How to Make Traditional English Pork Pies

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Introduction: How to Make Traditional English Pork Pies

About: I like making all sorts of stuff, out of found materials: furniture, wild food, whatever! I've learnt loads from generous people out there, so reuse any useful ideas that you find here...

A classic English pork pie has a hand-formed hot water crust pastry, a minced or chopped pork filling, seasoned simply with salt and pepper and topped up with meat jelly, added after baking. It is intended to be eaten cold, the jelly acting as a protective layer that keeps out airborn nasties and which also stabilises the pie for carrying about without it breaking.

The most famous English pork pie is the Melton Mowbary pork pie, which became common in Leicestershire England in the 18th century due to local pig farming. The Melton Mowbray pork pie used uncured pork and was hand raised (without a mould). This receipe uses uncured shoulder pork, but does use a muffin tray to give a more event shape to the pies.

These are simple to make and really delicious, especially with a good mustard. They are perfect for picnics as they keep well and travel well. 

For the history of the famous (and protected) Melton Mowbary pork pie, visit the website of the (yes, really)
Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association. I am so pleased such an organisation exists :)

Step 1: Making the Minced Pork Filling

The filing for a pork pie is very simple. It is just minced or chopped pork, seasoned with salt and pepper. The type of pork can be chosen to suit your taste. Belly pork is fatty and tasty, but may be too rich for some people. In these pies, a simple shoulder joint was used.

You should prepare the filling before you make the pastry, as the pastry need to be worked whilst warm.

The skin was cut off, but the fat under the skin was left in. If you use only lean meat, it can be a bit dry, although it is not a big problem with this type of pie as jelly is added later anyway. The meat was choped into chunks and these passed into my favourite hand grinder - the Spong 'National', truly a prince of grinders. This model was probably made in the 1950s or so.

If you don't have a mincer, you can just chop the meat by hand with a big chefs knife. Using a food processor is not recommended as it is quite easy to produce a homogenous mush instead of an even chunk size.

Finally a generous amount of ground salt and black pepper was added.


Step 2: Making the Hot Water Crust

The pastry in a traditional pork pie is unusual in that it is made with hot water, not cold. This is known as a hot water crust.

About 3 oz lard (hard white pork fat, although you can use beef suet too)
About 8 fl oz water
About 8 oz plain flour (but may vary. Add until a thick dougy paste is formed)
About 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 crushed garlic clove (optional, but gives it an extra warmth and richness)

The water, garlic, salt and lard are added to a pan on a low heat until the fat has melted. The water should not be boiling. It just needs to be hot enough to melt the fat. The flour is then stirred in to form a paste. The paste is fairly easy to work mould into the pie moulds. Because the flour is well worked, there is a higher gluten content than normal for pastry, and the cases are less crumbly and therefore less prone to breaking. This makes hot crust pastry ideal for making cold pies intended to be carried as a snack.

However, the paste only stays easy to work, when it is hot. It gets harder to handle as it cools, so making the pie cases shoul dbe done quickly after mixing the paste.

Step 3: Forming the Pies in the Mould

Press the warm hot water crust paste into a greased muffin or pie mould. It is easy to work in. Try to press it into and even thickness. In each paste-lined moulding, add a generou blob of the meat filling, then quickly roll out a small ball of paste into a circle to top the pie. Pinch it onto the lining paste to form a good seal.

Because jelly will be added later, a central hole is cut out from each of the uncooked pies. This also allows some moisture out which helps the pie become nice and crusty as it cooks and not soggy. This is most easily done with an apple corer

Step 4: Baking the Pies

Before baking, preheat the oven to Gas mark 4 (180C/350F/).

Glaze the pies with plenty of beaten egg, which has been well seasoned with salt.

The pies can then simply be cooked in the oven. They take about 35-45 minutes. I normally turn the tray round after about 25 minutes to get an even bake, but I use a gas oven, so it may not be worth doing in an electric oven especially a fan oven.

When cooked, you can remove from the mould if you like quite crunchy pastry on the bottom, but I prefer to leave them in the mould to cool. They are usually still crisp, but not so hard. Cooling in the mould takes a lot longer.

Step 5: Finishing the Pies by Adding the Jelly

Finally, when the pies are cold, they can be topped up with jelly. This is easiest with packet gelatin, although you can boild up pig's trotters if you prefer the authentic touch. The jelly here was simply a fairly rich stock (from cubes), with slightly more jelly than the packet recommends, to make sure it is set firmly. I use about half as much again as the packet says.

