The first use of the word “pie” as food is referenced in 1303 by the Oxford English Dictionary. The term became popular and widely utilized by 1362. The concept of the pie, however, had been around for centuries before. The Egyptians’ diet featured basic pies made from oat, wheat, rye, nuts and barley, and they were filled with honey and baked over or placed in hot coals.
The Romans used whatever meat was available and often times the meat were cuts not suitable for the table. They also filled their savory pies with oysters, mussels, lampreys, and fish along with a mixture of flour, oil, and water to keep it contained. The so-called ‘pastry’ cover or crust was not meant to be eaten and was thrown away after the contents were scooped out and eaten.
The crusts were meant only to carry and protect the contents.
The Europeans soon got in on the act of pie making and started adding butter, lard, and salt to the crust. The crust in ancient times did not resemble what we know pie crust to be today. The crust back then was akin to today’s hardtack, and usually was simply a vessel to hold and protect the contents from flies and other pests and to slow spoilage after it was baked for several hours.
The magpie that was the main ingredient for pies during medieval times and some naturally surmise this is where the term “pie” came from. Magpies were known to swoop down and grab miscellaneous items, typically from humans and hoard them in their nests. Pies back then had an odd assortment of edibles baked together, so it all fits together in a way.
In America pies are typically sweet pastries while in other countries savory meat pies are still very popular and often times they are fried in oil.
Any meat can be used, or any food item frankly can be baked into a pie and carried with you to eat along the trail or for a sit-down meal around the campfire. Simply make your pie crust as you would for any pie and fill with mixed meats, spices, dehydrated fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, raisins and so on, and then cover with a crust and bake. One hearty slice can be a meal.
You can make individual pies and fry or bake them for carrying in your pack. Once cooked the pies should be able to stay out of refrigeration for a few hours or even longer.
Meat pies are a good way to use up leftovers so they do go to waste, and to help keep any uneaten foods from spoiling right away.
Pie Crust Recipe Courtesy of Robyn Stone: The Perfect Pie Crust
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup vegetable shortening
- ¼ cup butter + more for buttering pie plate or skillet
- 4-5 tablespoons ice water
Pies can be baked in a cast iron skillet if you have a lid that allows you to place hot coals on top. If using a skillet do not place directly on the coals. You will have to place the skillet on fire grates and elevate above the heat or place close to the heat on a flat hot rock and rotate so as not to burn the bottom of the crust and to provide even baking.
In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Gradually add enough ice water to the mixture while mixing with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough is formed.
Roll out the dough and place your pie pan over the dough and cut out the bottom making sure you allow enough dough to form up the sides of the skillet or pie pan, and then roll up on your rolling pin and lay over the skillet or pie pan and form. Flatten out the top piece and place on a piece of plastic wrap or leave on a floured cutting and let the dough chill for 30 minutes if you have refrigeration or otherwise you can begin filling and baking.
If pre-baking just the crust, use a fork or nail to put holes in the bottom and sides of the pie dough to prevent puffing. Then preheat the oven to 425º F and bake the pie crust for about 8 minutes.