This entry should be on my memoir blog, but that’s on hiatus at the moment, so I’ll put it here for now…
When I was probably around ten-years-old, right around Christmas, I was walking by the Bonnet’s house up the street from us. They lived on the corner of Maxwell Avenue and 19th street. They were a numerous clan, I can’t remember how many kids there were, and they were a lot of fun, parents and children. Mr. Bonnet was in the back yard digging in a snow bank. As I watched, he dug up a large cooking pot, brushed the snow off and went up on the porch. I asked him what he was doing. He told me he had made a pork pie last night and had buried it in the snow overnight to solidify. Did I want a piece?
Pork pie! I had never heard of such a thing and couldn’t even conceive of it. Pies were sweet and they certainly didn’t contain meat. No thanks.
Several years later I took him up on his offer of the Christmas Pork Pie. Of course it was fabulous. I recently found Mrs. Bonnet’s recipe in an old cookbook she wrote for her family. Here it is, in her words, a Christmas gift from Thriller Guy, Allen Appel, and all the other Appels. It is not necessary to bury the pie in a snow bank and let it sit overnight, but it’s a nice touch.
Dick Bonnet’s Pork Pie
“This recipe should be in a book by itself. It’s not a meat recipe, or a pie recipe; at least not the usual meat or pie recipes. But it definitely belongs in this book. It’s not something you can “whip up” in a hurry, and certainly no way to impress guests, unless they are British.
It has always been dad’s late evening winter snack. Also, Grandma has made it for all your Uncles and Aunts and has actually mailed it on occasion. Absolutely indestructible!
The first time I ever went to visit Grandma and Grandpa Bonnet, way back in 1947, we arrived in the late evening in a snow storm and Grandma had made a pork pie for Dad. Maybe she wanted to discourage me! Anyway, I ate it “to be polite” and have eaten it “to be polite” ever since. One suggestion, don’t try to make it yourself until you have watched the master (Dad) make at least one.
This is not an ordinary recipe – This is ANOTHER BONNET CHALLENGE.
6 cups flour
1 ¼ cup lard
1 ½ tsp. salt
¾ c water
Boil lard and water until lard is melted. Add flour and salt. Knead until smooth and elastic – about 10 – 15 minutes or when it no longer falls apart and has the consistency of putty. Shape dough on a cookie sheet, building sides about ¼” thick and about 3” high. So it will hold meat. Save ¼ of dough for cover.
Get a very lean piece of pork, about three pounds. I usually get a fresh ham and use what is left for a small roast. A “picnic” shoulder is cheaper, but has a lot more fat to cut off. Cut meat in ¼” cubes, cutting off all fat. Meat cuts easier if it has been left in the freezer about an hour. Put in a bowl and salt and pepper generously. Put pork in molded, unbaked crust. Roll out top crust with rolling pin. Cover pie, pinching edges together so it is tight. Cut an X in the center of top so steam can escape. Bake in oven for 2 hours. The last 20 minutes of baking brush top and sides with egg white or milk to make it shiny. Raise temp to 400 degrees for last 20 minutes.
While pie is cooling, boil 1 cup water with 2 bouillon cubes, one pk. Gelatin and an onion. Boil about 15 minutes. When pie is completely cool, add this mixture to X in top of pie, a little bit at a time. Refrigerate several hours before serving.”
Or, as noted above, bury in snow overnight.
Merry Christmas everyone. Don’t forget to go to audible.com and order your audio copy of the Christmas classic, The Christmas Chicken. You can listen to it while you cook up your Pork Pie.