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Raised Pies

A Raised Pie is a tall, free-standing pie made with Hot Water Crust Pastry.

The crust, while still being tender, has enough body to stand up without being supported by the sides of a pie tin.

They are usually savoury pies containing meat. A famous example is Melton Mowbray pork pies.

They are not known in North American cooking.

They made in moulds, but you unmould them for serving.

Or, they can be made without the moulds, with their shapes formed by hand. You can shape the dough around a jar or a wooden pie mould, then remove the mould or jar. This is how they were made before the metal moulds came along, with the sides raised by hand, hence the name "raised pies" as opposed to "moulded pies." They kept the name of "Raised Pies" even after metal moulds became commonplace.

They can make superb centrepieces.

They are filled with chopped meat and either a gravy mixture or aspic mixture. Most recipes call for the aspic to be poured in through a hole in the top after the pie has been baked.

The Raised Pork Pie belt in England stretches through the Midlands from the border with Wales to Nottingham.

Cooking Tips

If you are forming the dough around a jar, butter the outside of the jar, then dust it with flour.

In the following steps, the dough should be rolled no thinner than 1/4 inch.

Divide the dough into two halves, Roll one-half of the dough into a long rectangle that will go around the jar, like a coat. Push the dough as high up the jar as you reckon it needs to go for the amount of filling, being careful not to work it too thin, or to leave any gaps (easily spied by holding the jar up to the light.) Seal the joints. The seams join more easily if you brush them with beaten egg, or milk.

Divide the remaining half into two arts. Roll out one part into a circle to be the bottom. Set the jar on it, and fold it up onto the sides, pressing it to join the dough already on the jar. Seal the joints.

Place the jar in the fridge upside down for about an hour to allow the dough to firm up.

Then, remove it from the fridge, and pour some hot (not boiling) water into the jar to help loosen the crust. Let stand for a minute or so, then lift the jar up out of the crust, twisting slightly to help free it.

Adjust the pie shell for any gaps or cracks that have appeared. Fill with your filling, then top with the remaining 1/4 of the dough, rolled out, seal and bake.

History Notes

Raised Pies became very popular in the 1800s when sprung metal pie form moulds became commercially available. The moulds, in fact, allowed a lighter version of the Hot Water Crust Pastry than had previously been possible. The moulds came to be made in very elaborate shapes, and have decorative sides, whose patterned transferred to the pie. The pie moulds ranged in size, and would be referred to in recipes as number 2 size, number 3 size, etc.

The top crusts of the pies would be very elaborate as well.

Some people grew suspicious of Raised Pies, because they came for a while to have a reputation for using the least choice parts of meat -- or even meat that people wouldn't touch if they recognized it, such as starlings.

Old recipes often mixed meat with fruit such as currants, raisins and peel.

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Bon mots

"They bake them in the oven, they boil them with meat, they make them fifty different ways. Blessed be he that invented the pudding -- to come in pudding time is to come to the most lucky moment in the world."

-- Fran├žois Misson (French pirate. Visiting England in 1698)

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