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..


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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(not your average) Liver and Onions

Sometimes described as metallic or overly strong tasting, mushy or tough or simply uninteresting, beef liver has gotten a bad rap over the years.  It doesn’t have to be that way..


Liver and Onions with Bacon and Sage

click to enlarge

Pastured beef liver fried with bacon, just-dug onions, brown mushrooms and fresh sage leaves brings this inexpensive, nutritional powerhouse back to the dinner table.  Even the kids will dig it.

Select only the freshest, pastured beef liver, never the frozen feed-lot stuff from the supermarket.  Cut into 1/2 strips and lightly dredge in sprouted flour seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper.  Set aside.

Fry uncured, pastured bacon until crisp and all the fat has rendered out.

Add sliced onions and continue to cook until well browned.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon grease and reserve for another use.

Add 2 tablespoons pastured butter to the hot pan and swirl to combine with the remaining bacon fat.

Add sliced brown mushrooms (I like the dark, earthy-flavored varieties) and sauté until they begin to crisp on the edges.

Make sure that the skillet is still good and hot, then add strips of floured liver and coarsely chopped fresh sage and flat-leaf parsley.  Cook until well browned, turn and brown on the other side.

Arrange on a plate, drizzle with pan juices and enjoy.

Pan-fried beef liver is a good source of Iron and Zinc, and a very good source of Protein (approx. 22g per 4oz), Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Copper and Selenium.

This post is part of the Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet

Rabbit Fricassée

Local, pastured rabbit in a sauce of game stock, shallots, mushrooms, thyme and fresh cream..


Rabbit Fricassée

Break down a fresh rabbit by removing and splitting the leg quarters and removing the saddle, backbone and ribs and splitting the loin into 2 boneless halves.  Be sure to examine the liver- it should look and smell perfectly fresh and clean.  Clean kidneys and reserve with liver for another use (if you like liver, try frying rabbit liver & kidneys in butter and seasoning with plenty of salt and pepper- the taste is absolutely revelatory).

Lay the loins out on a cutting board.  Use a piece of wax paper and the flat side of a meat mallet to pound the loin into an even thickness.  Spread the loins with raw honey (heather, Tupelo or Guajillo work nicely) and season with fresh thyme, a little salt and black pepper.

Roll the loin up in lean, uncured bacon and secure with toothpicks about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Cut between the toothpicks to form little loin fillets.  Refrigerate.

Make a stock of the bones and trimmings, cold filtered water, celery, onions, carrots and garlic.  Bring to a boil, skim the scum, reduce heat and simmer 3-4 hours.

Poach the leg quarters in the stock until tender, about 1 hour.  Remove from stock and set aside.

Sauté the loin pieces in a little olive oil with minced shallots, mushrooms and garlic until browned, about 6 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Deglaze the pan with white vermouth and reduce.

Add stock and reduce.

Add fresh cream, thyme and homemade coarse mustard.  Add reserved loin and leg pieces and gently simmer until sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.  Adjust seasoning with sea salt and black pepper and serve.

This post is part of the Nourished Kitchen’s Clean Your Plate Recipe Challenge