From Humble Beginnings to Timeless Classic:
Exploring the History of Pork Pies

Pork Pie is a traditional British dish that dates back several centuries.

The origins of pork pie can be traced back to medieval times in northern and central England. It was primarily a rural dish prepared by farmers and butchers, using readily available ingredients. The pie's main purpose was to preserve and make use of leftover meats, particularly pork.

Early versions of pork pies were known for their simplicity. The filling usually consisted of chopped or minced pork mixed with seasonings such as herbs, spices, and sometimes onions. The pastry shell, often made with simple ingredients like flour and water, served as a vessel to encase the filling.

Over time, pork pies gained popularity beyond rural communities and became a staple of British cuisine. In the 18th and 19th centuries, pastry makers in specific regions began perfecting the art of pie-making, leading to the development of iconic variations like the Melton Mowbray pork pie.

The Melton Mowbray pork pie, named after the market town it originated from in Leicestershire, is highly regarded. It has even been awarded protected geographical indication status, which means that only pies made in the specific area and following the traditional recipe can bear the name.

Traditionally, pork pies were made without the use of preservatives, relying on the pastry to create a protective seal and keep the meat filling preserved. This made them ideal for long journeys or working days in the fields. The addition of jelly, usually derived from pork stock or meat juices, was also a preservation method that helped create a moist and flavorsome pie.

Today, while the simple essence of pork pies remains, they have also evolved to include variations that cater to different tastes. Some modern versions incorporate additional ingredients like bacon, herbs, spices, or even fruits like apple or cranberry for a unique twist.

The history of pork pie showcases its long-standing place in British culinary traditions, with its simple yet flavorsome filling encased in a robust pastry shell. Whether enjoyed as a snack, pub fare, or at celebratory occasions, pork pies continue to be cherished as an iconic part of British food culture.

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Here is a recipe to try:

  • 500g minced or diced pork
  • 500g hot water crust pastry
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage or your preferred herbs
  • Pork jelly or savory jelly (for filling and glaze)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the minced or diced pork, salt, black pepper, and herbs. Mix well.
3. Roll out two-thirds of the pastry dough and use it to line a greased pie mold, ensuring an overhang of pastry around the edges.
4. Fill the lined pie mold with the seasoned pork mixture, pressing down firmly.
5. Roll out the remaining pastry dough and use it to cover the pie, trimming any excess and crimping the edges to seal.
6. Make a hole in the center of the pie using a funnel or an object of similar size.
7. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for approximately 1 hour until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.
8. Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Pour the pork jelly or savory jelly through the funnel-hole to fill any gaps and create a glaze.
9. Allow the pie to cool completely before serving. It can be enjoyed warm or cold.