Until last Saturday, I thought the expression "humble pie" was purely metaphoric. But, of course, it's not. Y. shot a deer (a 140-pound 4-point buck) on the first morning of the season and that afternoon a short Google search including the terms deer, heart, and liver led me to humble pie. Noone was very specific when it came to recipes; deer heart and liver baked in a crust with apples, currants, and spices was about all I had to go on. It seems that while the lord of the manner was eating the tenderloins (and who can blame him--yum!), the help was given the offal. I cannot claim that the recipe I came up with is authentic. It is, however, very seasonally appropriate, reminiscent of mincemeat, and to my taste buds quite delicious.
This was a new pie making method for me. A few things I learned: use straight-sided jars, or jars with very little taper. The jars I used were angled enough to make the wrapping and tying process more of a bear than it needed to be. Make sure the string is tied tightly enough and that it doesn't slip down. If the string slips too far down, your pie will collapse during baking for not having enough support. This method should not be used for pies without top crusts--the top crust holds everything together and without it the edges would curl down in the oven.
Don't be discouraged, though. I only had one true failure--the rest were beautiful and entirely satisfying. If it does seem like altogether too much bother, just use small pie plates instead.
makes about 6
- 1 recipe pie crust
- 1- 1 1/2 cups deer heart and liver, chopped into small pieces
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into small pieces
- 2 handfuls currants
- zest of one lemon
- 1/2 tsp. dried sage
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 scant tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground clove
- 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 Tbs. brandy
- 1-2 Tbs. flour
- butter for dotting
- 1 egg plus 1 Tbs. water for glazing
- Make the filling the day before you plan to make the pies. Briefly sauté the chopped offal in a mixture of butter and oil in a very hot pan. Remove to the bowl you're going to mix the filling in from pan with a slotted spoon. You might see some juices from the meat at the bottom of the bowl, don't drain them. Add the apple, currants, zest, salt, and spices and mix to combine. Stir in the brandy. Cover and refrigerate until the next day.
- On the day of pie making, remove the filling from the fridge to bring it to room temperature.
- Make up your pastry dough, form it into two balls, one larger than the other, wrap the two balls tightly with plastic, and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
- Have ready 6 straight sided jars inverted on a baking sheet. Roll out the larger ball of dough on a floured surface. Using a small plate (about 6 inches in diameter) as a template, cut out circles of dough. You might have to gather the scraps and re-roll the dough to get 6 circles. Drape the circles over the up-side-down jars, pressing the dough to the side of the jar to get a nicely shaped cup. Once all the cups are formed, place the baking sheet in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
- Have ready six strips of parchment wide enough to support the pie once it's in the oven and long enough to reach around the circumference of the pie and six lengths of string. Remove the baking sheet of pastry cups from the freezer. Free the pastry from the jars while it is still good and frozen, but put the cups back on the jars so they have some support while you're tying them. Wrap a piece of parchment around the center of each cup and secure it well with string. Take the cups off the jars and place right way up on the baking sheet, which you should now line with parchment. Return cups to freezer briefly.
- Mix a tablespoon or two of flour into your filling. Have ready a couple tablespoons of butter for dotting on the filling before closing the pies.
- Take the cups from the freezer and set aside. Preheat oven to 375° F.
- Roll out the smaller ball of dough on a floured surface and cut out six tops with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Fill the pies, leaving enough room at the top to create a nice edge. Dot each pie with a bit of butter. Place a top on each pie. Seal your pies, using a little water if it seems necessary. Crimp the edges. Poke a hole in the top of each pie (I used the back of a paint brush).
- Just before they go in the oven brush tops with egg/water mixture. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is bubbling.
Serve warm or room temperature with port/beer/cheese/pickles.
Y. said that his friends usually make some godawful stir fry with the hearts and livers of their deer. This being Y.'s deer, he got to choose the menu. I sensed some initial resistance to humble pie, but I think we won them over.