Thursday, April 26, 2007

More Birds

I know, you are thinking, "didn't she talk about birds a lot last week?" Well, yes, I did. The birds I'm talking about today are a little different, and while not as fun to watch, do serve a special purpose.
"A pie bird, pie vent, pie whistle, pie funnel, or pie chimney is a hollow ceramic device, traditionally from Europe and shaped like a bird. Pie birds are "steam vents" that have been placed in the center of fruit and meat pies (while cooking) since Victorian Times (some sites claim a much earlier provenance, e.g. the 1500s).
Pie funnels were used in baking pies and prevent the pie from boiling over in the oven by allowing the steam created when the fruit filling or other contents are cooking to escape from inside the pie. They also supported the pastry crust in the center of the pie, so that it did not sag in the middle, and are hence also known as "crustholders".
Traditionally they were most often made in the shape of a bird or an inverted funnel with arches on the bottom for the steam to enter, but they have always been produced in a multitude of designs. This trend has been particularly noticeable in recent times, due to their increasing popularity as gifts and collectors' items rather than simply utilitarian kitchen tools.
The nursery rhyme
Sing a Song of Sixpence refers to "Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie; when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing" but it is uncertain whether pie vents were designed to look as birds because of this song, or whether pie vents in fact existed earlier and the song was a reference to them. The Oxford English Dictionary comments that the word pie itself (in the culinary sense) may be connected with 'pie' as the name of a variety of birds, in particular the magpie, and also comments on a putative relationship between the similar terms haggis and haggess (another obsolete name for a magpie).
Line the pie dish with pastry, place the "bird" in the center, put in the filling around the "pie bird" then put a pastry top on but allowing the pie bird to stick out of a hole in the pastry. Pinch crust around the bird's shoulder, allowing the head to stick through the pastry. The bird will release steam through its mouth "vent" during baking and help to prevent fruit juices from bubbling over into the oven." Wikipedia

I have only a few pie birds, but I do think they are so sweet and look nice in my glass cabinet in the kitchen. Most pies I bake only have a bottom crust, so I don't get to use them much. I thought I would share my small collection with you as I have recently met several people who have never heard of pie birds.
I saved this little guy for last, as he is not exactly a pie 'bird', but he does have a vent in the top of his head!
Hope you all have a great day!
"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24


  1. I love your pie bird collection. I have always thought they were cute too, but have never owned one. I, too, make bottom crust pies only.

  2. How cute are the birds? Very cute. I heard that story about the steam vents in the pies. I am not a crust person so a bottom crust pie sounds the best for me.

    Take care,

  3. How sweet and brought back so many memories of both my grandmother and mother's pie bird collection.

    So luv the nursery ryhme - I am trying to remember all - as I type this.

    Delightful photo's.

    Blessings to you all

  4. What a nice collection you have going there? I love birds, I think I get it from my Dad. Cute!!!

  5. I love those birds!! You can talk about any kind of birds all you want, I won't tire of it!! I too get it from my Dad! lol Those pie birds are so cute, you don't see them hardly at all. Do you really use them ?

  6. What a nice collection you have!!

  7. I always keep a look out for pie birds but so far have not found one. You have a nice little collection there. Do you keep them out someplace?

  8. What a wonderful collection! I love anything with a bird theme.

  9. Those are so sweet! Always thought they were neat! Do you use any of them, or just display them?
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. What a wonderful post. I love all the pie birds and the history you've given!

    Last time we were at Fox and Hounds Antiques, I saw some tempting pie birds in a case!

    Back Porch Musings

  11. For everyone that asked, I have only used the top little black pie bird and only a couple of times. I just rarely make 2 crust pies.

    I do keep them in a glass fronted cabinet in my kitchen so they are always in view.