2 qts. flour
1 lb butter
All pastry should be made of the best materials: the flour should be superfine and quite new, and the butter fresh and sweet. For fine puff or sweet paste, every particle of salt should be washed from the butter; otherwise, it will not rise well nor have a pleasant taste. For meat pies, dumplings, &c. the butter should be freely washed in cold water, to give it a sweet taste, but salt should be sprinkled in the flour, or the paste will have a flat unpleasant taste.
Sift two quarts of flour, and weigh out a pound of butter; rub half of the butter into the flour, sprinkling in a little salt. Make it into a stiff paste with cold water, and roll it out into a thin sheet; divide the half pound of butter into two equal parts, break them up into small bits, and put one half over the sheet of paste, mashing it smooth with a knife; sprinkle on a little flour, roll up the paste into a scroll, and flatten it with a rolling-pin; roll it again into a sheet, put on the last portion of butter in the same manner, and sprinkling on a little flour; fold it up, roll it again into a sheet the third time, and it will be ready for use. Plain paste is generally used for pies, dumplings, and breakfast cakes. By rolling in the butter in this manner, it makes the paste much lighter and more flaky than when the butter is all rubbed into the flour at first.
The Kentucky Housewife by Mrs. Lettice Bryan, 1839
Comment: Some portions of this recipe can be disregarded nowadays. Since butter is no longer stored in kegs of salt for future use, all that washing business can be ignored. Use regular or unsalted butter as suits your taste.
Pie crusts, known as “pastes” in the time, had their quality judged on the basis of what fat was employed in their making. Butter was considered the best for fine, flaky pastry. Lard was a second choice, sometimes recommended for a bottom crust which would not be seen while butter was called for in the top crust which was more noticeable. Lard was also considered acceptable for meat pies and the like.
At the bottom of the scale in the opinions of most authors of the day was “drippings,” the fat left over from roasted meat. This was deemed acceptable if poverty was such a factor as to make the higher quality materials impracticable, and even then was required to be carefully and repeatedly filtered to remove meat particles and pan scrapings until only pure white fat was left. This was ruled acceptable for “family” usage but not considered advisable to serve to guests, or to the employer if one was cooking as a servant.