Thursday, March 26, 2009

Duck Pot Pie

From the diary of Wilford Woodruff:

December 11, 1867
“I went down to the Jordon with Ezra & Browen Pettet to shoot some ducks. Brother Ezra Pettet sen. took two boats crossed the Hot Spring lake & Browen went with me in the wagon & met him there. We shot 6 ducks then drove down the Jordon with the team some 4 miles further. I then left my team with my Indian Boy Sarroquetts & we went down 3 miles near the mouth of Jordon. Ezra Pettet rowed down with his boat. While going down he shot 3 geese. We rowed our boats into the rushes whare we could hide ourselves & as the ducks would fly over or among us we would shoot them on the wing. We staid till dark then rowed back to our wagon, drew our Boats up on the dry land made up a fire Cooked a duck pot pie Eat our supper made our Beds in the Boat & slept all night. [They continued to hunt all day the next day.] We counted our game & found we had 40 ducks & 3 geese.”

There are a number of interesting things about this entry: Woodruff counted his ducks just like Peter counted fishes; Woodruff had an Indian boy (probably adopted) and it appears that he treats this boy somewhat like a servant; Woodruff appeared to be hunting as much for the pleasure of it as for the meat; two families split 40 ducks, not counting those made into the duck pot pie the night before; Woodruff was adept enough at cooking to make a pot pie. He could have just stewed or roasted the birds instead, but he opted for something more involved.

I reckon our dear readers are pining for a recipe though, so here's an excerpt from J.M. Sanderson's The Complete Cook (1867):
Duck Pie.--Bone a fowl and a full-grown duck; wash them, season with a small quantity of mace and allspice, in the finest powder, with salt and pepper. Put the fowl within the duck. Put a calf's tongue, pickled red, boiled very tender, and skinned, into the fowl; press the whole close. The skins of the legs should be drawn inwards, that the body of the fowl may be quite smooth. The space between the sides of the crust and fowl may be filled with a fine force meat, if approved.

I imagine that Woodruff didn't bring a pickled calf's tongue with him on the hunt. I imagine he probably didn't go to the work of boning out a teal to stuff it inside a mallard. Sanderson's is a reference to the famous Victorian coup de gras: Turducken, or a duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey. For Woodruff's application, he likely made a simple pastry crust and filled it with jointed out legs, thighs and breasts. Perhaps carrots, potatoes and squash brought from home filled out the pie, with salt and pepper seasonings. At this season however, you'll do better to buy a duckling at the store, or buy a duck from a neighbor. Will this turn out better than vinegar pie?


Annette said...

HI Brock,
this is my first time checking out your BLOG but it looks really fun. All of my great grandparents were pioneers so this will be a fun way to connect to their world.
Have you read 'Animal. Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver? It is really fascinating.'
Her family decided that, for one year, they would eat only things that they grew themselves or that was produced within 100 miles of their home.
They also brought back heritage turkey and chicken raising to their farm.
Looking forward to all of your fun posts.
Annette (Oregon)

Tawna said...

This reminds me of when Grandpa Stauffer and his brothers shot all those ducks. It was some insane number, in the hundreds. And they picked them all the same day.