Pastero – Medieval Pork Pie


Pies were among the most common plates in the Italian Middle Ages. In the past, we prepared a few recipes for both torta and pastello, two different kinds of pie (for example, prawn pastello, saffron cheesecake, and apple torta). This week we are preparing a delicious pork pastero from Anonimo Veneziano‘s cookbook, written around the end of the 14th century.
We find scarce information in the medieval Italian cookbooks about the methods to prepare the crusts for a torta or a pastello, being frequently the basic preparation given for granted by the authors, whereas in texts written in the following centuries they are described in detail. One of the most extensive sources is Bartolomeo Scappi’s book, written in the 16th century, which provides several recipes. Scappi calls this pie pasticcio, a variant for the word pastello that is actually the same, as well as pastero, the term used by Anonimo Veneziano. Scappi prepares pasticci with different kinds of crusts. For many of these, Scappi writes to make a hole to pour liquids in the pasticcio, the same method Anonimo Veneziano uses for his pastero. We have always to remember that there is not just one right way to prepare authentic medieval foods: there are several methods, and it is essential to understand the principles behind them.

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The crust for Scappi’s pasticcio
This method described by Scappi is similar to the one we followed to prepare the crust for our pork pastero (5.10). The shape is different, but there is not just one proper shape to make a pastello: in this case, we wrapped the crust around the filling, as suggested by Anonimo Veneziano for another recipe, but in some cases, the crust for the pastello is previously cooked before filling it.

Habbisi apparecchiata una cassa fatta di fiore di farina, rossi d’ova, et un poco di strutto, et sale, et in essa cassa si metti la compositione ricolta, di modo che venga sù dritta a foggia d’una piramide, questo si fa acciocche tenga sollevato il coperchio: si cuopra il pasticcio, e faccisi cuocere al forno, e come sarà presso a cotto, per il buco di sopra se gli potrà ponere rossi d’ova sbattuti, con agresto chiaro, et un poco di brodo. Tal pasticcio vuole cuocersi adagio, e se pigliasse troppo colore di sopra, cuoprirsi con un foglio di carta straccia doppio. E così si potrà fare agli altri pasticci, quando pigliano troppo colore.

“Have prepared a crust made with flour, egg yolks, a bit of lard, and salt, and in this crust place the filling in such a way it takes the shape of a pyramid to keep the lid lifted. Cover the pasticcio and cook it in the oven. When it will be almost cooked through, pour in the hole on top beaten egg yolks, clear verjuice, and a bit of broth. This pasticcio wants to cook at low heat. If it takes too much color, cover it with a double layer of paper. And make this with the other pasticci if they take too much color.”

Below (5.47), the author describes another interesting crust made with fiore di farina, et rossi d’ova, acqua rosa, sale, et acqua tiepida. Per ogni libra di pasta piglisi otto once di butiro et a poco a poco mettasi in la pasta, mescolando del continuo sino a tanto che sia finito il butiro [flour, egg yolks, rose water, salt, and warm water. For each pound of dough, take eight ounces of butter and add it a little at a time to the dough, kneading all the time until the butter is finished].
Other kinds of crusts for the pasticcio are made in a simpler way, with just flour and water. In this case, Bartolomeo Scappi recommends using cool water to prevent the dough from fermenting and ruin in this way the crust.
Below, you find the original text with our translation and the video of the recipe, subtitled in English and Italian. Enjoy!

Ingredients (for two pasteri)
350 gr white wheat flour
50 gr lard
2 eggs
400 gr pork collar
½ onion
fresh or dry ginger
red wine vinegar
white cane sugar

Cut the collar into small pieces, then mince the onion and ginger. Mix the ingredients adding a couple of pinches of salt.
To prepare the crust, knead the flour with a bit of lard, a pinch of salt, one egg yolk, and water until you obtain a smooth consistency. Divide the dough into two parts. Flatten the dough with your hands and shape a circle about a quarter of a finger thick.
Stuff the dough with half the filling, then fold it around leaving a hole on top. Brush a beaten egg yolk on the crust, then bake the pastero in the oven for about 40 minutes.
Mix a bit of sugar and vinegar. Remove the pastero from the oven and pour a bit of this mixture in the hole, then resume the cooking for 10-15 minutes. The cooking time may change considerably, depending on how much the crust is thick. The pastero will be done when the crust will be perfectly cooked.
Serve it still hot.

Note about the ingredients
The author does not specify which cut of pork to use for this recipe. However, there are no cooking fats for the filling, and for this reason it is better to choose a fat cut or mixing fat and lean meat, for example pork belly and loin.
We used fresh ginger, but in the text it is used dry ground ginger, the only spice for this recipe. In the Middle Ages, cooks had it at disposal both fresh and dry. We suggest following your taste, remembering that dry ginger is more spicy, whereas fresh ginger has a more complex flavor.
To make the crust, Scappi uses fiore di farina, superfine wheat flour, the most common kind of flour since the Antiquity.
Anonimo Veneziano does not mention the hole in which to pour the liquids during the cooking, but he specifies this step in his other recipes for pastero, and the method followed is exactly the same.

Original text
Pastero de carne de porcho optimo. Toy la carne e taila ben menuda e fay le croste e mitige quella carne entro, e metige cepola ben trita e polveriza del zenzevro; poy che cocto, habii aceto e zucharo e un pocho d’aqua, meti dentro a bolire, etc.

Excellent pork pastero. Take the meat and cut it finely, then make the crusts and arrange inside the meat with well-minced onion. Dust with ginger. When it is cooked, pour inside [in the hole] to boil vinegar mixed with sugar and a bit of water.

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