A Trio of Pies – Week 4 2020


It’s Week 4 (already!) of our 2020 Great Colonial Cook Off. This time last year, we were worried Lori might succumb to heat exhaustion while cooking in our 17th century kitchen. This year? Well, unless there’s a radical change in the week of RDF currently forecast, Lori will be delighted to be standing in front of a blazing fire!

This week we’ve got not one but three recipes for you to choose from. Each is a variation of a culinary classic – apple pie – and range from the simple and straightforward to the downright bizarre (this is the Colonial Cook Off after all). It’s your choice which one (or two or three) you cook. And yes you keeners, you’ll earn another entry for each recipe you cook. Together, Lori and I will be attempting all three. We’ll update this post with tips and recipe revisions (if required) as the week progresses.

A Word About Fruit

But before we get to the recipes, a few words about fruit in 17th century Ferryland. Excavations here, at the Colony of Avalon, have recovered thousands of fruit seeds and pits. The vast majority of these come from native berries, including raspberries, blackberries, bakeapples, partridge berries, and plum boys. But European plum pits and seeds from figs and grapes have also been found. Most of this evidence comes from the bottom of the Colony’s 17th century privy. In fact, raspberry seeds have been plucked from squares of fabric that once wiped the butts of the Colony’s first settlers. We’re just going to leave that one there 😉

Plum pits recovered from the Colony of Avalon’s 17th century privy.

Recipe No. 1

Our first recipe comes from Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, dated 1604. Ingredients-wise, it’s a simple, straightforward apple pie. The twist comes at the end, where we’re instructed to “cut open the pie” to add the final ingredient:

To Make a Creamapple Pie

Take your apples, & slice them, & put some butter & sugar to them, & so put them in the paste, & bake them, when they are baked cut open the pie, & out in a good deal of sweet cream, & stir it well together, & then let it stand a little, till it be somewhat cold, & so serve it to the boord.

It turns out the method described by Fettiplace was fairly common amongst pie-makers. A recipe for Fine Pippin Tarts found in an English manuscript dated 1711-1726, includes the following instructions:

… and take care in breaking them, when they are bak’d, take them out of your pattyes and open the lids, and put into every one of them a spoonfull or two of Orange or Lemmon Juice strain’d then put down the lids ….

A Recipe for Fine Pippin Tarts, courtesy UPenn Ms. Codex 785

The flavours of Fettiplace’s creamapple pie are very simple, but that wasn’t always the case. For example, Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife (first published in 1615) includes several recipes for apple tarts and pies. His recipe for A Pippin Pie includes apples plus chopped dates, cloves, cinnamon, and orange peel.

Recipe No. 2

Then there’s Fettiplace’s second recipe which adds raisins, currants, dates, mace, nutmeg, and …. bone marrow! Yup, bone marrow. If you’re feeling brave and have a stash of beef bones set aside for a rainy day, we’ve included a modern adaptation of this recipe, courtesy of Hilary Spurling’s book Eleanor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book: Elizabethan Country House Cooking.

Spurling claims beef marrow adds a “bland and curiously earthy” taste . Not exactly a ringing endorsement! It will be interesting to see how this one turns out. And if bone marrow is new to you, here’s a great article with tips on how to buy and prepare.

Recipe No. 3

For our final take on apple pie, we return to Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife for a recipe he simply calls Apple Tart:

Take apples and pare them, and slice them thin from the core into a pipkin [an earthenware cooking pot used for cooking over wood coals] with white wine, good store of sugar, cinnamon, a few sanders [red sandalwood powder], and rose water, and boil it till it be thick; then cool it, and strain it, and beat it very well together with a spoon; then put it into a coffin [pie crust] as you did the prune tart, and adorn it also in the same manner; and this tart you may fill thicker or thinner, as you please to raise the edge of the coffin; and it carriers the colour red.

This is an open-faced pie filled with a sweetened, spiced apple puree. Interestingly, Markham describes the final colour of the pie as red. This is the result of adding red sandalwood powder to the apple mixture. Since food-grade sandalwood is not particularly easy to come by in our corner of the world, we plan on substituting some other type of red colouring.

North Devon Pipkin or Cooking Pot, Mid-17th Century, recovered from the Colony of Avalon.

Markham tells us to prepare and decorate our tart in the same manner as his recipe for prune tart, which instructs readers to roll some additional pastry out very thin, then:

….having patterns of paper cut in divers proportions, as beasts, arms, knots, flowers and such like, lay the patterns on the paste [pastry dough] and set the work in good proportion; then prick it well all over for rising…. And so set it into the oven and bake it hard; then draw it, and set it by to cool ….and with your knife, of with a spoon fill the coffin according to the thickness of the verge: then strew it all over with caraway comfits [caraway seeds covered in a hard sugar candy], and prick long comfits upright in it, and so, serve it on a dish or charger, according to the bigness of the tart.

I knew those woodland animal cookie cutters would come in handy one day!

A Note on Pastry

17th century English cooks were familiar with a variety of pastries, including hot water pastry (for meat pies), fine wheat crust which included eggs, and puff pastry. Feel free to use your favourite pastry recipe for these pies. Don’t have one? Try one of these.

Cook, Click, Post

Remember, cook one (or more!) of this week’s recipes, snap a photo, and post your pic as a comment in the recipe post on the Colony of Avalon’s Facebook page for a chance to win weekly and grand prizes.

Everyone here at the Colony is looking forward to apple pie for lunch ….everyday this week! Plus Lori is “threatening” to make clotted cream. WOOT! WOOT! And if one of you crazy Cook Offers doesn’t beat us to it, we’ll report back on whether apple and beef marrow pie should stage a comeback.

Can’t wait to see what you create!