Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bronte themed baking:Bilberry pie

Since it is the end of January, the month devoted to the Brontes in Laura's Victorian challenge I thought I would end the month with some Bronte themed baking.  I am not the most domestic person on the planet and am not a great cook but thought this was a great excuse to use Good Things in England by Florence White, a favourite cook book.

Florence White originally set about collecting recipes in 1928 and Good Things in England was published in 1932.  It is an invaluable record of English culinary history with recipes dating back to the 14th century.  If you want to know how to roast a swan or how to prepare 'gossips bowl', this is the book for you.  A number of recipes have literary references such as the recipe I have re-printed below for bilberry pie.  I have copied out the entire section including the allusion to the Bronte sisters.  Before getting to that, I should explain that bilberries are a small wild berry quite similar to the blue berry, which given that the bilberry is not available where I am, it is blueberries that I used to make the pie.  I should also add that I used two baked apples as suggested and when I baked them I stuffed the core cavity with dried cranberries, the resulting pulp was added to the pie.

It is also worth mentioning  that Catherine at one stage in Wuthering Heights while meeting young Linton on the moor starts to gather bilberries when she becomes annoyed at his sulks.

Bilberry Pies
Hawworth, Yorkshire, 1867

These pies we may be sure were enjoyed by the Bronte Sisters, at Haworth Parsonage.  Dr. Fernie tells us they are a feature of Yorkshire 'funeral teas'; they are first cousins to the famous American pies. 

INGREDIENTS: Bilberries 1 1/2 pints; castor sugar 4oz.; baked apples 2; pastry; white of egg. Cream if obtainable.
1.Mix the bilberries with 2 or 3 oz. of sugar.
2.Bake the apples in the usual manner scrape out the pulp, sweeten it, and mix it with the bilberries.
3.Grease a pie-plate, and sheet it with short or puff pastry.

4. Fill it with the bilberry mixture; do not on any account add a drop of water.

5. Cover it with a thin sheet of pastry.

6. Brush with white of egg, dust this with castor sugar; or leave plain; bake (in quick oven at first to cook the pastry and afterwards in a slower one to cook the fruit).

N.B. - All fresh fruit pies, gooseberries, blackberries, raspberries and red currants, strawberries and raspberries, apple, peach, etc can be made in this way.
Apple pulp is not always added to bilberry pies, but it makes them more juicy and some people consider it an improvement.  It is frequently added in the same way and for the same purpose to blackberry pies.

Good things in England is a great resource, especially if your into historical recipes.  I think I might use another recipe next month in honour of Laura's Dickens month, but more on that at a later date.


  1. That looks absolutely delicious, I love both blueberries and bilberries.

    There must have been something going around yesterday as I also did some baking - although I doubt they ate coconut and lime cake in the Bronte household! :P

  2. I don't bake often but blueberries are still in season here but only just.
    Coconut and lime yum.