Today marks the sixth time that strangers foisted pie recipes upon each other!
We would like to salute Yinzerella for organizing this recipe swap. This year, against all good sense, we at A Book of Cookrye are making...
|Huntingdon Fidget Pie
1 lb. streaky bacon, diced
½ pound onion (1 medium-to-large)
1 pound cooking apples (3 or 4)
Pie dough made from 8 oz. flour and 4 oz. fat of your choice (or 2 pie crusts)*
Heat oven to 350°. Line a pie pan with crust.
Peel, core, and roughly chop the apples and the onion. Mix with the bacon and season well.
Put in the pie pan. Pour in cider to come about halfway up the pan. Cover with a top crust, cut vents, and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 300° and bake 50 minutes more.
*This was not enough. Use 10 oz. flour and 5 oz. butter, not 8 and 4.
Source: Cooking Price-Wise by Vincent Price, 1971
This comes to us from The Homicidal Homemaker, who sends it to us from Cooking Price-Wise by Vincent Price. You know, the guy who did all those weird horror movies. This is the second time we've been sent a celebrity-endorsed recipe for the Pieathlon! We sent in a very... er... economical recipe from the depths of the Great Depression. As it happens, we're making each other's recipes! She gets to make the only dud-looking pie recipe in the entirety of our Depression-era cookbook. I hope she likes raisins.
This has a better chance of actually being good than our previous recipe from the rich and famous because this time we have a recipe from someone who actually was into cooking. Vincent Price wrote and published multiple cookbooks throughout his career. Also, let's go ahead and run the picture that absolutely everyone writing about Vincent Price's recipes shows.
By the way, Vincent Price also did Broadway musicals! ...Or at least, he did a musical, co-starring with Patricia Routledge who is best known to American audiences for playing Hyacinth It's-Pronounced-Bouquet. Want to hear Vincent Price singing his heartfelt feelings in sixties showtune style?
All right, let's actually get to the recipe! We looked up fidget pie online, and this recipe looks typical of most of the ones we found. Raw bacon, apples, and onions are encased in a pie crust and baked until everything's quite dead. Actually, those of you who read the Little House in the Big Woods series may recognize apples-and-onions from Farmer Boy. It's one of young Almanzo Wilder's favorite foods in that book. So, in addition to literary precedent, the combination of apples and onions isn't entirely out-there.
It seems like fidget pie varies in every little county of England, rather like how every subregion and tiny are of the US has its own version of barbecue. Looking up "Huntingdon fidget pie" specifically, we found this website which said the name comes from fitchett, an old English word for polecat. Supposedly the pie kind of smells like one when it's baking. They note that nowadays "even locally, many people are unaware of the pie." One British writer even went to Huntingdon and found that absolutely no restaurant, pub, tavern, or even roadside stand sold a Huntingdon fidget pie or put it on the menu. And so, we at A Book of Cookrye are about to find out if it was forgotten with good riddance or if it was tragically lost to time like all those lovely would-have-been-heirloom apple varieties that the Red Delicious steamrollered out of existence.
With all that said, let's get to the big ingredient here: A POUND OF BACON!
|All of this goes into one pie.
Bacon devotees (and there are a lot of you) will already know that there are like fifty different versions of bacon depending on what country you are in. In the UK from whence this recipe comes, bacon is not the incredibly fatty strips of dead pig one would purchase in the US. However, this recipe specifies streaky bacon, which is... this!
I really wanted to find some way to not have to put all of this in one pie. Was there an obscure region of Britain that calls an unusually lean cut of pork "streaky bacon"? Was there any way I could find bacon that had more meat than fat? I even went to the hoity-toity grocery store, hoping they'd have lean bacon. They did not. How can a store have duck bacon but not bacon cut from a leaner part of the pig?
|Duck bacon is the color of liver.
Well, we're putting a pound of greasy all-American bacon in this, because in the Pieathlon one must always faithfully follow the recipe, making no substitutions unless it calls for something like a brand of lard that was discontinued in 1974. Speaking of lard...
|All this. In one pie.
|Incidentally, if you have about $200 and don't mind the irony of paying $200 for a paperback about budget cooking, this copy can be yours!
