Meat pies date far back into antiquity to around 9500 BC. The Greeks used a flour water paste that resembled a pie crust which they fried or cooked under hot coals. Later, the Romans used the crust for baking, storage, and serving the filling. They ate the filling and threw the crust away. The crust was too hard to actually eat because it was made several inches thick. It took hours to cook in a medieval/renaissance central hearth or fire pit. These pastries were known as “coffins” or “coffyns,” which means a box or basket, because they were encased in a top and bottom crust. Known as “bake metis,” these pies were made of cheap cuts of beef, pork, venison, lamb, duck, rabbit, or fowl. Often a combination of meats were either broiled or boiled in cauldrons. Next, the meat was cut into bite size pieces or made into a meat paste. The Crusaders brought the recipes to medieval Europe and these recipes were eventually developed into pastries made with lard or butter. Later, the Italians and French made a much tastier crust.
In the 1600s, the pilgrims brought these recipes to the Americas. For the settlers, these pies were especially practical because it took less flour and time to make a pie than to make bread. Plus, the pie was delicious and fuel efficient. As was done in antiquity, the crust of the pie was used to preserve the food in the cold winter months. Meat pies remained a common food in the developing American colonies. Did you know that George Washington liked steak and kidney pie? Much later in our history, hearty meat pies were made during the depression to feed many a hungry family. Pie crust is made with flour, which was a cheap way to fill empty bellies.
Making a Meat Pie as Survival Food
This is not a recipe, but rather an overview of the process for making meat pies as survival food. In a survival situation, the recipe would depend on what you have available to you and it would probably change each time you make them. You can cook meat pies on a wood burning stove, in a fire pit or in a fireplace with a Dutch oven. Place hot coals under and on top of the Dutch oven. Just remember that when you are baking in a Dutch oven with coals, the heat will usually come more from the top than the bottom. Use a 3:1 lid to bottom ratio for placing your coals. Check the fire often and remove or replace coals as needed. Bake pies in the Dutch oven at about 350 for 35 minutes to an hour.
There are many variations on recipes for pie crust. You can use your favorite recipe for delicious crust, or use a simplified flour/water paste to create a thick crust for storage. When there isn’t enough meat to completely fill a pie, adding vegetables is a great way to make the pie stretch a little further. Adding gravy to the mixture pulls the whole meal together and turns this survival food into a delicious treat. Stir the meat and vegetables together until they are evenly covered with the gravy. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and add the top crust. Cook the pie until the crust is a nice golden brown, about 35-60 minutes at 350 degrees.
In a survival situation, a great way to cook these pies is to make a smaller pastry by cutting the pie dough into circles. Place the filling in the center and fold the edges of the crust over to seal the filling in the center. Poke the top crust with a fork to allow steam to vent as the pie bakes. You can bake these smaller pies in a Dutch oven, as you would a larger pie, at about 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes; or you can fry them. These pastries are easy to pack and easy to eat on the go. They’re perfect to have if you need to bug out, and they even taste good when eaten cold.
Thanks to Susan Norgren for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest. We have over $1,500 in prizes lined up for the current writing contest, with more to come. Here is a list of the current pot of prizes:
– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $380 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $279 value
– 1 year of free membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $240 value
– A copy of The Summer of Survival Complete Collection from Life Changes Be Ready, a $127 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $60 each
– The complete 2014 Grow Your Own Food Summit interview series, a $47 value
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $42 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $40 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $32 each
In 2008, Alayne left the city for the rural life. She is thankful to have some acreage to spread out, live more sustainably, and start a garden. Alayne is a freelance writer, who lives outside of Lockhart, Texas and enjoys writing about locally grown food, cooking, nutrition, natural health, and the environment. Homeless dogs have a spot in Alayne’s heart, as she has rescued more than she cares to mention. She is making up for lost time, since she didn’t get started with vegetable growing until recently. Now, she is all in with greenhouses, raised beds, starting vegetable seeds, growing herbs and trees, and learning about the wild edibles growing around her. You can visit her at www.kitchenchat.net.