Pork pies come with a crisp crust, mildly spiced and filled with chopped pork in a lining of pork jelly, which the people of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, Britain insist originated with them. The good people of this sleepy market town claim that their pork pie making dates from the 1830s. In 1831, Edward Adcock was recorded as making pork pies in a small baker's shop. By 1840, the first pork pie bakery on factory lines was in production, started by Enoch Evans, in a place called the old beast market, which I'm not sure is a place I'd like to visit. Pork was in good supply, due in part to the whey produced as a by-product of the local cheese making, most notably Stilton, which pigs thrive on.

The traditional way of making pork pies involve hot water crust pastry being hand-raised around a wooden block. Fresh lean pork is chopped and mixed with what manufacturers refer to as a 'secret blend of seasonings' and then added to the case. This 'secret blend' probably consists of no more than sawdust and pepper. The pie is then carefully finished with a hand crimped pastry lid. The pork pie is baked without the support of a hoop or baking tin and, when cooked, takes on a bow sided appearance, which is acknowledged as the traditional shape of a Melton Mowbray pork pie. After baking, bone stock jelly is added to the pie which ensures a firm and moist eating texture.

It's probably fair to point out at this stage that I don't actually eat the damn things, as they fall way outside my dietary preferences. I do have vague and horrible memories of being forced to eat them as a child, particularly the jelly. People who do eat them assure me that these pies are lovely, but even then I've seen people leave the jelly at the side of the plate.

'Pork pie' is also cockney rhyming slang for a lie. As in 'he must be telling porkies'. Also, a type of hat, but the only example of one that springs to mind is the one that a character in The Beano used to wear. As I can't remember the characters name, and given the fact that plenty of noders will have no concept of the Beano, this really isn't very helpful. Sorry.

Here is a slightly modified recipe based on writings from the middle ages (or thereabouts). The tilting of the dish mentioned in the last couple of lines is an interesting technique which was used to distribute flavours through the pie.

Ingredients:

Finely chop onion and cook for about 5 minutes in a smear of oil until softened. Mix pork, onions, ginger and salt. Put this on the bottom sheet of pastry in a pie dish. Cut a small hole in the top sheet and cover the meat. Bake in a moderately hot oven for about 45 minutes. Combine vinegar and sugar with about 1 tablespoon of hot water, stir to dissolve sugar, then pour this through the hole in the pastry lid. Tilt dish from side to side and return to oven for a further 5 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

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