Tool: Pie Birds
The oven temperature is exact. the filling is fresh, and the crust promises to be faultless. your pie is ready to be baked. or is it? The answer may rest on whether you own a gizmo known as a pie bird. Pie birds - also called pie funnels, pie cups, pie tubes or pie vents - are small devices placed in the center of a pie dish. they poke up through the pastry to support the crust, help prevent it from sagging and allow steam to escape through an exit vent. as a result, the filling doesn't bubble out of the pie plate and sully your oven.
Used since victorian times, most notably in england, the first pie birds were crafted from plain white china. over the years, they were manufactured in glass, aluminum and plastic. pie birds usually stand about three to five inches high and have a series of arches around their base. By the 1930s, the most famous pie birds had made their debut - those created in the image of the warblers in the old english nursery rhyme, 'sing a song of sixpence':
'sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.
Now wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?'
While the blackbird is the most commonly found pie bird, it wasn't long before the 'birds' took on other whimsical forms like elephants and bears. Now, you can find pie birds in the shapes of snowmen, flamingos, unicorns, golfers and even santa claus. All pie birds are collectible, but serious enthusiasts keep an eye out for those issued prior to 1950. collectors prefer signed examples made by top english firms such as Royal Worcester and TG Green. Pie birds by american potters Shawnee and Cleminson also are in big demand. Expect to pay around $40 for the average bird. and remember: collectors expect these items to have a bit of crazing, but no major chips, cracks or stains.