I never buy alcohol. I didn't swear off drinking, but I just kind of lost interest soon after I hit legal age. This is partially because that was around the time I moved and left my drinking friends behind in another state. And so, I have no familiarity with the liquor laws where I live.
Specifically, one can't purchase an individual bottle/can of beer (hard cider legally counts as beer apparently) in a grocery store, a liquor store, or a beer-and-wine store. We at A Book of Cookrye had absolutely no desire to get a six-pack of hard cider just to use half a can. Fortunately, you know where you can buy a single can of beer? Gas stations.
|This is not a liquor store but an ordinary suburban gas station. It has a refrigerated beer room.
Anyway, because this recipe is British, you have to get out a kitchen scale to make it. Fortunately, we had to get one of these because all of our recipes in cooking class also go by weight. We bought this thing so we could practice official class recipes at home. It still feels weird to have it lurking in the cabinets.
I hate peeling apples for recipes. First, it's tedious and boring. Second, you send a lot of apple directly into the trash. Since a kitchen scale now resides with us, behold the pointless waste.
|Someday I'll figure out a way to use up all these perfectly-good apple peels.
It gets worse when you also throw away the apple cores. Which, granted, I was going to do anyway. But this won't stop me from ranting about how much I hate peeling apples. I'm only doing this because the recipe told me to. I'd have skipped it entirely were it not the Pieathlon.
|Look at how much weight in apples we have to throw away!
Anyway, we've got the apples cut up, so now let's get all of the bacon ready to turn into a pie! Being on a budget, instead of buying a whole hunk of it from a pricy butcher shop so we could cut it into cubes like the recipe calls for, we just got thick-sliced bacon (store-brand of course) and did this.
We had a very hard time believing that this pie should actually contain a pound of raw bacon. You know how cake recipes will say to add the eggs and assume that you know to crack the eggs open and throw away the shells? We figured that surely a British cook would implicitly know that you're supposed to cook all this bacon and then drain off the grease. But, we looked up various recipe videos for fidget pie. However else they may vary, every single one of them showed someone putting a lot of raw bacon in their pie.
Granted, they're using British bacon which is mostly meat and not mostly fat like American bacon. But Vincent Price has specifically told us to use "streaky bacon." Which is going into this pie raw. Which means that this pie will contain absolutely all of the bacon fat. This recipe is a heart attack in the making. Having a wee bit of recipe-induced heart failure may be acceptable in Britain where they have the NHS, but here in America we have hospital bills.
|I'm mixing this in a saucepan because I needed to use it for dinner tonight and didn't want to have to wash something else.
If you pretend those are potato chunks instead of apples, it looks like the makings of a decent pie, doesn't it?
Actually, let's go back a bit and discuss Vincent Price's pie crust. You know this recipe's British because he just calls for "fat." Here in America, we are still so collectively brow-beaten by a fat-free dieting obsession (while also eating a lot of fried foods, but that dissonance can be discussed another time) that you will never see a recipe use the word "fat" in the ingredient list.
We had to get out the scale to make it. But since this cookbook is sold for British people who usually have kitchen scales, we're not about to grouse about out-of-touch cookbook writers who thinks everyone lives next to an artisan shop and has the money to buy from it.
|If we're .05oz short of butter, does that make the crust reduced-fat?
If we assume that this cookbook is written for people who already know how to cook and therefore don't need instructions on how to make a pie crust, the one line of directions in the ingredient list is perfectly fine. It makes a pie crust and not a failure. However, it does not make enough for this pie.
|Incidentally, while I think flat-top stoves aren't that great for cooking, I like them better than anything else for rolling out pie crusts. They're even better than those overpriced woodblock tables.
By the time we had rolled it out big enough to actually cover the pie pan, it was so thin that it felt like handling wet toilet paper.
|May I remind everyone that I've taken multiple classes in baking and in pastry work.
You may see all that dough hanging off the sides of the pan and think I rolled it out too far. But by the time I tore off the hanging bits to patch up the bare sides, there was no extra dough left. At first I thought I'd used a much bigger, much all-American pie pan than the probably-smaller pie pans one finds in the rest of the world and that this recipe probably intended. However, this barely contained the ingredients, so I probably got the pan size right. Which means that apparently Vincent Price wants us to have a puny ration of pie crust so thin that it probably crumbles when you try to lift out a slice.
