Making chicken pies starts with slaughtering enough chickens to feed twenty-five or so hungry folk. A chicken dressed out yields two pounds of meat which is enough for four to six people depending on what else gets added in. All of Iain’s Library Apprentices, the Several Annies, as they’ve been called for centuries, get to be part of the slaughtering as we believe firmly they should know where their food comes from. Only one of the six got sick and vomited, not bad. Of course they also got to dress out the chickens, a filthy bit of work as stripping feathers, beheading, gutting them, and washing them free of blood just isn’t pleasant work.
Most cooks boil their chicken before deboning them for the pie but the tradition here is to bake (bone in) with smoked bacon over them and certain spices (no Estate Head Cook will tell what they are) in the wood stove in covered iron pots ’til the meat fairly falls off the bones.
Next comes the crust, which is a yeast based dough that is allowed to rise overnight before being shaped into the pie pans. It makes a wonderful light crust that, on the bottom, soaks up the oh so tasty juices.
The pie wouldn’t be complete without vegetables. In the summer, it would get fresh baby pea pods, mushrooms, and anything else appropriate to the season. During this season, it gets cut up potatoes, carrots, rehydrated mushrooms, and onions. All are chopped fine as is the chicken to give it a uniform consistency for cooking evenly.
It goes in the wood stove on a low heat for several hours with the top crust covered with moistened cheesecloth to keep it from drying out. After baking, the pies sit for an hour to cool down just a bit.
Served along with cider, it’s a meal well worth savouring!