Sunday, 16 June 2013

Pork Pie Day

Hello Everyone, I do hope you are all well and happy.  Cannot believe that it is now Sunday already and we are pushing on towards another week - not far from the longest day in the year and yet we still wait for summer here.  I hope you are enjoying a little warmth and sunshine.  Yesterday was so cold and rainy in Shropshire where I went with my eldest Son to make pork pies.
Now lovely readers I think I did mention that I have been a vegetarian for over 40 years now but have cooked meat and fish for my family throughout that time.  At the time I decided to stop eating meat and fish it wasn't so popular in Great Britain as it is now.  I took two years to 'come out' as it was thought of as something quite 'hippy' and people didn't really understand it as well as they do now.  I would just make excuses about not eating meat and fish.  I had little set excuses such as 'Don't feel like meat today, would love some cheese' and so on.  

I can remember telling my GP that I had become a vegetarian.  He was of the very old school and was horrified and told me that I would never be well and would eventually have to revert back to eating meat and fish.  Suffice it to say but he died when he was in his early 50s of a heart attack - he was a heavy smoker and when you visited him for a consultation he would always be smoking a cigar - unbelievable now in this day and age.  He also said that people should take a tot of whiskey every night before going to bed - I have always been teetotal so was not going to survive very long in his eyes.
Anyway, on with the story.  The pork pie making day was held at a lovely Victorian Farm in deepest Shropshire called Acton Scott.  Those readers in Britain may have watched the Victorian Farm series on TV and this is where it was filmed.   The Scott family have long supported environmentally friendly practice in the management of the estate and have chosen to preserve the 19th century skills and knowledge.  It is such a lovely place to visit and you can also stay there in the holiday cottages.  They also offer such a wide range of courses which are all linked to some of the skills we may have lost over the years. 

Our lovely Tutor for the day was Sally who had a wealth of experience and knowledge about cooking and baking.  She was so welcoming and friendly.  What was surprising lovely readers was that, apart from Sally, I was the only female so pork pie making must be a 'man thing'!  There were only six of us on the course which was really nice as we all got so much individual attention from Sally. The recipe we used was one that her great grandmother had used so it was a really family tradition to make pork pies.  Sally had kindly adapted her recipe for us to have a more manageable one to work on.


Sally had provided all the ingredients from the master butcher in Ludlow and told us that although today's palate is more towards the leaner cuts of meat, the pork pie does need some degree of fat to give the flavour it needs.  The anchovy essence also adds saltiness meaning that no salt has to be added to the recipe.   

The meat was then chopped up in a blender and mixed together, although it can be cut by hand, especially if there are larger pieces of meat but it does need to be quite finely cut.

We also chopped and added thyme and sage leaves and this is where Sally suggested that we could eventually make our own recipes to suit our tastes by just experimenting with the herbs we used.

After mixing all of this together and getting what Sally called - a real pork pie smell to the meat - we started on the pastry.  Now I had just assumed that the pastry would be similar to other pastries and would be rolled out and shaped.  However, the pork pie pastry uses hot crust pastry which I have never used before.

We had to weigh out some lard and then put it into a pan of cold water.  This was then heated up gently until the lard had dissolved and then added, very quickly before it cooled, into the plain flour.  We all stirred the lard and water into the flour and the dough formed very quickly.  We then had to manipulate it with our hands to get the right consistency and then divide it into four portions.  From each portion we took a walnut sized piece out for the top of the pie.  If you look at the photograph I think they look like potatoes!
We then had to quickly shape the dough whilst it was still warm into cup shaped pieces and fill with the meat.  An egg wash applied to the edges of the pie and then the top placed on and stretched to cover the whole pie.  After that the egg wash is then reapplied to all the pie.  This procedure was done with all the four pies and they were ready for the oven!
As we had to wait for the pies to cook Sally suggested that we break for lunch and have a walk around the farm if we wished.  The lovely little café is the old schoolhouse which the children from the estate would attend.  It is so cute and hardly seems possible that such a small number of children would attend their own school.   The door at the back of the school was just so nice.
The wall plaque was dated from 1937 to 1946 and showed the names of some of the pupils from the school and where they eventually went after leaving. There was also a plan of the school showing the exact layout as it was.  This is where we had our lunch.
These were some of the children who were attending, it didn't have a date on the photograph unfortunately but judging from their clothes it would appear to be the 1940s, what you do think lovely Readers? 

