Monday, October 8, 2012

Peacock Pye and Swan Pies

17th century paintings show elaborate peacock and swan pies adorning the dining tables.  No question, a real show piece.  But - a real head, neck and wings??  A 1757 recipe below detailed how it was done.  Other options - butter, wax or stick forms.

Details on how the long necked heads were prepared and held upright on the pies were related by Thacker in his 1757 book.  For the Peacock Pye, recipe below, he said to cut the neck with feathers from the body, insert a stick, and then dry in an oven.  The tail was formed by inserting feathers in a piece of pie crust.

To make a Peacock Pye.
Pate de Paon.   1757
Pick it, and leave the Feathers on the Neck, cut the Neck off close to the Body, skin the Neck close to the Head, and cut it off; put a Stick tight into the Skin up to the Head, dry it in an Oven; cut off the Legs, and keep them, then draw it and singe it; keep some of the short Feathers of the Tail;

[to prepare the filling] truss it as for boiling, break down the Breast Bone, season it with Pepper and Salt, skewer it, put a Piece of Butter into the Belly of it, roast it about half enough, and let it cool; raise a Pye [pie crust form] for it, or make it as you do a Ham Pye; put in the Belly of the Peacock ten Yolks of Eggs boil’d hard, blanch half a Dozen Sweet-breads, cut them in Dice, lay them round the Bird so as to make it even at Top, lay over that some thin Slices of interlar’d Bacon, and Butter over all; close your Pye, [pie crust on top] and make a Funnel in the Middle [to let out steam];

[decorate after it is baked] garnish it as you’ll see in the garnishing of some of the other Pies, which will direct you how to place the Head and Feet; you must make a Piece of Paste [pie crust] like the Rump, stick five or six Feathers in it after the Pye is bak’d, place the Head at the Head of the Pye, and carve the Outsides; when it is bak’d, fillthe Pye up with clarified Butter, and keep it for a standing Dish to ornament the Middle of your Table, or set it on a Side Table.
John Thacker. The Art of Cookery. 1757

Swans and Pies

Briggs' long recipe for a Swan Pie is at the end of this posting. It was to be served hot or cold, and could decorate by"...model a swan in butter and put on; if you cannot model one, buy one that is made with wax and put on."  When to be eaten cold, Briggs added savory jelly, but most recipes called for clarified butter.  "When it [Turky Pye] is baked and cold, fill it with clarified Butter as must be done to all cold Pyes."  [The Whole Duty of a Woman.  London: 1737]

A Swan Pie, to be eat cold.
Skin and bone your Swan; lard it with Bacon, and season it with Pepper, Salt, Cloves, Mace, and Nutmeg, to your Palate, and with a few Bay-leaves powder'd lay it in the Pie; stick it with Cloves; lay on butter, and close the Pie: When it is bak'd, and half cold, fill it up with clarify'd Butter.
Smith, Robert. Court Cookery: or, The Compleat English Cook. London: 1725


A form to support the swan shape on top of a pie, is illustrated in Conrad Hagger's Neues Saltzburgisches Koch-buch. Jugspurg: 1719:

Coffins or raised pies
The filling is falling out of a pye "coffin" painting is by Claesz, and the second, mostly eaten one is Heda, both 1637. 

Another shape for swan pies was illustrated (bottom right) in The Whole Duty of of a Woman. London: 1737.  Perhaps the boar head on top of the pie on the left, was made of butter, as described by Briggs, pastry, or wax.

“Instructions for Marketing at the Poulterers” was a chapter in The Whole Duty of a Woman, 1737.  It described good or stale condition of capon, turky, tame or wild geese and ducks, doves,  gulls, pheasant, partridge, wood cock and others.  Interestingly, rabbit, hare, leveret and cony were included in the poultry chapter.  The painting from the 1580s includes live roosters in the cage/basket between the two figures; a live duck by the eggs and dog; poultry food in a bowl, bottom center; plucked and unplucked birds, and an animal over the man's shoulders [a hare?].

Among the vast variety of food in the pantry below, is a swan in the center. Under it's wing, on the left, is a lobster, and to the right is a deer.

Swan Pie

TAKE a swan, skin, draw, and bone it as whole as you can, and put it into a deep earthen pan; put half a pint of white wine into a stew-pan, with the same quantity of vinegar, an onion, six bay leaves, a few cloves, mace, and all-spice, a clove or two of garlick, give it a boil, pour it over the swan, and let it lay all night;
bone a goose and a fowl, and make the following force-meat: take the flesh of a fowl, half a pound of lean veal, the same quantity of fat bacon, and a pound of beef-suet, chop them,  and beat them well in a mortar; add a handful of parsley, some sweet herbs, a little lemon peel, and six shallots chopped very fine, and the crumb of a penny loaf, beat all well together, season it with beaten mace, nutmeg, pepper, a little Cayan, and salt, and mix it up with the yolks of four eggs;
lay the swan on the dresser, cut it down the back, put a layer of force-meat in the inside, cut the goose down the back, and lay it with the breast downwards in the inside of the swan, and lay a layer of force-meat in the inside of the goose, sill the inside of the fowl with force-meat, and put it into the goose, close them together as well as you, can; scald the giblets of the swan, cut them in pieces, and boil them for two hours in water sufficient to stew them, with a few cloves and mace and a bundle of sweet herbs;
[crust:] make a peck of flour with four pounds of butter into a paste, as directed in the beginning of this chapter, cut off a piece for the lid and ornaments, raise it as high as you can, and long enough to hold the swan, season the inside with beaten mace, pepper and salt, then put in the swan, with the giblets all round it, season it with mace, pepper and salt, put half a pound of butter over it, then put on the lid, rub it all over with the yolk of an egg, and ornament the sides as well as you can with leaves, and put it into a well-heated oven, and bake it seven hours.
In the mean time, take the bones of the swan, goose, and fowl, and boil them up with the liquor the giblets were stewed in till it is rich and good, season it with pepper and salt, strain it off, skim it clean, and one hour before your pie is done put in the liquor, but take care you do not fill it too full; when it is taken out of the oven, take off the lid, skim off the fat, and send it to table hot.
If you want to have it cold let it stand; then put savory jelly all over the top, and model a swan in butter and put on; if you cannot model one, buy one that is made with wax and put on. It will be better to make it over-night, as there is a great deal of work in it, and the paste will stand the better.
Briggs, Richard. The English Art of Cookery. London: 1788
Unless otherwise stated, most images are from the Web Gallery of Art:
Brueghel, Jan the Elder "The Sense of Taste" 1618 [Peacock, Swan, other bird pies];  Campi, Vincenzo “Chicken Vendors” 1580s;  Claesz, Pieter.  "Banquet Piece with Pie, Tazza, and Gilded Cup," 1637 from the National Gallery of Art exhibit, 2005;   Heda, Willem Claesz. "Breakfast Still-Life" 1637; Snyders, Frans. "The Pantry." c1620; Teniers, David the Younger. "Kitchen Scene" 1644  [elaborate Swan Pie];  Velsen, Jacob van. "A Musical Party" 1631 [plain Swan Pie]; and Weigel, Christoph.  Book of Trades.  1725  [man holding Peacock Pie]
©2012 Patricia Bixler Reber

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