Who could imagine a Christmas without a pork pie – either as a simple Christmas Day snack when the post-turkey fog has lifted, or as a part of the Boxing Day buffet at the in-laws?
In fact, DH Lawrence was rumoured to love a Christmas pork pie so much that he would traditionally eat them for breakfast. Whilst in the north of England they are served hot and accompanied by either gravy or mushy peas and mint sauce – which we think is the perfect way to use your post-Christmas left-overs.
Producing over 8.5 million of the brown beauties for Christmas week alone, Pork Farms has been around since the 1940s and is synonymous with the pork pie and the geographically protected Melton Mowbray Pork Pie – which must be produced within a 28km radius of the Leicestershire market town.
As millions of us prepare to tuck into one over the festive period, we thought it would be fun to give you a pork pie history lesson. Questions at the end so pay attention!
What exactly is a pork pie?
A direct descendent of the Medieval raised meat pie, the modern pork pie uses raised water crust pastry, which in ancient times preserved the filling. Of course, with modern day luxuries like refrigerators, water crust pastry has evolved to become as tasty as the meat filling within but as in all pies, it was there only to preserve the contents or aid travel and was discarded before being eaten.
Pork pies are best served at room temperature and have a filling of roughly chopped pork and pork fat, surrounded by a layer of jellied pork stock, which, like the pastry casing, was there to preserve the meat filling. As the meat shrinks when the pie is cooked, traditional recipes specified that clarified butter or a hot pork stock was poured into the pie after baking. This would set when cool, filling the gaps between the pastry and the meat. Delicious!
Modern day manufacturing means the pies are produced in moulds or hoops, giving the outside of the pie a very regular shape. Traditional production methods for artisan producers is still to raise the pies by hand and as they are baked free-standing, the sides bow outwards rather than being vertical as with mould-baked pies.
How are Melton Mowbray Pork Pies different?
In order to be labelled as a premium Melton Mowbray pork pie, it must be produced within a 28km squared radius of the Leicestershire market town. The pie was awarded its Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in 2008, which now means that the original recipe must be used.
Distinctive features of the Melton Mowbray pork pie include:
- A hand-formed crust
- Uncured meat, which is grey in colour when cooked
- Chopped meat rather than minced
- Baked free-standing rather than vertical, as with mould-baked pies
Whilst it is sometimes claimed that Melton pies became popular among fox hunters in the area in the late 18th century, it has also been stated that the association of the pork pie trade in Melton started in 1813 as a side-line in a small baker and confectioners’ shop in the town, owned by Edward Adcock.
What is a gala pie?
Everyone loves a traditional pork pie but as tastes change and recipes evolve, the gala pie has become the perfect celebration pie for extra special occasions. The filling includes a proportion of chicken and a hard-boiled egg and is often baked in a long loaf tin with multiple eggs arranged across the centre. In some cases, the solid pastry top is replaced by a pastry lattice, allowing the meat filling to be seen. Occasionally the crust is dispensed with altogether in favour of a layer of festive cranberries sealed in place with jelly – how much more Christmassy could you get?
But of course, everyone knows that our favourite at Pork Farms HQ is the delicious Branston pickle topped pies and that’s the one we’ll be leaving out for Santa this year.
We hope you enjoy your Pork Farms pork pie this year but remember, a pork pie isn’t just for Christmas.
Wishing all our customers a happy Christmas and a fantastic 2020.