Soul-warming, handmade pot pies to prepare for an icy winter
Shorter days, longer nights, and dropping temperatures mean one thing at Zingerman’s Delicatessen: pot pie season is on the horizon! A collection of six kinds of handmade pot pies flows through the Deli during the coldest months of the year. Every year, the Deli team dreams up ways to evolve the already beloved savory pies – they get better and better.
At $10.99 for a 1-2 serving pie, the Deli’s pot pies pack a flavor punch and are a special way you can warm up your dinner table this winter. One of the best parts of the Deli’s pot pies is you can pick them up hot and ready to eat, or frozen and ready to tuck into your freezer for the next bone-chilling night. You’ll be thankful for these easy, delicious winter meals when you don’t want to trek outside!
New Year’s Day is the official kick-off the Deli’s annual Pot Pie season, which runs through February. The pre-season production team launches pot pie assembly in early December, just after Thanksgiving, to stockpile hundreds of pies before sales begin to meet demand. The team usually makes two to three batches a day from December through February. This year, we’re planning on selling at least 9,000, which equals over 300 batches and 18,000 portions of dough! That’s a lot of pies, but it isn’t too surprising—people have been devouring the savory pastry for centuries.
Read on to learn more about what’s new in this year’s pot pie lineup, the pot pie production process and the little-known history of the flavor-packed comfort food.
Spotlight on Meaty, Meaty Mushrooms
One of the many carefully selected ingredients for the pot pie fillings include hen of the woods mushrooms, also known as maitake in Japan. These sought after mushrooms are actually grown in abundance in western Michigan, on the bark of oak trees exclusively in the fall. Each year a group of hunters forage for these prized mushrooms and bring them to the deli. Rodger Bowser, deli managing partner and chef, has a Michigan Department of Agriculture wild mushroom certification so he can expertly and safely identify, forage, buy and sell wild mushrooms. After the mushrooms are inspected and tasted, he purchases upwards of 100 pounds of them to make it through pot pie season at the Deli. Their rich flavor and meaty texture can be found in the fungi pot pie of course.
Pot Pie Production Process
Each pie is made from scratch. Vegetables, herbs, and meats are chopped and minced, then cooked in butter, thickened with a roux, and drenched in broth and cream to make a rich, savory sauce. As the rich fillings stew, the Deli team prepares the crust. Butter cuts into flour and is bound together with ice-cold water and a pinch of sea salt to make a rich dough. The Deli gives the dough a brief rest and then portions each batch into seventy-two pieces, which are rolled into thin discs, two for each pie.
Once the filling is cooled and the dough rolled out we set upon the task of assembly. Each pie is made by hand, enveloping a heaping scoop of filling between two folded layers of buttery crust.
The History of Pot Pies
Sing a song of six pense,
Pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing-
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before a King?
Pot pies were around long before this 18th-century nursery rhyme. Their origins stem from antiquity and were a popular item on Roman banquet tables (some were known to be filled with live birds!). Elizabethan gentry of 16th century England spurred a renaissance of the ancient custom of meat pies, which were elaborately decorated and very popular among royalty on both sides of the English channel.
These pies featured not only poultry but pork, lamb, and wild game, as well. Savory pies were popular among commoners, too, providing an economical and filling dish for the laboring masses. Meat pies are featured prominently in many cultures’ collection of traditional foods. Cornish pasties, which were transplanted to the iron and copper mining towns of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Galician empanadas, and Ligurian torta pasqualinas (easter pies) are all examples of traditional savory pastries.
At the Deli
The Deli’s pot pies go back pretty far, too. Our Classic Chicken has been a menu staple as long as we can remember, and we’ve been making our other varieties for over a decade. Interestingly, the Deli started going big with pot pies as a way to keep our kitchen staff gainfully employed during the winter months, when business in the restaurant industry is notoriously slow.
It was during one of these winter lulls when Rodger got the idea to coax customers out of their warm homes with pot pies. Once the idea took hold, he got to work developing a full pot pie menu. The result was a menu of six distinct pies, named for the farms and growers the Deli has worked with.
