What’s the Best Way to Prepare a Traditional English Pork Pie?

March 22, 2024

As the aroma of a freshly baked pork pie wafts through your kitchen, you’ll be transported back to quintessential English countryside traditions, recalling images of cosy, rustic kitchens. With a little patience, the right ingredients, and a few tricks of the trade, you can master the art of this savory pastry delight. In this guide, we will share with you the secrets to making the perfect traditional English pork pie, from the pastry shell through to the meaty filling and the requisite jelly.

Crafting the Perfect Pastry

The foundation of any great pie lies in its crust. Achieving the perfect balance between flakiness and sturdiness in your pastry is crucial for your pork pie. Here are the steps to help you along the way.

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Start with the basic ingredients: flour, water, and salt. Measure out 500g of plain flour into a large bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt for taste. Now, here comes the key part – the hot water pastry. Boil about 150ml of water and stir it into your flour and salt. The hot water will help the pastry become malleable, yet firm, making it easier to shape into a pie case.

Next, add in 125g of lard into the hot mixture. The fat will further enrich the dough, giving it a nice, short texture. Knead it gently with your hands until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Let it rest for a few minutes before you start shaping it into your pie crust.

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Filling the Pie

When it comes to the filling, quality is key. Opt for a mix of pork shoulder and belly for a balance of lean and fatty meat. You will need about 800g of meat in total. Cut it into small cubes, each about the size of a sugar cube. This will ensure that the meat cooks evenly and absorbs the flavours of the seasonings well.

Season generously with salt and pepper. Traditional English pork pies also often include a pinch of mace and nutmeg. The spices will give your pie a warm, earthy edge.

After you have seasoned your meat, it’s time to place it into your pastry shell. Pack the meat tightly into the pie, leaving no gaps. This is vital as any spaces will become apparent after baking and filling with jelly.

Baking the Pie

Before you place your pie in the oven, there’s one more essential step to take. Whisk one egg until it’s fluffy, and brush this over your pastry. This is called an egg wash, and it will give your pie a beautiful, golden crust.

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Bake your pie for about 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 160°C and bake for another hour and a half. The longer, lower temperature will ensure that the meat cooks through without the pastry burning.

Adding the Finishing Touch: The Jelly

While your pie is baking, it’s time to prepare the jelly. This stock-based jelly is a hallmark of a traditional English pork pie, adding moisture and flavour to the meaty filling.

Take 300ml of good-quality pork stock and heat it until hot but not boiling. Sprinkle in a sachet of powdered gelatin, stirring until it has fully dissolved.

Once your pie is baked and slightly cooled, pour the jelly into the pie through a small hole in the top. The jelly will seep into the crevices, filling any remaining spaces. Let it cool and set before slicing into your pie.

The Perfect Pork Pie

Creating a traditional English pork pie may seem complex, but it’s well worth the effort. The combination of the crispy pastry, the succulent pork filling, and the savoury jelly is a taste sensation that’s hard to beat. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and let’s get baking. You’re about to craft a pie that will make your taste buds dance and your kitchen smell heavenly. Remember, the secret lies in the attention to details: the hot water pastry, the high-quality meat filling, and the final touch of flavorful jelly.

Serving Your Traditional English Pork Pie

Once you’ve let your pork pie cool and the jelly has set, you’re ready to serve. Traditionally, English pork pies are enjoyed at room temperature, often as part of a picnic or buffet spread. They are a staple at any British gathering, particularly during the holidays.

Cut your pie into thick slices, revealing the succulent layers of pork shoulder and belly, encased in the crisp, flaky pastry. The jelly should glisten, adding moisture and depth to the rich meaty filling.

The beauty of a pork pie lies in its versatility. Pair it with a tangy pickle or a dollop of English mustard for a kick of heat. Alternatively, a spoonful of branston pickle or apple chutney can complement the pie’s savoury notes with a sweet tanginess.

As a drink accompaniment, a traditional British ale or a crisp cider would be a perfect match. The strong flavours of the pork pie are well balanced by the robust, malty notes of the ale or the tart, refreshing notes of the cider.

Creating an authentic Melton Mowbray style pie might require a bit of patience and practice, but the results are worth it. Each bite delivers a satisfying crunch from the hand raised hot water crust pastry, followed by the tender, juicy pork filling and the rich, savory jelly.

Conclusion

A homemade traditional British pork pie is a labour of love that can bring a touch of English countryside traditions to your kitchen, wherever you are. The process might seem complex, but remember, the secret lies in the details. From the hot water pastry to the quality pork filling, every element contributes to the final taste and texture of your pie.

The egg wash ensures a golden crust, the baking times and temperatures are crucial for a successfully cooked pie, and the final touch of pork stock jelly enhances the flavors and brings everything together. And don’t forget, the pie is best enjoyed at room temperature, just like in the old English tradition.

So, don’t hesitate. Roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and embark on the journey of preparing your own traditional English pork pie. Your efforts will be rewarded with a fantastic taste sensation that will make your taste buds dance. Who knows, this could be the start of a new baking tradition in your kitchen. Enjoy your culinary adventure!