The top photograph is the picture of the school and it looks exactly the same today, the lower photograph is obviously taken much earlier than the previous one - not sure what date that would be - any ideas?
After a delicious lunch of quiche and potatoes and a large slice of Victoria sponge cake we both went back to see how our pies were going on.  The lovely Sally had stayed in the kitchen and looked after everyone's pies as they were cooking. 
The next part of the procedure entailed putting in the jelly - I had thought that this would go in at the time of cooking but it is added later when the pies have cooled.  This obviously makes more sense to me now but I hadn't really thought of it before.  The original recipe for the jelly was made up of pork bones, pigs trotters, onion, carrot, parsley, celery, black pepper corns, thyme, bay leaves and cloves.  However, Sally suggested that we use leaf gelatine which can be bought in the cake making section of any of the large supermarkets.  This can be made up with stock or water. 
I hadn't realised why pork pies were constructed as they were.  Sally told us that, historically, pork pies were made to use up all the scraps of  meat which were left over and couldn't be used for anything else.  These were all put together and baked in small pies, however, the men found that carrying them in their bags when they were walking to work meant that the motion of the meat rattling around inside the  pie then cracked the pie crust and the whole thing would just fall apart.  They came up with the fabulous idea of putting a seal of gelatine around the meat to cushion it and keep the pie intact!  Well I thought that this was just ingenious and it obviously worked as they have been around such a long time

I wasn't able to get any photographs of this procedure, sorry, as it had to be done quickly and my hands were rather greasy!  It doesn't look very appetising in the photograph but Sally assured us all they would be delicious - I have to take Sally's word for that.
A tiny hole is made in the top section of the pie and small amounts of the jelly poured slowly in, allowing it to sink in and set.  This takes a little time to do.  Once the jelly is inside the pies have to be left for 24 hours before they can be eaten, or if you don't wish to have the jelly in then you can leave them as they are and they can be eaten straight away.  My Son decided to leave one pie without the jelly so he could have his for tea!
Would you like to see the pies everyone?  Here we go
Now, although they don't look like the normal shape of a pork pie, Sally suggested that they were more attractive because of their rather rustic look - not sure, would love to hear from you on this.
She had kindly made a couple of her own pies the previous evening and these were shared out between everyone (except me of course) for a taster session with a lovely cup of tea.  Together with, the most delicious lemon cake (my second piece of cake in a day folks, not good for my waistline) - I didn't manage to get a photograph as everyone was busy eating.........
We had the most fantastic day and I am really looking forward to her next course later in the year.  Sally was a really welcoming and highly experienced tutor and I learned so much from her yesterday, so a big thank you to Sally.  Next time I will hopefully get a photograph of her to show you. 
Now lovely readers I am sure you think I am neglecting my work here - I promise that although time is tight at the moment with my full time work I am cracking on with my projects.  I have said that there are some which are gifts so won't show you yet but I am working on a little present for a dear friend and am making progress.   So to show you all that I am still keen and conscientious in my work here is a photograph as evidence......
Well lovely Readers, I have to leave you now as my other work beckons unfortunately and I have deadlines for tomorrow that I have to meet.  The sun is starting to break through outside in the garden but I must stay in here and get on with my other jobs.  I do hope you are all having a wonderful Sunday and a Happy Father's Day to all you Dads all over the world.  Have a pleasant evening and an even better Monday than usual.  It was, as always, so lovely to have you call by and visit me.  I hope you will come back soon and leave a comment if you can.  Lots of love, Dorothy :-)xxxxxxxxx





  1. Wow, what a great day out!! It looks like you learnt from the master and thank you so much for sharing this with us, I am definitely going to give it a try. Thanks also for all the historic information, I would guess that photo would be around the 30s or 40s, but I am not sure. Loved the old school desk! Loving the picture of the satchel, mmm you've got me thinking! xoxo

  2. I remember watching the contestants in the Great British Bake Off, (which I loved), making pork pies. It looked a very complicated procedure. Well done you for trying it, especially as you couldn't eat the end result! They do look rather good. Lesley x

  3. Dorothy I feel terrible, I didn't realise you had a blog! I tried to see if you had one when you first started commenting on mine but clicking on your name just kept directing me to google+ friend. Well, I have a lot to catch up with... I made my basket at Acton Scott and your pork pie day looks fab. Jo X

  4. Hi Dorothy,
    I adore the color you're knitting with. Luscious!

    I have been crocheting washcloths. We never have enough!
    Just simple single crochet chain 21 washcloths.

    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage