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North Country Sweet Pie

Pies and Pastries
(Or Westmorland Sweet Pie)

Dished pie of mutton with dried fruit, sugar, wine, citrus and sweet spices under a pastry lid.

Sweet Mutton Pie
Image: https://www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk

Our correspondent Kathryn Marsh (August 2019) writes that:
My grandmother was extremely poor - she was raising five children as a single charwoman - so meat was rare and when it happened was usually breast of mutton or some other almost free cut. She used to roast breast of mutton in the side oven of the banked down cottager range cutting it down so it would fit in layers in one of those battered oval enamel roasters with a lid that were pretty well ubiquitous when I was a girl in the fifties. For the initial roasting she would rub it with salt and pepper and chopped thyme. When she came in from work the bones were pulled out of the now disintegrating meat and she would find different ways of bulking it up, depending on finances at the time. Her sweet mutton pie was one of my favourites. For that she simply added chopped apples, cinnamon, ginger and raisins. She used a short crust pastry and made it up as turnovers. Proportion of pastry to filling depended on finances and how far it had to stretch I think. It would be served with boiled or baked potatoes. Sometimes, but not always, vegetables such as onions and carrots were added. Again I suspect the volume of additions reflected the finances - and of course the season. But the fruit and cinnamon were a constant.

When she was feeling flush she would buy two breasts of mutton and roast as above, but after pulling out the bones she weighted them for a while to get some of the fat out and then put a stuffing of breadcrumbs, herbs, onions and egg between the two layers and egg and breadcrumbed the outside before returning it all to the oven to bake and then serving it sliced."

And Hilary Wilson tells us that (June 2019):
"I have a recipe for sweet pie from a friend who is in her eighties and it was eaten every Christmas throughout her father's life. He lived to be a hundred. It is basically fat lamb diced with dry fruit and sugar added and baked under a pasty crust. It is the original recipe for mince pies and she made it in a large bowl. Her father said it keeps till Easter. She turned to using fat beef. I have used minced breast of shearling lamb and the result is a chewy version of our normal mince pie."

and sends us this receipt from Dorothy Parker;

Original Receipt from Dorothy Parker of Westmorland (via Hilary Wilson)

Sweet pie (makes large quantity)
2lb fat beef (not suet)
2lb large raisins
1/2lb currants
1/2lb sugar
1/4lb candied peel
pinch salt, pepper
1 cupful water

Cut the fat into ¾" cubes, put into pan with a cupful water (or a little more during cooking) salt and pepper. Cook slowly for about 45 mins. Put into a deep sided dish + leave to cool. Mix all fruit, sugar, into the fat.

Crust (for 1/2 quantity)
1/2lb SR flour
2oz lard
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Rub the fat into flour & mix with milk to a scone dough. Roll out to size of dish & cover the fruit mix. Make a hole in centre (sometimes I heat the fruit a little before the top goes on).
Bake in oven 'till the crust is risen & tested in the middle to be warmed right through.
Serve with brandy sauce, or custard. Each time it is warmed up it caramelises the fruit into fat and you don't think about all that fat in it. Enjoy! It beats all Christmas puddings. (Don't think about the calories)

Original Receipt from 'Lakeland Recipes Old and New' by Joan Poulson 1978. (Countryside Publications, ISBN 0 86157 008 1). Found by Linda Johnson

Page 75 No. 115
Old Fashioned Christmas Sweet Pie

4 oz beef fat chopped finely
2 tablespoons rum
4 oz currants
half teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 oz seedless raisins
pinch each salt and ground nutmeg
4 oz candied peel
Juice of half a lemon
3 oz soft brown sugar
Juice of half an orange
Shortcrust pastry made using 8 oz flour

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, then put in a buttered oven dish and cook slowly at 325F, 160C or gas mark 3 for 30 minutes. Roll out the pastry and cover the dish with a pastry lid and bake until golden brown at 400F, 200C or gas mark 6.

Page 76 No. 116
Sweet Lamb Pie

8 oz lamb chops (weighed after boning)
4 tablespooons rum
6 oz currants
2 oz candied peel
6 oz raisins
half teaspoon each of ground mace,
6 oz sultanas
nutmeg and cinnamon
4 oz soft brown sugar
A pinch each salt and black pepper
Pastry made from 1 lb flour

Mince the meat. Mix together all the ingredients. Line a deep pie dish with over half the pastry and fill with the mixture. Roll out the remaining pastry and cover the pie. Bake at 400F, 200C, or gas mark 6 for 30 minutes.
This recipe comes from a young farmer’s wife in Ennerdale who sometimes uses both orange juice and lemon juice in her pie. The serving of Sweet Lamb Pie at Christmas time is a tradition dating back many generations in her family. She explained that she often cooks the ingredients beforehand in a slow oven at 325F, 160C or gas mark 3 for two or three hours, adding a little water and perhaps some finely chopped apple for extra moisture. When this is cold she fills the pastry case as before”.

Compare with: North Country Tart

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