Saturday, December 15, 2012


NOTE:  There are some interesting historical facts in this post, so you may want to read it in its entirety.

On the fourth day of Christmas, Dante's true love gave to him ...


Most people have wondered "what exactly IS a Calling Bird"?  Well, here's the answer to your question.

Verse four of "The Twelve Days of Christmas referring to "Four Calling Birds" is actually a corruption of the English word 'colly' or 'collie'. So, we are referring to four colly or collie birds and not 'calling birds'.

So then, what is a colly bird?  It is a black bird.  In England a coal mine is called a colliery, and colly or collie for short, and means 'black like coal'. For a long time in England, blackbirds have been referred to as both blackbirds (as in the nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence") and colly birds (as in The Twelve Days of Christmas) .

As to why the person in the song would give his or her true love a gift of blackbirds, the answer is that this would have been another gift of food.  Blackbirds were plentiful and were quite commonly used in cooking.

Of course in the nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence", we see them being served as a meat pie and this may have been the way they were most often served. 

 (Dante's ancestor, Daniel, and Sascha's ancestor, Sarah, circa 1900, both enjoyed many a blackbird pie.)

So Dante decided to make a "Colly Bird" aka "Blackbird" pie for his sweetheart, but had a little trouble digging up a recipe.  "I could have used a canine Collie to help me dig up this one -- it sure wasn't easy", but finally, he struck paydirt online.  "Eureka!", he shouted.

This recipe was taken straight from the handwritten recipe book of a lady whose Great Grandmother was born and bred in the Brendon Hills of West Somerset, and is at least one hundred years old. 

Collie Bird aka Blackbird Pie   
(Traditional Blackbird Pie Recipe from Somerset, England) 

Eight Blackbirds
Half a pound of Bacon
Half a pound of Liver
One Onion
A handful of chopped field mushrooms
Pepper and Salt
One gill of Brown Sauce
Suet Paste

Grease and line a pint and a half pudding basin with good suet paste. Bone and clean the blackbirds, stuff each one with liver (of a paste-like consistency), wrap each blackbird up in a thin strip of bacon, season each piece with pepper and salt. Put some pieces of bacon in the bottom of the basin, put the rolled-up birds in neatly, sprinkle over the chopped onion and mushrooms, pour in the brown sauce, fill in with any pieces of bacon left over. Wet round the edges of the paste, put on the top crust, tie it up in a cloth tightly, plunge into boiling water and boil gently for two hours.

Of course, Dante only has four blackbirds to work with, so he made two PURRsonal-sized pies for both he and Sascha instead of one large pie.  He didn't quite know how much 'one gill of Brown Sauce' was, so again he turned to the internet.  

A "gill" is a unit of measure pertaining to volume.  A "gill" equals 1/4 of an English pint or 5 ounces.  So, Dante had to halve this amount for his PURRposes.

Once again, Dante's culinary skills rose to the four (the four blackbirds that is), and dinner that night was another smashing success!

Dante and Sascha will be back tomorrow for "The Fifth Day of Christmas", and there will be no birds to cook with this time, I tell you.  Check back to see what happens.


Brian's Home Blog said...

Daniel and Sarah are quite the lookers, runs in the family!!!

Pretinha said...

Dante her talent for cooking is amazing, Sasha is very lucky!

Marg said...

Well those sure are some interesting facts. We didn't know all that about a calling Bird. Good for you Dante to find all that out. And then the receipe is great too but think we will skip that one, because those black birds might be kind of hard to capture. Hope you enjoyed your pie. Take care.

Texas, a Cat in... Austin said...

Very interesting! My black birds sound so much yummier than calling birds ;-)

Katnip Lounge said...

Oh my, the Horde is dribbling and INSISTING I venture out with a net for some Colly birds! Only if they pluck 'em...

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed learning the history of Calling Birds. I will sing the song correctly from now on.
Your ancestors, you can see the beauty runs thru both of you.
Great photo!

Little Miss Titch said...

Mummy say's she couldn't do this one