All-Year Pie, that staple meal of any extensive hobbit family’s diet, has grown from being little more than a term referring to any pie with more than one filling, to become a culinary dish with its own conventions and customs. In its simplest form, All-Year Pies are hearty, thick-crusted pies holding at least two kinds of vegetable and one kind of meat. Although originally a solely halfling dish, All-Year Pie is becoming more and more popular with the humans and dwarves of central and northern Santharia, who refer to it mostly simply as "Halfling Pie".
All-Year Ppies are the embodiment of everything that
hobbits love about food -
this traditional, varied dish is hearty, stodgy, delicious and a communal meal.
They are of varying size, baked according to the mouths they have to feed and
the fillings available, with some having a diameter of less than a
palmspan, when they are
intended to be taken out to the fields in a napkin as a
hobbit worker’s lunch, and
others, used as the centrepiece of a
hobbit birthday party, stretch several
peds. The greatest house of
a halfling settlement usually has an enormous oven primarily used to prepare
celebration food of such a size. However, ‘true’ All-Year Pies that abide by the
customs of pie-craftin’, must be roughly twice the length of the main cook’s
For many hobbits, the smell and taste of an All-Year’s conjures up images of their childhood. The rich, breadish smell of the pastry, often underlayed with the strong aroma of the meat or woody mushrooms held within, is said to create nostalgia in other races as well, which they put down to ‘something magical in those secret receipts’. The taste is, of course, only as good as the hobbit who cooks it, but connoisseurs agree that a good All-Year’s has a crisp, flaking golden crust, with the pastry inside moist and firm, but not too chewy.
The All-Year Pie was, and remains, a staple of the
hobbit family meal. It
is the perfect dish to feed a large family, and is normally served as the midday
meal, meattime and the afternoon meal, vegtime, several times a week in
hobbit family homes.
Leftover pieces or miniature pies are often eaten at either of the breakfasts,
or for supper, known as Cheesetime, when it is not uncommon for the food to be
served with a hunk of cheese, as befits the meal's name. At family meals, it is
normally served hot from the oven, each family member receiving a piece-size
suitable to their age and appetite, and without any accompanying foodstuffs, as
the pie contains so many.
Origin. In the shires of Santharia, for hundreds of years back, hobbit wives and husbands have cooked up tasty, hearty pies filled with any excess produce of the season to feed the many hungry mouths in their smial. The origins of the pie almost certainly long predate the Silvershire massacre of the Ancyros War, as all the shires of Sarvonia have more or less the same customs concerning the dish.
The origins of the name ‘All-Year Pie’ is disputed, with many old hobbit matriarchs in the Dogodan and Helmondshire areas claiming the name had been used in their family far longer than anyone else’s, sometimes with tales of varying degrees of unlikeliness to explain their claim. The Elenveran hobbits, already with cheese as their gift to the culinary world, seem less inclined to try and take ownership of All-Year Pie. However, most wise hobbits with an interest in such things generally agree the name has two likely beginnings. It could reference the fact that the pies are so fat heavy, with the various oils and salts used in the pastry having a curious preserving effect on the fillings, that a well-kept pie could still be edible a year after it was baked (nonsense of course, though some pies keep for an impressive month). Or, the name's most likely origin is that hobbit cooks would be referred to as ‘baking pies all the year’ and the name simply developed from there.
All-Year Pies began as an efficient way of using up any excess produce in the harvest season, and also a means of making food stretch further in winter or any other time of hardship. As All-Year Pie began to develop as a dish in its own right, not simply a loose term for any pie made by a hobbit, a set of unwritten customs in its preparation began to emerge (see below for more details). Hobbit cooks, whether a hobbit mother or father cooking for their family, or a well-known chef at a tavern, all would take great pride in their pies, the aim being to make the pie as delicious and interesting as they could while still abiding by the traditions of All-Year pie making. The chief cook of the household passed their own secrets of ‘pie-craftin’, as it became known, to those of their children with a passion and skill for baking. Soon almost every important family in the shires was guarding their own family receipts with far greater rivalry and bitterness than good-natured halflings normally show. As a passing human once remarked “They’ll gladly share them pies o’ theirs with any folk, man or halfling, just to show how good they are, but if you were t’ask ‘em how they’s made- well! The glares I got were enough to raise me neck-hairs!"
Pie craftin’ used to be an almost solely female occupation amongst hobbits. However, as the pies took prominence in family meals, hobbit husbands, who took as much of a role in cooking as their wives and had as much pride in the family receipts as their wives, began to refer to their pies as All-Year Pies, as did professional hobbit cooks, both male and female.
