Cipaille, or Sea Pie
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Art. V. Fur Fort Food - Sea Pie, or Cipaille, by A. Gottfred.

A sturdy meat pie with a historic flavor.

The history of this dish goes back to at least 1747, when Hannah Glasse's cookbook gave the recipe for a 'Cheshire Pork Pie for Sea' consisting of layers of salt pork, meat, and potatoes. The recipe, with a myriad of variations, shows up in American cookbooks from 1796 and 1824 as well.

There is a traditional Quebec layered meat pie called cipaille (pronounced 'sea pie'). The similarity between the two meat pies probably is no coincidence! There are also very similar pies are called cipātes and six-pātes.

The recipe below takes a lot of preparation and baking time (two days in total, including six hours of baking), but if you use pre-cubed pork & beef stew meat and boneless chicken breasts, and instant biscuit mix for the pastry, you can really cut down on the time you spend in the kitchen. If you have game, then by all means substitute duck, goose, moose, deer, elk, &c. for the other meats. This recipe is quite large, so I have included ingredient lists for two versions, one to serve six or seven, the other to serve twelve to fourteen. Be warned : you will need one or two very large casseroles to cook this dish, even if you're doing the smaller recipe.

If you'd rather not spend time at a rendezvous doing the cooking, you can make cipaille in advance and take it with you to serve at room temperature. I understand that some Dutch ovens can be used as a casserole dish inside your home oven. Pre-baked meat pies are also handy if you have the bad luck to be under a ban on outdoor campfires, which was the situation in many parts of the country at various times this year.


To serve 6-7 :

1 lb. (454g) pork, cubed

1 lb. (454g) beef, cubed

1 rabbit or 1 turkey drumstick

1 chicken leg

2 chicken breasts

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 large onion, chopped

1/4 tsp. summer savoury

2-3 slices salt pork


To serve 12-14 :

2 lb. (900g) pork, cubed

2 lb. (900g) beef, cubed

2 rabbits or 2 turkey drumsticks

2-3 chicken legs

4 chicken breasts

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

2 lg. onions, chopped

1/2 tsp. summer savoury

4-5 slices salt pork

The day before : Remove bones from chicken, rabbits, turkey. Reserve bones, and cube meat. Mix meat, onions, salt, pepper, and savoury; cover, & refrigerate for 12 hours. Place bones in small pot; add 1 chopped onion, salt, pepper, & cold water to cover. Simmer for two hours. Strain stock, and refrigerate until needed.

The same day : Make pastry. Combine 3 cups flour, 2-3 1 tbsp. baking powder, & 1/2 tsp. salt. Cut in 2-3 tbsp. butter, margarine, shortening, or lard. Stir in 1/2 cup milk; mix thoroughly. Divide pastry dough in half. Roll out half of pastry on lightly floured surface. Cut into 1-inch squares. Roll out remaining pastry for top crust.

At last, you're ready to make the pie. Fry salt pork slices in oven-proof casserole dish (or put dish in 400°F oven for 5-10 minutes, to cook salt pork). Remove pork slices; put a layer of meat in the hot fat, and pour in half the stock. Cover with a layer of pastry squares, leaving a little space between the squares. Add remaining meat, pour in the rest of the stock. Cover completely with top crust; cut one or two 1" wide circles in the center of the top crust to let steam out. (If you have any leftover crust, put it in the fridge until the final half hour of baking; roll it out, cut in squares & bake with cipaille for the last 10-20 minutes). Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F and bake for five more hours. Keep a close eye on the level of liquid in the casserole ; if it seems to be drying out (no steam coming through the top crust), add water, beef broth, or chicken broth through the hole in the top of the pastry.


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