The jelly is poured through the holes in the pies using a jug. Each pie should be topped up until you can see jelly puddling in the hole. Leave to set. This will take several hours.

Once the pies are completely cold and the jelly set, ease them out of the mould with a flexible small pallette knife and store in an airtight box in teh refridgerator. They keep for several days.

Step 6: Eating Pies

This needs no explanation, but in keeping with the tradition of pork pies, it is recommended that they be eaten as part of a picnic. This beauty is about to be scoffed in the forest in West Berkshire, England with a good hearty English mustard.

Alternatively, they look rather fetching plated up too :)

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67 Comments

A few questions:

1. Are thosemjumbo ormTexas size muffin tins? What is the diameter?

2. Approximately how much meat by weight do you grind/chop for the 6 muffin batch shown?

3. A couple of recipes I have seen add chopped bacon to the mix, no way can I leave it out!

user

Have you heard about how pork pies are eaten in Yorkshire? Hot, so the jelly goes liquid! Believe it or not it's true,disgusting.

5 replies

I am from Yorkshire, and I have never eaten a pork pie hot. It's just not done! Ugh.

I used to eat Pork Farms pork pies fresh from the factory in Npttingham which were still warm.

Oh yeah I've done this in Skipton... juice running down chin with nice pint of fine Yorkshire ale.. Heaven. :)

Sounds good, but possibly messy!

For most pies, hot is best.

This type of pork pie is a picnic pie and intended to be eaten cold. The jelly needs to cool to set

not heard of that, but interesting, thanks

Hi, gelatin isn't here in china, i have the option of potato starch, or cornstarch, or i could get pigs trotters, what do you suggest i use.

1 reply

Use the pig trotters the starch wont do the same thing.

I made the jelly with chicken broth and gelatin. 1/2 cup stock, 2tsp plain gelatin. Yummy!

garlic clove? no anchovy ? Not a Traditional Pork Pie...

A great take on a traditional English recipe. Take it from someone who knows their pies, you can't go wrong with pie. Here at Arments Pie and Mash Shop we know the importance of a great tasting pie. If you dont have the time to make a pie from scratch check out Arments Pie And Mash Shop in the Walworth area.

Made these this morning and must say it was easier than I thought and quite quick once I had the meat chopped and seasoned. I had to leave them in the oven for much longer than suggested but they have come out a nice golden brown. Just waiting for them to cool and have my jelly ready. Feeling excited.... hope they taste as good as they look.

1 reply

Fantastic. Glad it was of help. If you have any pictures online. Send a link :)


Interested in feedback. One thing that i have experimented with is making the jelly with cider. Pretty good!

Its nice to see a recipe for Pork Pie that actually chops or minces the meat instead of ground pork that is like hamburger. I like to leave slightly larger chunks by chopping by hand.

I do like to season the pork and the aspic with herbs. An apple liquor goes great, but I also like other non-traditional flavors like grand mariner or sherry.

I also like to add vegetables, occasionally, such as fresh peas or corn kernals.

A nice variation is a break from the traditional pastry coffin and top with buttermilk biscuits. This is particularly good when making individual pork pies.

Priscilla

pig's trotters-This Michigander had to Google that to find out they're pigs feet! I've only had them pickled.

2 replies

Trotters is what they're called here in UK. I hadn't really thought it was a local name. It's quite a good name, but I can see it is not immediately obvious for anyone not familiar with the term!
They are traditionally used to make jelly from, for meat dishes. Meat jelly is also called aspic. Using trotters is maybe for advanced pie enthusiasts who want a challenge :)

Trotters is what they're called here in UK. I hadn't really thought it was a local name. It's quite a good name, but I can see it is not immediately obvious for anyone not familiar with the term!
They are traditionally used to make jelly from, for meat dishes. Meat jelly is also called aspic. Using trotters is maybe for advanced pie enthusiasts who want a challenge :)

Wonderful article! I lived in England 40 years ago and loved these. I visited again this past May and made a special point of getting a pork pie. Living in California, I had pretty much given up on finding them here. Your recipe looks easy enough to make it worth the effort to make my own. Thanks for sharing!

1 reply

Thanks - it comes out pretty well and quite easy. Someone suggested using crab apple jelly for this, which sounds a pretty good idea!

Even with a standard jelly, it's great for picniccing