Pie is a perennial favorite at Thanksgiving, and the more varieties the better. Pie was also an eighteenth century staple, with far more types than we’re familiar with today. This week we feature pie recipes from the cookbook of Martha Custis Washington, wife of America’s most famous founding father. Entertain your guests with some daring cuisine from the kitchen of Mount Vernon!
The main ingredient for today’s pie can be obtained in almost any town, but perhaps not in the usual grocery stores or markets. It may seem strange to put these birds in a coffin, but in this context the word refers to a coarse pastry shell rather than a wooden box.
To Make a Pigeon Pie
When you put your pigeons into the coffin, lay butter under them, & put in some bacon, cut dice ways, and half a dozen sausages, cut in little pieces, season your pigeons with pepper & salt & lay on more butter. Then close up your pie & bake it 2 hours. When it comes out of the oven, put in a little thick butter beat up with a little white wine & a drop of vinegar. Shake it & so serve it up. You may bake either veal or rabbit on this manner.[This recipe is taken from Karen Hess, Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981). The spelling has been modernized for readability.]
Well Martha might not of wasted any food making these pies, but I don’t think my Grandchildren would be very happy pulling a cooked pigeon on their plate. Didn’t she ever make a fruit pie