Incidentally, this is my grandmother's pie pan. We accidentally took it home instead of ours last Thanksgiving.
Anyway, let's get back to the impending grease bomb! I'd thought to myself that I'd do all the pie crust rolling earlier in the day so it was completely done. You know how you roll your pie crust off the countertop and onto the rolling pin, and then unroll it over your pie pan? We thought we'd leave it rolled up on the pin until we finally were ready for it. The dough stuck to itself so much that we had to just scrape it off the pin, smush it back into a lump, and reroll it anyway.
|SO MUCH FOR SAVING TIME.
Sometimes when I'm trying a recipe like this, the presence of one utterly wrong ingredient (like a pound of raw bacon trapped in one pie) makes me skip half the instructions. I'm like "Whatever, this recipe's already ruined, let's just bake it and be done already." In this recipe, I got the top crust pressed onto the pie, ventilated, and ready to bake. I then realized that I'd forgotten something...
Yes, I forgot to add the cider after driving to every gas station in town trying to find one that had cans of it among the beers. You can see it here, looking like a puddle of piss welling up under the apples and raw bacon.
All right, this pie is finally ready for the oven! I have to say, if nothing else, at least this pie is quick to throw together. You just cut things up and dump them in the pan. I'm a huge fan of food you just dump in the pan and bake.
All right, let's set aside this alcoholic grease-bomb and talk about oven temperatures. Vincent Price tells us to put this pie into "a moderate oven for 30 minutes at 450°F." At this point I started to seriously question whether Vincent Price was the gourmand and cook people claim him to be because a moderate oven is not that hot. For those of you who don't know your antiquated oven temperatures, our favorite promotional electric mixer cookbook from 1946 has this handy chart:
|All-Electric Recipes Prepared Specially for your Dormeyer Mixer, 1946
A moderate oven is somewhere in the neighborhood of 350°ish. It's the temperature at which you bake most of your roasts, cakes, pies, potatoes, and breads. Most things baked in a moderate oven will cook all the way through before the outside burns. A moderate oven is not hotter than the temperature setting used for most frozen pizzas. So saying "bake in a moderate oven at 450°" is like saying "add a gallon-sized pint of beer to the stewpot." So, Mr. Price, is it a moderate oven or a 450° one?
On the grounds that this pie spends a total of 80 minutes in the oven, we decided not to turn it into a pie-shaped cinder. Therefore we set the oven to 350° instead of 450°.
About ten minutes in, we realized we forgot something else. You know how the recipe says to add seasonings? We had to tear the pie open and dump some in.
How the heck do you season a pie full of apples, onions, and bacon? We were stumped. In the end, we just dumped on salt and pepper and hoped for the best. After closing the top crust, you'd never know that this pie had to be opened and its contents modified.
This pie gave off a very pungent smell as it baked. You know how the smell of bacon will overtake your house whenever you cook it? Imagine the smell of bacon without the smell of various bits of the bacon turning dark and crunchy. The distinctive odor of salty boiled pork combined itself with the apples and the evaporating alcohol to produce a smell remarkably like what happens when someone stumbles into the kitchen, while simultaneously hungover and still drunk from last night, and attempts to make a breakfast that starts with banging a skillet on the stove and knocking over the half-full beer bottles that still occupy most of the countertop.
Since we had over an hour of waiting for this pie to bake, we decided to throw together an apology cake to make up for the culinary misfire currently oozing bacon grease into little smoldering puddles on the bottom of the oven. I added cider to the 1234 cake until it was about as runny as cake batter tends to be, and then dumped the rest of the cider into the cake after it was done.
Eventually, the pie was done. I do appreciate how little cleanup there was from this recipe. This pie does not involve getting out a massive amount of dishes and bowls. No miserable mountain of dripping dirty dishes waited for us to spend an hour scrubbing them after closing the oven door.
The pie was still warm when I put it in the car to take to a friend who semimasochistically agreed to try it. Most of the alcohol had boiled off, so the pie smelled mostly like boiling applesauce and boiled bacon. By the way, boiled bacon smells terrible. Imagine if you took a lovely ham, dropped it in boiling water, and left it there until the next week. The sad smell of boiled bacon, combined with the sickly-sweet overcooked apples, made the car smell like one of those breakfasts that, before you eat any of it, you already know is going to leave you feeling sick for the rest of the day.
