The contents of a commercial meat pie are always a bit mysterious and therefore worrying. If you buy them and eat them, but are of an anxious turn of mind, it may be better not to read further today.
On this day in 2002, a spokesperson for the Australian consumer organisation Choice, which had just completed an investigation of meat pies, made a statement in reference to the legal definition of ‘meat’:
‘The definition of meat is broadly embracing - well beyond the muscle tissue of cattle, which is how we normally think of meat - and includes fat, gristle, trimming, meat scraps. In fact, all parts of many animals, except the foetus is excluded. You could have gravies enriched, quite legally, by blood, and that could be a percentage of the meat as defined as meat.’
This is far too broadly-embracing a definition for me, and a better inducement to making meat pies at home is hard to imagine. It is not the idea of ‘eating’ blood that is the issue here, it is the lack of ‘meat’ in ‘meat’ (pies) that is the issue. For some, there are religious prohibitions about ingesting blood, and for some there are aesthetic objections, but outside of these exceptions, humans have been ingesting, even enjoying, blood for centuries.
Blood from various animals has a long medicinal history, and in ancient Rome the drinking of human blood from gladiators was a supposed cure for epilepsy. This is a food history blog however, and I risk putting you off eating with too many medicinal remedies, so let us concentrate on blood as an integral part of a dish.
Dishes in which blood is incorporated in the sauce are referred to as ‘jugged’, or the dish is called a ‘civet’ (not to be confused with the cat-like animal with the same name), and they feature in both classical British and French cuisine. At the comfort/peasant end of the spectrum of bloody food is of course Black Pudding, traditionally made at the pre-winter pig-killing but now available all year round at your specialist butcher, and just right with your bacon, eggs, and tomato for breakfast.
We started off on the topic of pie, and we end with it with this recipe from the days when cooks and eaters were not so squeamish.
A Blood-pie for a Side-dish.
On those days that young Turkeys, fat Pullets and other sorts of Fowl are kill’d, some of their blood may be preserv’d, to the quantity only ofa large Glass full. It must be put into an Earthen Pan, with some Filets of a Hare and of Veal: Let these Filets be larded with Gammon and thick slips of Bacon, and steept in the Blood; seasoning them a little. To make the Godivoe*, you are to provide some Flesh of Chickens and Partridges, a good piece of a Leg of Veal, some Bacon, Marrow, and a little Sewet; with Parsly, Chibbol**, A Clove of Garlick and Truffles, all well season’d, enrich’d and chopt small: Let the Blood be put into this Farce and temper’d with it. In the mean time, let two sorts of Paste be prepar’d, viz. one ordinary, of a greater quantity, and the other less, consisting of Eggs, Butter, Flower and Salt, all well workt, without any Water. Thus two large pieces are to be roll’d out of the common Paste, and two lesser ones of the finer sort: Let the great piece for the Bottom-crust be put upon Paper, and the lesser on the top of it: Take one half of your Godivoe, and spread it neatly upon those two pieces of Paste; then let your Filets in order, and the rest of the Farce upon them; covering all with Bards or Slices of Bacon, and afterwards with a small piece of the fine Paste; wetting the greater round about: At last, the other large piece being put on the top, to compleat the Lid or uppe Crust; the whole Pie is to be wash’d over with an Egg, and baked in the Evening, for the space of eight or ten Hours: For it must be left all Night till the same Hour next morning, taking care that the Oven be not over-heated. It must be served up hot to Table, after having poured a Partridge-cullis*** into it, and both the Meat and Crust ought to be eaten with a Fork.
[The court and country cook : giving new and plain directions how to order all manner of entertainments, ..François Massialot; 1702]
* Godivoe = a forcemeat stuffing, also called a Farce.
** Chibbol = onion
*** cullis = a broth reduction [same origin as ‘coulis’]
Tomorrow’s Story …
Quotation for the Day …
A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso." Alan Patrick Herbert (1890-1971)