A silken pie


It’s depressingly autumnal at the moment, isn’t it? All that rain and it feels more like November than August (at least it isn’t as dark as November). So instead of a summer fun I’m in the mood for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness*.

How about some autumnal flavours? There’s a wonderful shopping scene in The Winter’s Tale

I must have saffron to colour the warden pies; mace; dates- none, that’s out of my note; nutmegs, seven; race or two of ginger, but that I may beg; four pound of prunes, and as many of raisins o’ th’ sun.

Warden Pies were apparently a particular delicacy, made with a specific Warden Pear which is now very rare (although you can bet I’m going to try and get my hands on some). It apparently kept for months and (probably related) clearly took some cooking.

Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Worcester_Black_Pears_-_geograph.org.uk_-_541843.jpg#/media/File:Worcester_Black_Pears_-_geograph.org.uk_-_541843.jpg

Worcester Black Pears, also known as warden pears, photo by Pauline Eccles.

The earliest recipe for warden pie can be found in a cookery book first published in 1584** entitled “’A book of cookrye. Very necessary for all such as delight therin”. The full text of the book is online and the recipe is as follows:

How to bake Wardens.
Core your wardens and pare them, and perboyle them and laye them in your paste, and put in every warden where you take out the Core a Clove or twain, put to them Sugar, Ginger, Sinamon, more sinamon then ginger, make your crust very fine and somewhat thick, and bake them leisurely.

I particularly love the “cinnamon, more cinnamon” part – clearly an author not afraid of spices – and “bake them leisurely” – none of your gas marks here! It also strikes me as a dish which wouldn’t be out of place on a table nowadays. Perhaps one to try on the next rainy afternoon***.

* Yes I know that’s Keats…

** And the history of cookery books is a whole different story. Fascinating one too.

*** Probably tomorrow then.


One thought on “A silken pie

  1. The seasons are definitely changing – something in the air. Warden pie sounds just right for these days with the nights beginning to draw in – warm and spicy and full of fruit. Lovely.
    Have you read Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton? It’s more Stuart than Tudor (1616 on I think) , but is a real account of adventurers who risked everything to bring nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices back from the East Indies. The author’s description of the islands – the warm winds, the spice scented air – is breathtaking and carries you over the ocean. Intrepid souls, to travel so far at such a time, even if the potential for profit was huge. After reading the book, I found myself transfixed by my store cupboard and would stand and sniff peppercorns and nutmeg for ages at a time.


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