I was a wee bit unnerved at what lurked in this pie. Yes, the cider had made it extremely soupy going into the oven, but the pie baked for a longer time than most TV movies. I'd figured most of the liquid dripping out of the pie would boil off during that extended visit to the oven. I was wrong.
|Looks like miserable cafeteria slop, doesn't it?
Back in the pie pan, you could see all the bacon grease just sort of floating on this weird opaque watery stuff.
Everyone, meet Gabby. He's been with us for the apple-cheese debacle and also for the surprisingly-benign diet mint pie. This makes him the only person to volunteer the Pieathlon more than once. However, he's a bit leery of my recipe tests ever since the apple-cheese adventure...
I am surprised that no one from the rhubarb-and-strawberry year came back for another Pieathlon, because that year the pies were really good. Nevertheless, no one else has ever come back a second time to see what vintage pie recipes get sent across the Internet.
Actually, before we see what's under this pie.
I'm not saying the undersides of pies should be exquisite feasts for the eyes, but the bottom of a pie probably shouldn't look like that.
"IS THIS RAW BACON IN THIS PIE???????????????"
Indeed, the bacon looked raw. I tried to tell myself that after boiling in a pie pan full of cider for over an hour, the bacon was definitely cooked. The apples were so mushy they disintegrated into paste on contact with a fork. The onions were flavorless mush. Given those two observations, surely the bacon was at least cooked enough to sterilize it-- even though it was just as pink and slimy as it was before baking.
"I want to be mad at it, because the bacon's not fully cooked and-- if this gives me salmonella it's not going to be worth it."
"And this onion--- you know, it's not caramelized onions but it's cooked in bacon fat, so... I can't stop eating this disgusting pie!"
After this neutral blessing, I decided to try the pie for myself. Gabby smacked the fork out of my hand while shouting "DON'T DO THIS TO YOURSELF!!!"
Oh, but I had to. "That bacon can't be raw," I said. "Look how mushy the rest of it is!"
The pie was flavorless mush. The salt and pepper hadn't helped. Even all the salt from the bacon had disappeared. However, the bacon felt and tasted... well... raw. But the fat had rendered off into the cider soup, meaning every mushy apple cube was coated in grease.
On the bright side, the apology cake I made was really good! Would you like to make it yourself?
½ c butter
¾ c sugar
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
½ c hard cider
1½ c flour
1 tbsp butter
⅓ c hard cider
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp pumpkin spice
1 c powdered sugar
Heat oven to 350°. Grease a round or square pan.
Cream the butter, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Beat until light. Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat until it's nice and fluffy.
Add one third of the flour, being just until mixed. Then add half the cider. Continue alternately adding these two ingredients.
Bake until the center springs back when lightly pressed.
To make the glaze:
Melt the butter in about half of the cider (you can just microwave it). Pour in the rest. Whisk in the salt and spice, beating out any lumps. Add in the powdered sugar, and whisk thoroughly. It will be very thin.
When the cake is done, immediately poke it all over with a fork. Pierce it all the way through to the pan. Pour some of the glaze on, tilting the pan so the glaze covers the cake. When it is absorbed, pour on some more. Repeat until all the glaze is in the cake.
This is best served warm, especially with ice cream.
From the dining-table review:
"How'd you get it so fluffy? This cake is moist! I hate that word, but it is!"
All right, let's get back to this British failure of a pie. Britain, I'm so sorry, but recipes like this do nothing to help the many jokes about British food that were slapped around in the seventies. But looking at the recipe, the ingredients had potential. They were just... mishandled. Most obviously, if you're going to bake raw meat into a pie, it should be something that isn't mostly fat. And this thing was in the oven for so long that everything turned into pathetic, overcooked, grease-coated mush. We decided to take this recipe and remove all the parts that didn't work very well.
