 egg yolks
1 tsp salt + more to taste
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp ginger
Hot water, egg yolk and lard pastry for top and bottom crust
- Make broth: Simmer beef shanks in water for 2 hrs, strain.
- Cut up meats: Cut both beef and pork into 1” cubes, removing any tendons or silverskin or otherwise undesirable portions but retaining fat (fat will be rendered into the pie filling as the meat slowly cooks.) Note: This particular recipe does not mention browning the meat before simmering in liquid; other medieval recipes do, so I can only assume the writer did not intend it to be browned. Modernly, I’d prefer to do so for better flavor, but I did not in this case.
- Simmer meats: Simmer meats in broth and wine until they can be pulled apart with fork – use only just enough liquid to cover, with equal proportions of wine and broth.
- Make pie filling: Cool filling to “barely warm to the touch” – if not sufficiently cooled, egg yolks will be scrambled when added. Add spices, and fruit to filling, mix thoroughly and taste for spicing, then finally add beaten egg yolks and mix again. Set aside.
- Make pastry: Boil lard and butter – about 3/4 cup total – with about 1/4 cup of water. While that’s boiling, mix 2 beaten eggs into ~2 cups flour and 1 tsp salt. Pour in boiling liquid all at once, work quickly into dough, kneading until smooth with additional flour or liquid as needed. Make coffyns while still warm to avoid cracking.
- Make coffyns: form the dough in a bowl, add the filling, then cover and seal. Place on pan.
- Bake. Bake at 350° until golden brown.