Oldbury Tarts, Gloucestershire
Quite why these little pies made with hot-water pastry are called tarts is not clear. Perhaps just tradition, perhaps because the Gooseberry filling could be a bit sharp on the palate.
These are pies that the pie-men of medieval Britain would have recognized as they hawked their wares around the streets or at markets and fairs. It is indeed still associated with summer fairs in its home town.
Oldbury tarts are raised pies, the bottom filled with the fruit and brown sugar in roughly equal weights, the edge pulled up, pleated or scalloped a little to give some strength to the construction, and then crimped together with the lid. A little hole is cut in the top to allow the steam to escape during baking, but the filling should remain very moist, wet even.
It is unusual for sweet pies to use hot-water pastry, the fats – half lard, half butter – do though combine to give a pleasing crispness, and enable skilled cooks to make the pastry somewhat thinner than might be expected.
During summer events they are still sold in and around Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire , ideal finger food being just three or four inches diameter, though newcomers to the dish should be wary when biting in, or face the prospect of wiping clothes and face of the sticky juices that stream from a good one. For those who fancy making their own, Jane Grigson ’s book English Food has a detailed recipe.