This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
There is a marked dissimilarity between the English and American idea of pie. An English feast is scarcely complete without pie, and at a ball supper there will be a variety; but they are pies of meat and game, whereas the American pie in general is a sweet. A few hot pies of meat are in high favor here, such as chicken pie; but nobody ever thinks of ordering a cold meat pie. This is the saying of an English gourmet and expresses the national idea.
"The best of all pies is a grouse-pie; the second is a blackcock-pie; the third a woodcock-pie (with plenty of spices); the fourth a chicken-pie (ditto). As for a pigeon-pie, it is not worthy of a place upon any table, as long as there are chickens in the world. A rook-pie is a bad imitation of that bad article; and a beefsteak-pie is really abominable. A good pie is excellent when hot; but the test of a good pie is: 'How does it eat cold?' Apply this to the samples above cited, and you will find I am correct".
There are establishments in England where these are turned out by the ton,equal-ing the American pie bakeries, and are shipped to all parts; they are of all sizes but the greater number are of the small sort for retailing at the same average prices as American sweet pies. They consist of a case made of hot water paste, which consists of 1/4 lb. shortening to each pound of flour and 1/2 pt. hot water, stirred up at medium heat (not boiling) into a stiff, smooth dough and shaped by hand entirely, the outer wall being pinched and pressed upwards from the bottom. The cut meatand seasonings are then put in, the lid put on in a separate piece; the pie decorated and then baked. The difficulty of making occurs with the large sizes. Those who have attempted to make the article as a home-manufacture, know that the great difficulty is to get the crust sufficiently stiff to stand and keep erect with such weighty contents as are put inside, and without disastrous collapse. By a few deft turns of the hand, the palm being most used, the foreman, at our visit, encased the solid wooden "block" used for the purpose with an even outer casing of paste, until it "stood alone" on the withdrawal of the block, like a good silk dress, supported by its own inherent richness of material.
Inside this the solid contents were then placed, the lid was put on, the line of juncture neatly pared off with an instra-ment which left an ornamental border; the flowered "chase-hooping" was passed round the circumference, to make surety doubly sure; the ornamental foliage or scroll work on the cover, with the heradic arms and manufacturers' stamp was affixed, and the finished article was ready to be sent to the oven. The latter is kept at an evenly regulated temperature, maintained by a thermometer gaguejand when the pie eomes out brown, crisp, and erect, the workman's anxieties are at an end. The better kinds of pies have a richer crust. (See Paste).