When the first season of pie production launched, production was challenging at first, and the kitchen staff was a bit overwhelmed with the labor-intensive endeavor.
“We were hand-rolling all the dough—like literally, mix the dough, ball the dough, roll it with a rolling pin,” Rodger explains. “We were making hundreds of pies.”
When the pies proved popular and the process became more streamlined, the staff became enthusiastic about the new product. Over the years, the pies have become a point of pride for the whole company. Read on to preview the six distinct Deli pot pie flavors.
The Deli’s Pot Pie Line-up
This winter, try all six delicious flavors!
Our most popular pie features diced chunks of Amish chicken, celery, carrots, onions, button mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, red skin potatoes and thyme swimming in a rich sauce of housemade chicken broth and Calder Dairy heavy cream.
Two Tracks Turkey
This one is similar to its feathered cousin, except we use Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys pasture-raised at Two Tracks Farm near Grass Lake, Mich. We also add a bit of Turkish urfa pepper, a dark purplish pepper that is sundried by day and wrapped and “sweated” by night for over a week to bring out a rich, earthy flavor and smoky aroma.
Fungi Pot Pie
Our Fungi Pie features full of four varieties of mushrooms (Michigan hen of the woods (maitake), shiitake, oyster, button), this pie is teaming with earthy flavor. It is our vegetarian selection. To enhance its distinction we add Balinese long pepper. Once acclaimed by the Romans as the ultimate peppery spice, this cattail-like pepper grows wild in the forested central highlands of the Indonesian island of Bali, surrounded by coffee, vanilla and spice plantations. It adds a nuanced floral sweetness.
We don’t like to play favorites, but if we had to choose, our pork pie would have to be it. This recipe is derived from a thorough combing of traditional British cookbooks one afternoon at the library many years ago. I think it is our most unique pie, combining sweet, sour and savory in a delicious concoction. Chunks of local pork, raised by Alvin and Joan Ernst, are braised in fresh apple cider from Nemeth Orchards and Gingras apple cider vinegar from Quebec, along with onions, rosemary, freshly grated nutmeg, lemon zest and large bites of apples, also from Nemeth Orchards, for a truly amazing and distinctive treat. As with the Darina’s Dingle pie, this one is served pastie style, without a tin.
This pie is also served pastie style, and features lamb from Hannewald Lamb, near Stockbridge, as well as loads of potatoes, carrots, celery, onions and rutabaga. A hint of toasted cumin and rosemary give it extra mouth-watering appeal. The idea for this pie was originally inspired by Darina Allen, friend and teacher to both Ari and Rodger, and owner of the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland.
The Red Brick Beef
Imagine a hearty beef stew wrapped in a buttery crust and that’s exactly what you’ll find in this bullish pie. Our Michigan-sourced beef is grass-fed – a large portion comes from Ernst Farm in Manchester. The beef is diced into big cubes and then stewed in dry red wine with carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaves and fresh thyme. The outcome leaves nothing to be desired except for, perhaps, a second helping.
Plan Your Pie Purchase
This winter, pick up your pot pies for 10.99 each! Or, if you’re ready to commit to a pot pie lifestyle by stocking your freezer with the savory Deli delights, read on for discount details available for large volume orders and reheating instructions for your frozen stockpile.
- Buy 10 or more, get 10% off!
- Buy 20 or more, get 20% off!
- Buy 30 or more, get 30% off!
Pop on by for in-house pipin’ hot pot pie.
Call for curb-side, pickup or delivery.
Warm up your dinner table tonight – order a Deli pot pie!
To reheat your frozen pie, follow these simple instructions:
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place pot pie on a baking sheet.
- Bake until internal temperature reaches 165°F, 1 1⁄2 hours for frozen, 1 hour for defrosted.
Wanna be the coolest neighbor on the block? Call your friends and go in on this amazing deal only offered this time of year. We’re pretty much telling ya how to cheat, but we think our Pot Pies are so good we can’t keep this secret to ourselves. Get those yum yums in your tum tums!