I recently made a Cheshire pork pie from History is Served, a collection of recipes on Colonial Williamsburg’s history website. These recipes are by the staff of the Department of Historic Foodways, who re-create colonial food in demonstration kitchens at Williamsburg. This pie, which originated in Cheshire county in northwest England, is similar to what was made centuries ago, but in the updated recipe the pork is cooked ahead of time so that the pie safer to eat.
As the History is Served writer points out, pie pastry wasn’t always meant to be eaten — it protected the pie’s contents so that they wouldn’t spoil. A crust intended for that purpose would be made mostly of flour, just a little butter, and salt. When served, it would be pulled off the pie and discarded. As a crust lover, I shudder at the thought. Fortunately, this modern version is made with an edible crust.
Cheshire Pork Pie
Adapted from Historic Foodways Presents “History is Served”
I used less butter than called for in the Historic Foodways recipe, in deference to my butter-hating husband. I also used a regular pie pan instead of a big tart pan, and did not decorate it — see Historic Foodways’ video for more on colonial pie decoration.
pastry for a double-crusted pie (see recipe below)
1 pound pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 large Granny Smith apples
1 large MacIntosh apple
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup white wine (I used a sweet Swiss Amigne; Historic Foodways recommends Rhine wine, and a sweetish chardonnay would probably be fine as well)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough (recipe below) into a 12-inch circle.
3. Wrap the dough around the rolling pin to transfer into a 9-inch pie pan. Unwrap the dough from the rolling pin into the pan and press lightly to fit the pan. Return pie pan to the refrigerator until needed.
4. Slice the tenderloin into 1/4-inch thick slices. Season on both sides with salt, nutmeg and pepper. Melt the butter and oil in a large preheated frying pan and sear the slices for several minutes on each side, until mostly cooked; set aside.
6. Remove the pie pan from the refrigerator. Fill the pie bottom with a layer of pork slices, followed by a layer of apple slices, then a tablespoon of sugar. Repeat layers.
7. When the pie is filled, pour in wine. (Do not forget this step until 5 minutes later, as I did. If you do, first scream, then remove pie from oven, peel off the top, pour in wine, and put it back, cursing yourself.)
8. Roll the second piece of dough into a 12-inch circle. Wet the bottom edges of the dough and place the top piece over the filling. Trim the dough so it is flush with the edge of the pie pan. Flute the edge or press with a fork to seal. With a knife, cut 4-5 slits on the top of the pie.
9. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven, and place the pie in the middle of the sheet. Bake at 350°F for 35-45 minutes.
Let pie rest a few minutes before serving. Cut into wedges. A lot of liquid may have accumulated at the bottom of the pie, but it won’t be soggy. Just spoon the juices over the wedges and enjoy. My entire family loved this pie, and that doesn’t happen often!
Adapted from The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1/3 cup chilled vegetable shortening or lard
1/3 cup ice water, or more as needed
1. Into a large bowl, sift the flour with the salt. Add the butter and shortening and cut into small pieces with two knives or a pastry cutter.
2. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the water. Mix quickly with a fork to form a soft dough. Add another 1-2 tablespoons cold water if the dough looks dry. Turn out onto a floured surface and work gently into a rough ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be made up to a day in advance.)