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Pastry Coffins, The Medieval Tupperware

Breanna
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I was doing a bit of casual, late night weird reading last night and came upon this interesting little titbit from Atlas Obscura.

 

A predecessor to the pies we love today, pastry coffyns were hard boxes made of dough used to hold and preserve food. Basically they were so hard and tasteless to be inedible but it does sound like a great biodegradable food storage solution!

 

Apparently lamprey (look that up if you want to have nightmares) was a favourite to be sealed inside the pastry box with mint, parsley, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, and ground almonds. And after it was cooked, the coffin would be cut open and the juices drained out to make sauce. It sounds...slimy.

 

Of course, in true aristocratic excess, some took it a bit further by ordering huge pastry coffins that could accommodate things like birds, frogs, and even small people-- painted with mercury and lead for that *extra special* touch.

 

I'll be honest, I always wondered about the nursery rhyme where the "four and twenty blackbirds" get baked in a pie. It's all adding up now...

 

Thankfully this horrifying moment in food history has led us to the short crust pastry and pie as we know it today. I think I'll skip the peacock and tortoise and go for apple though. 

 

Pie anyone?

 

 

 

 

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Enlli
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Done 15c Living History for over 30 years. We often cook food that way. I've done half chickens and they keep really well!

However, these days we eat the crusts, back then it was just the contents 

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Breanna
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Chicken sounds so much more appetizing than lamprey! 

 

I really enjoy these food history sort of things. In my country we went from everything being preserved in salt to adding chemicals to preserve things and basically it's still the same now. We skipped this whole bit!

 

So how do you cook the chicken inside without burning the whole outside bit?

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Enlli
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Using Coffins was really the preserve of the rich. The poor could not sacrifice the flour 

The trick is to really encase the contents in the flour paste and make it thick, as if it cracks then it defeats the purpose.

Once encased it can be cooked on a fire or in an oven. It does not matter if the pastry burns. It is the pastry that regulates the heat and stops the contents from burning 

The poor did a similar thing encasing food in clay 

If you don't like lamprey then stay clear of jellied eels!

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TallTrees
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Hi @Breanna 

That is truly stomach churning.  The Blackbirds! I read it was the pie steam removers called "blackbirds" 

Fortunately they definitely like this nowadays 

1200px-Chickenpie1.jpeg.jpg

 I like food and nursery rhymes. 



HAPPINESS IS BEE SHAPED

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Cleoriff
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@Breanna 

The lampreys you talk about are completely different, depending where they come from.

Some are very eel like and others look like fish.

I have read about Henry 1st who loved these pies.

lamprey pie.jpg

Apparently our late Queen Elizabeth enjoyed these pies Vomito gif.gifVomito gif.gif

Veritas Numquam Perit

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Breanna
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Oh wow! Just gave that a google and it seems there was a big lamprey pie tradition for the Queen's jubilees. 

 

0_escenic-32.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had no idea! 

 

Also love the BBC's description of the lamprey: "Lampreys are an ancient and primitive group of jawless vertebrates and have long, eel-like bodies that lack scales." Lovely.

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TallTrees
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Good grief @Cleoriff 

That couldn't be a worse look 🤢



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Enlli
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Whatever you cook don't do Conger Eel. Even sliced and fried the bones get into your teeth. I speak from experience.

Oh, and squirrel is not worth the effort!

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Cleoriff
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@TallTrees wrote:

Good grief @Cleoriff 

That couldn't be a worse look 🤢


Pretty much the same as a Stargazy pie @TallTrees 

Made in Cornwall out of pilchards.

Apparently they stick the fishheads out of the pastry to appear as if they are 'gazing at the stars' UGH!

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