I was watching the Great British Baking Show, a reality TV show from the BBC, thinking of that George Bernard Shaw comment about the US and England being “two countries separated by a common language.”
For all our shared cultural heritage, there are more differences that I’d expect between our cuisine and theirs. Prominent on the episode I was watching, which was titled Pies and Tarts, was a trio of pork pies made with rhubarb, prune and apple, and a hot water crust, which I had never made before. A quick look ‘round the Internet leads me to believe I am not alone in my inexperience. While lard is again acceptable in foodie circles, there were few US recipes for hot water crust, and my (admittedly brief) search failed to find a lard-based hot water crust from this continent.
Unlike a standard pie crust which must be kept cold so the fat remains solid until it’s baked, when it will melt and harden into the crust producing delicious flaky layers, a hot water crust must be shaped while warm lest the fat harden and the crust become stiff. The dough that results is tender but not flaky. It has more structural integrity than a regular pie crust which it needs in order to stand without support and to contain a meat filling.
Here is my warm crust draped over a jam jar. The two small balls of crust on the right are destined to be top crust.
It’s a shame these pies haven’t been part of the rediscovery of pie in the US. Bacon has had a big moment, and lard has been reclaimed, so why not meat pies? When I was a college student in Britain I ate meat pies from Marks and Spencer regularly. They were tasty, convenient and cheap. Maybe it’s the association of meat pies with kidneys, which are still waiting their moment of redemption, or maybe they’re hampered by the gluten-free trend. It’s hard to imagine a gluten-free crust that could hold all that meat.
In any case, my pie was delicious if not as beautiful as the ones on TV.
I nominate meat pies for a spot on the next trendy food list.