Friday, August 1, 2014

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #5: Pies!

The Challenge:
Make a pie! Meat, fruit, sweet, savory- but make sure it's documented!

English Curd Pie
I love pies. Loved ones comment often on my fondness for meat pies and await the annual apple dumplings with quivering noses. With this challenge, I wanted a challenge.
Curds was definitely a challenge, a challenge not to take modern short-cuts. Microwave? Lemon juice? Cottage cheese?
"Documented" to me means we start with the basic questions of historical interpretation. How would people of the era meet that challenge? Can I do that with relative safety? If not, how close can I come?
The closest I could come was powdered rennet tablets and pasturized milk. It took longer to set than anticipated, but eventually it did work.
Now I can stop being intimidated by the cheesecake recipes and give one a go. I just might even try some of the modern suggestions and come up with cheese.

The Recipe:
From: Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt Book by Catherine Esther Beecher, 1846 page 106

One quart of milk.
A bit of rennet to curdle it.
Press out the whey, and put into the curds three eggs, a nutmeg, and a tablespoonful of brandy. Bake it in paste, like custard.

The Date/Year and Region: 
America of the mid 19th century.

How Did You Make It:
I used rennet tablets by Junket. Here's their instructions for use.
1/4 tablet to 2 cups milk.

1. Heat the milk in a stainless steel saucepan and, stirring often, warm it to the required temperature (each recipe varies slightly).
2. Still stirring, add the rennet (or citric acid), as for ricotta. Cover; let curds form without stirring, keeping the temperature steady.
3. Using a rubber spatula, break up the curd. This will allow the whey to separate from the curd. A resting period usually follows this step.
4. Place a sturdy cheesecloth over a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the curd to a cheesecloth.
5. Grab the cheesecloth and pull it tight, allowing the whey to drain off into the bowl underneath. 

At this point, I proceed with the historic recipe.

Into the curds, 3 medium eggs, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, and a generous tablespoon of brandy.
Mix well and pour into a pie crust.
Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.

Time to Complete: 
curds: 10 minutes cooking, 12 hours draining
filling: 5 minutes prepare
bake: 30 minutes

Total Cost: 
Total: $16.50

How Successful Was It: 
It was successful in that it set up and came out properly. I'm not sure I care for the flavor. I would likely add some sugar and go without a paste if making it to please myself alone.

How Accurate Was It: 
Confession time, Folks, I bought the pie crust. I wanted to focus on one new technique at a time and this time was curds. Otherwise, mostly accurate.

1 comment:

  1. The first time I made pie crust, it came out beautiful. I have yet to make a half decent pie crust since. I find this pie fascinating!