Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts: Lamb-Pye

October 9, 2013 in Outlandish Recipes of the 18th century by M C

Beef Alamode, the French Way was a rousing success so yesterday I tried another recipe: XXIV: For a Lamb-Pye.  I chose this recipe because it offered variations and because it highlighted something I’ve observed is how language is used in this cookbook.  A “pie” does not necessarily mean “two crusts.”  If there is a top crust to the dish it is specified in the instructions.  So this is a pie without a top crust which is, during the baking process, given a “Liquor” of white wine and vinegar, presumably to keep it moist as well as add flavor.

If it be Hind-leg of Lamb, cut itin thin Collops, and take Parfly and fhear it fmall, and mix it with the Spirces, which are to be Jamaica Spice, black Pepper, a little Nutmeg, a little Mace, if you love not Parfly take Currans and Raifins and put it in the Pye, for you cannot take both; break the bones and fill up your Pye, and put Butter on the Top, and fend it to the Oven, give it a Liquor of white Wine and a little Vinegar, when it is half baken.

lambpie1I chose to use the raisins and currants.  This time of year I actually have parsley, there’s a nice row of it in the garden, and to be honest, the lack of vegetation in Mrs. McLintock’s Receipts has me convinced Claire was right: scurvy was rampant among all segments of society.  But I’ve a plan for that parsley.  I will “fhear it fmall” and toss it in the freezer, which will give me parsley to flavor soups this winter.  And I happen to like the combination of fruit with meat, which is very common in both this recipe book and later 18th century cookbooks.

I made the crust of 1 C flour, 1/3 C fat (a combination of bacon grease and lard.. the lard is real lard, hog fat rendered down, and hard won, not the synthetic stuff from the grocery store (that I’ll make soap with but won’t eat) so I’m stretching the lard with bacon grease when possible) and a couple of teaspoons of water.  Cut in the fats, add cold water until you can form a dough, chill if you’ve the time (I never do), dust a surface with flour, roll out, plop in pie pan.  The crust is nicely tough but reasonably tasty because bacon, yes, makes everything better.

lambpie2I used a boned leg of lamb with the fat largely removed, a handful of raisins, and half that of currants.  It doesn’t call for soaking the fruit, and my assumption is the fruit will absorb the moisture from the lamb as it cooks.  The Pye went into the oven at 350F, and at the half hour mark I poured a half cup of a white wine and vinegar drizzle over it.  Rather more white wine than vinegar, since it didn’t specify what type of vinegar and cider vinegar has a strong flavor, left to its own devices.

The resulting Lamb-Pye was something you’d make twice only if you didn’t care for good lamb.  It wasn’t inedible, but it wasn’t good.  And if I’d actually gone to the grocery store and bought lamb, at $7-12/pound, to make this, I’d be rather upset right now.

The basic idea is sound, the execution leaves something to be desired.  And since I have, as a sheep farmer, a vested interest in your not wasting good lamb, I’ve revised the recipe into something which will give the flavor of the early 18th century, without the unfortunate consequences of sending chunks of lamb, uncovered, into an oven:

The Farm at Morrison Corner’s 18th Century Lamb Dinner

To 1C white wine add a handful of raisins and half as much of dried currants.  Top with a splash of cider vinegar and leave to soak.  Take a pound of lamb and cut into chunks, removing fat as you go without trying to remove all the fat.  Set the fat aside to be rendered for soap making, feeding the pigs, or for the dog.  Dredge the lamb in flour and brown it quickly in hot bacon grease in a cast iron pot.  Remove lamb from the pot and add 2 medium onions, chopped.  Cook until translucent.  Core an apple and cut into chunks.  If you prefer your apples peeled, peel before coring.  Turn the heat down under the pot, return the lamb to the pot, add the liquid and fruit, and the apple.  Jamaica spice is allspice, so add allspice, black pepper, nutmeg and mace, about 1/2 t of the first two, 1/4 of the second, and simmer on low until the lamb is tender, stirring occasionally and checking to see if you need to add more liquid.

Since the 18th century version of this would have come with its own “plate” in the form of a pie crust, which also provided the starch, you can serve this with bread or biscuits and remain within the bounds of 18th century accuracy.

But for heaven sakes, go pick something green out of the garden and make a “sallid” to go with this.  We wouldn’t want anyone to end up with piles after all.

Share Button