In recent times, the pie-rivalry between families has been channelled into the more civilised medium of the baking contest. While each shire has many minor, informal contests organised on the whim of any hobbit woman who mentions "I could fancy an All-Year’s contest…" to her friends, the Helmondshire annual pie baking competition, held in the month of the Burning Heavens, has become legendary amongst hobbits, and more well informed, non-halfling culinary enthusiasts of Santharia. Hobbit matrons and cooks travel to attend the event, bringing carts full of the best vegetables and animals ready to prepare their pies, and often carts full of their extended families as well, who set up miniature camps around the competition marquees, for the three day competition has grown into a festival of sorts, with entertainers and edible delights from miles around. The prize is a supply of rare mushrooms and barrels of the local Thain’s prized beer, but the participants care far more about the respect and renown, especially from the matrons who act as judges, that winning brings.
The Helmondshire contest has helped spread the word of All-Year Pie beyond the shires. Passing travellers have taken the basic receipt with them, modifying it to their own liking, often unheeding of the conventions of pie craftin’ which seem mystifying to an outsider. Poorer folk, and dwarves, have taken to calling any pies they fill with leftover scraps ‘halfling pies’ even though they bear little resemblance to true hobbit pies, while wealthier Santharians can use the conventions of pie-craftin’, which to them give the dish an air of the gourmet, to cover their desire to simply bake a traditional, stodgy pie. Many humans, and occasionally elves, of a more culinary disposition, or simply those who love a good meal, travel to attend the Helmondshire baking contest to sample the pies. A few human cooks, both male and female, have recently been allowed to enter, and have taken second or third place, but have yet to win.
For pie craftin' enthusiasts in the other hobbit shires, a second, even larger contest has been set up. Occurring every seven years (symbolising the seven meals in a typical hobbit day) and held in the Alianian Hills, it is more of a full-blown festival than contest, even more so than its Helmondshire predecessor. Because of the huge distance hobbits from other shires have to travel to reach the hills it lasts several months, with numerous contests and divisions taking place in that time, many of them based around other delicacies, although the pie is still the most common subject of competition. However, despite the scale and length of the Alianian contest far less attend. This is mostly because it is a younger, less well-known festival with more focus on hobbit traditions than any modifications of exsisting receipts, so there are little to no representants of other races.
Method of Preparation. This
receipt will make a pie to serve around four to five. True All-Year Pies must be
around twice the length of the main cook’s forearm, and baked after midday. Pie
Craftin' rules about weights do not have to be exact, as many
hobbits tweak the amounts slightly to
create a better pie, but should be roughly followed.
Pie Craftin’ rules for pastry ingredients: The flour's weight should be three the suet weight. Suet can be replaced with a mix of butter and lard, which should be half the flour's weight, depending on what is available. The salt used should be three times pfepper grass used. Many hobbits add their own secret oils and salts to the pastry to improve it's flavour and keeping time. Below is a standard receipt:
In a bowl of a suitable size, place all
ingredients you desire to use. Add a small amount of
water to begin, and work the fat into the
flour with the tips of your finger in a rough pinching movement, as if you were
running sand through your fingertips. When the
water has been used up, add some more, around a ladle at a time. Some cooks
replace a small amount of the water needed
with egg yolk. 2-3 ladles should be enough, but it may require more or less. Go
by eye, and as soon as the ingredients combine entirely and the pastry forms
into a single ball of dough, firm and slightly yielding but not at all runny,
stop adding liquid.
Remove a third of dough to use as the lid of the pie, leaving two-thirds for the casing. Roll them out on a floury surface as required to line your baking dish, remembering to keep the lid nice and thick. It is better to be rougher with your dough than more gentle.
Pie Craftin’ rules for filling ingredients: Main vegetable (normally tuberroots) must be twice or three times the weight of the meat used. Secondary vegetables should be the same weight as the meat. Salt and pfepper grass used for seasoning should be the same amount as used in making the pastry. At least one kind of herb must be added, of any kind or quantity. No vegetables or animal meat that has not, or cannot be grown or reared in a hobbit shire is considered suitable for making an All-Year Pie.
Ingredients for a standard pie filling:
Trim off the meat’s fat (this can be used to
make a delicious stock for future pies) and cut it into roughly even cubes.
Slice the tuberroots into chunks of
about the same size. Finely chop the weeproots.
Place all ingredients into a large, lidded casserole dish and season with salt, pepper and herbs. Add stock or water, just enough to moisten and aid the cooking. Then place the lid on your dish and cook the filling for a couple of hours in a medium-heated oven, until the ingredients have achieved a state of mushiness.
Now tip the filling into your pie casing and add the lid. Increase your oven’s heat and cook until the pastry is golden brown. Serve however wished, although the author enjoys a heap of steaming cabbage cooked with butter to accompany her pie. However, as many hobbit children are peculiarly averse to the stuff, it may be wiser to serve it on its own, unless you want your dining-hall floor strewn with carefully discarded vegetables.
Variations. Depending on the various shires hobbits make different versions of this delectable food:
Elenveran Shire Pie
The Elenveran hobbits' pies leave out many of the preserving, but fatty oils and salts added to the dish in other parts. They also prefer to use butter in the pastry rather than suet. The people of this shire are far less averse to serving the pies cold and prefer wine to beer as an accompanying drink.