Numbles, Umbles, Humble Pie

Originally a pie made of numbles, or umbles—i.e. the liver, kidneys, etc., of a deer, humble pie was made to be eaten by servants and huntsmen, while the lord of the manor and his guests dined on venison. “The keeper hath the skin, head, umbles, chine, and shoulders.”—Holinshed: Chrouicle, i. 204.

Samuel Pepys makes many references to such pies in his diary, writing on the 5th of July 1662 “I having some venison given me a day or two ago, and so I had a shoulder roasted, another baked, and the umbles baked in a pie, and all very well done”  and on the 8th of July the next year “Mrs Turner came in and did bring us an Umble-pie hot out of her oven, extraordinarily good.”

While this isn’t medieval Europe and I don’t have a freshly-killed deer on hand, I do have some very nice pastured beef liver and a fair selection of herbs and root vegetables..

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Humble Pie

Minimally-processed whole foods, in a manner recognizable by our ancestors

For the pie dough (adapted from a recipe by Michael Ruhlman)

6 oz (by weight) sprouted whole wheat flour
4 oz (1 stick) pastured butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 oz filtered ice water
1 pinch sea salt

Combine the flour and butter in a glass bowl, rubbing the butter between your fingers until pea-sized.  Add the salt and ice water gradually and mix gently until just combined.  Don’t over-work the dough, or it will become tough.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the filling

Set 1 1/2 cups beef stock, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon coarse mustard and 2 oz red wine to simmer on the back burner.

Chop such root vegetables as you have available.  I’m using purple potatoes, leek, carrots, celery, garlic and a few just-dug field onions.

Mince fresh herbs such as thyme, sage, curly parsley and rosemary.

Dice a bit of pork belly or uncured bacon and put in a heavy skillet over medium heat and cook until browned.  Add the potatoes and brown quickly.

Add the carrots, leeks and celery and allow to brown.

Add the garlic, onions and herbs and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.

Cut partially-frozen beef liver into long strips, then cut the strips into bite-sized lengths.  Dredge lightly in sprouted wheat flour season with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Melt pastured butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat until slightly browned.  Add the liver and sear quickly until browned but still rare on the inside.

Add the liver to the cooked vegetables and stir to combine.

Make a small amount roux from equal part sprouted wheat flour and butter, cooking out until the raw flour taste is gone (about 5 minutes of constant stirring).

Thicken the now-reduced beef stock by whisking in the roux.  Allow to simmer a minute, then pour over the liver and vegetables.  Stir to combine.

Roll out the pie dough until large enough to just fit inside the 1st skillet, then place it on top of the liver mixture and lightly press into place.

Brush the dough with a an egg beaten with a little water, then cut some vent holes to allow the steam to escape.

Place the pie in a 350 degree oven and bake until golden brown, maybe 30 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

“Samuel Pepys, FRS (pronounced /ˈpiːps/ “peeps”; 23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament, who is now most famous for his diary. Although Pepys had no maritime experience, he rose by patronage, hard work and his talent for administration, to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II. His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early professionalization of the Royal Navy.

The detailed private diary he kept during 1660–1669 was first published in the nineteenth century, and is one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period. It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War and the Great Fire of London.” –Wikipedia

This post is part of the Clean Your Plate August: Liver! Recipe Challenge
at The Nourished Kitchen

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10 thoughts on “Numbles, Umbles, Humble Pie

  1. That looks good. I had some liver last week…I’ll try it next week when I can get more liver.
    Just happen to have some sprouted flour 🙂

  2. Oh, this looks so delicious! Ren, I’ve been meaning to ask you, where do you get your sprouted flour? Or do you have to make one yourself?

    • Thanks, Elya!

      I bought sprouted wheat, rye and spelt flour from To Your Health… Sprouted Bread & Flour Co. and have been really happy with it so far.

      Though she doesn’t say so here, Dink makes her own 🙂

      • Ren, thank you for the link, I’ll definitely order some sprouted flour here in the near future! Hats off to Dink, It’s so awesome you make your own!

  3. oh yum. i love meat pies and reallyenjoy the texture of sprouted flour in pie crust. the trick, as you obviously know, is t o use lots of lard or butter!

  4. Oh, here it is!

    Is this the same pastry dough you used for that custard quiche? (which I’ve made and loved, btw! – I didn’t roll the dough out, I pressed it into the dish and it came out perfect 🙂

  5. My twin brother is a hunter, as my father was. He wants to get a deer this year to stock our freezers – I wonder if this would work with venison? Marinate it, cook it similar to your liver, and then finish it in the oven. I may just have to experiment!

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