That's right, usually we revisit recipes on Saturdays just so we can call it Second-Stab Saturdays, but this recipe demanded immediate attention.
|Huntingdon Fidget Tartlets
1 lb. streaky bacon
½ pound onion (1 medium-to-large), diced
1 pound cooking apples (3 or 4)
- Chili powder
- Adobo powder
- Garlic powder
- Black pepper
1 (12-oz) can or bottle hard cider
Pie dough made from 12 oz. flour and 6 oz. butter (or about 15-20 cupcake-sized tartlet shells, baked)
Make your pie crust and press it into cupcake pans. Bake at 350° until done. Watch for any excessively-big bubbles at the beginning of the baking time, piercing any that well up with a fork.
Peel, core, and dice the apples, set aside.
Select a very large frying pan with a lid. Cook the bacon until crispy, drain it on paper towels. Reserve the grease for what's about to ensue (you won't be using anywhere near all of it).
Pour most of the bacon grease out of the pan, leaving about 1 or 2 tablespoons. Turn the stove up to a very high heat. When the pan is sizzling, searing hot, add the onions. Cook until caramelized. They don't need to be cooked all the way through, so if they're brown on the outside and raw in the middle it's fine.
Remove from the pan. If there's no bacon fat left, add a little bit more. Add the apples and brown them darkly, watching and stirring lest they go from caramelized to burnt. They will not cook through to the middle at this point, so don't worry about it.
When at least some of the apples have some nice brown on them, reduce heat to medium. Pour in enough cider for them to stew in. When it boils, reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Leave it to stew until the apples are partially tender, occasionally stirring them and scraping the pan, and adding more cider as it dries out. Stir in the bacon and then put the lid back on. Add the onions when the apples are almost but not quite done. Simmer until all is tender.
Spoon into the pie shells and serve warm. If you baked the crusts ahead of time, we recommend putting them in a 250° oven for about 15-20 minutes so they can warm up while the filling is simmering.
The filling refrigerates and reheats well. So if you want, you can refrigerate it and the unbaked pie shells. When you want them, pop the crusts in the oven and put the filling in the frying pan long enough to rewarm it. Have extra cider on hand to pour in the pan if the filling dries out a bit while reheating.
Adapted from Cooking Price-Wise by Vincent Price, 1971
As you can see, we are not changing the ingredient list at all. We have added nothing, removed nothing, and changed no quantities. Let's look at the biggest, most drastic change in instructions:
Yep, we're cooking the bacon beforehand! This enables us to actually dump away all the grease that melts off. Now, if you cook bacon a lot, you know how annoying it can be when it curls away from the pan before if it's fully cooked. If only there was a way to firmly press it to the frying pan...
When you're cooking an entire pound of bacon, you will frequently have to dump the grease out of the pan because there's so much of it. Purely for educational purposes, we poured it into a measuring cup. So, for those who were wondering, the first attempt at a Huntingdon Fidget Pie, made exactly to Vincent Price's specifications, contained this much free-floating fat:
Since we already own a kitchen scale, we decided to go ahead and see how much bacon is left after cooking it. We started with 1 pound, and ended with...
4 ounces. That's a quarter of a pound. That means that three-fourths of a pound of the bacon was fat. In other words, the first pie had enough fat to make three sticks of butter just floating in the runny ooze. Also, note how the bacon is reduced to this one tiny shrivelled little pile. I now understand why you read about so many old-fashioned cooks repurposing bacon grease.
Right, let's move on to... these things!
The first pie had onions cooked in bacon fat, this pie's going to have onions caramelized in bacon fat!
Since we were already on a caramelizing whirl, we decided to do that to the apples too. It didn't work very well.
Anyway, we decided to stew the apples in the hard cider until they cooked. When we first dumped some of it in the pan, the alcohol vapors flash-boiling away immediately made the kitchen smell like my sophomore year of college.
I'd thought that the apples would cook faster on the stove than in the oven but was mistaken. At least there was nothing frustrating about the long cooking time-- all I had to do was occasionally poke the apple pieces to check for firmness and add more cider because the pan was drying up. While the frying pan minded its own business on the stovetop, I was able to get the kitchen wiped down and the pie crusts done. Since this didn't seem like a pie that could hold itself together long enough to lift out a slice, the logical option seemed to be containing each piece of pie in its own crust cup. Fortunately, we happen to have a the perfect cutter that makes just the right sized dough circle.
As you admire these beautiful miniature pie shells, I entreat you not to be too jealous of my amazing pie craftsmanship. After all, I've taken multiple classes in pastry technique. And it shows in my beautifully pie shells with their exquisitely-crimped edges.
|An attempt was made.
When the apples were nearly done, I added the bacon so it could soften a bit in the steam. It promptly absorbed most of the cider that happened to still be in the pan. I had to dump a lot more in lest the pie-filling-to-be get burnt.
This didn't seem like making pie. It felt like making breakfast hash. Well anyway, when everything was nearly cooked, I dumped the onions back in so the raw parts could finish cooking. And so, with minimal effort (seriously, most of this was just putting a lid of the frying pan and waiting), we had transformed our raw ingredients into.... this!
Seriously, even the apples turned a pretty golden color! I mean, it doesn't look like something one would put in a pie, but absolutely everything about this mess-in-a-plastic-tub, both in look and in smell, said that it was going to be really good.
However, I was still unsure of how to season this weird mess of apples onions and bacon. So I brought it back to Gabby's house for further experimentation. Check out the congealed bacon fat that amassed in there under refrigeration, and keep in mind that this is by far the reduced-fat version of this pie.
We dumped this back out into a frying pan to reheat. I wasn't sure if it would be mushy and gummy when reheated. But since it had spent almost an hour stewing and steaming, I figured that it would have already turned to mush if it was going to. We also added a lot of garlic. Believe it or not, it went very well with everything. All right, who's ready for the big final reveal?
You know what, we've come so far on this pie journey. Let us at least look at these things a little closer.
|FEAST UPON THE GLORY.
However, they were still a bit bland. Since we had a lot of these little pies sitting on the plate and half a frying pan of filling still sitting on the stove, experimentation happened. First, we tried using the sauce packets that nearly everyone has a few of in their house.
Those were not very good. Next, we tried... these.
|Left to right: Fidget pie with jalapeno juice, fidget pie with pickle juice, fidget pie with lemon juice.
The jalapeno one was okay, the pickle one was terrible, the lemon one was surprisingly mediocre. Next, spice shakers were brought out. That is how we arrived at the list of spices you see in the ingredient list.
The end result: Utterly delicious. Now, it's true that in America, we usually maintain a sharp division between sweet foods and savory foods that other parts of the world don't bother with. This pie sits right in the middle of that, so if you want to nudge it over to the sweet side, you could add some maple syrup just as you took the frying pan off the stovetop. But the ingredients here work really well together. The taste is very unusual (at least on this side of the Atlantic), but everything in this pie got along very harmoniously. You don't add seasonings to this pie to hide the ingredients, you add seasonings to enhance what's already so, so right about it.
"Would you make this again?"
"You see me eating this, don't you?"
Thank you for joining me on this Pieathlon adventure! Links to everyone else's posts will be appearing below as everyone posts, so be sure to see what everyone else made!
- Catherine likely got very well acquainted with canned pineapple when she made made Betty Crocker's Hawaiian Pie!
- Dr. Bobb got to make what sounds like a pie full of cookies: Macaroon Pie.
- Camilla may have had to get out one of those kitchen blowtorches when she made Flaming Peach Pie.
- Yinzerella organized the Pieathlon and made Dali Oasis Leek Pie.
- Silver Screen Suppers made Spaghetti Pie! I'm kind of jealous. Here I was rendering bacon fat, and she got to make a pie-load of pasta.
- The Nostalgic Cook made Cheese Applesauce Pie. Is it as good as apple pie with cheese on top? Go see!
- Recipes4Rebels made Artichoke Pie. Sounds good to me, what about you?
- The Homicidal Homemaker made the recipe I sent in: Bamberry Turnovers! Does she appreciate the joy of making dessert on a Depression-era budget the way I do?
- The Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en made Angel Pie. I've heard of Angel Cake before, but the pie is a new one.
- Vintage Recipe Cards had the rare privilege of making Salmon Custard Pie. That is not a mistype. Salmon. Custard. Pie.
- Vincent Price Legacy UK made Weight Watchers Cherry Pies! As we all know, the Weight Watchers recipes from the 70s were nothing but pleasant and delightful... right?
- Grannie Pantries got to make a Banana Split Pie. I know I always wish I could put my sundae in a pie, don't you?
- Retro Food for Modern Times got to make the utterly-delightful sounding Honey Cream Cheese Pie!