There are some folk down in Leicestershire who think their pork pies are better than any other. Their Melton Mowbray pork pies were awarded Protected Geographical Indication status in 2009, have a distinct product that is recognisably different from other pork pies, both in physical characteristics and in reputation. For in reality it’s not where a pie comes from that makes it the best, but what’s in it that’s the true test.
Of course, we in Yorkshire would argue that anything created within our borders knocks spots off whatever is conjured up outside them, whether we are talking about pies, beer, rhubarb or nutty slack.
History tells us that the first recorded recipe for a pork pie was in 1390 in the kitchen of King Richard II, the monarch whose actions led ultimately to War of Roses. Clearly, he has a lot to answer for given that the lands of the white and red roses are still prodding each other across the Pennines from time to time to this day.
Like so much of our traditional dishes, the British raised pork pie has its origins as a means of preserving meat. Unlike salting, curing and air drying, making pork pies was not intended to keep meat edible for some months, but was a way of extending the time over which pork could be eaten after a pig was slaughtered. And pretty much every rural family, even very poor folk, had a pig in the back yard as a source of food.
The hot water pork pie crust – made from boiling lard in salted water and tipping it into flour, acted as a container for the meat so it stayed fresher longer or didn’t get damaged in transit.
The spiritual home of the Yorkshire pork pie is the Old Bridge Inn at Rippondon near Halifax. Here, the Pork Pie Appreciation Society meets on regular Saturdays where members have over the last few years subjected more than 1,000 pie offerings to intense critical scrutiny.
What a pork pie does need though, is to be good quality. For me it needs to have crisp pastry, that’s not too greasy, good quality meat, and not too much jelly – just a little.
Luckily for me when I was sent a selection of Vale of Mowbray Pork Pies to try out, they ticked all the boxes, as well as having a couple of alternative flavours too!
Snack size Cheese and Pickle flavour was a definite winner and I liked the one with egg in the middle.
The pastry is a classic hot water pastry and it’s filled with tender, cured pork that has been delicately seasoned with an irresistible blend of herbs and spices. The pies are topped with a golden pastry lid and then they’re ready to be enjoyed!
The large pork pies are big enough to slice and share (if you want). It’s a great family sized pie.
Vale of Mowbray was founded in 1928 when seven brothers bought an old brewery building in which to begin food manufacture, and the company’s trademark product – the pork pie – was central to its range even then. It was remarkably successful, and continues to be so to this day, but its journey has been by no means a walk in the park but now plans to gain up to 25% of the market share.
You can find these scrumptious pies in Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Nisa, Costcutter, Iceland and Booths. Find out more on the Vale of Mowbray website.
I was sent some Vale of Mowbray pork pies to sample for this review. As always, all my reviews are 100% honest and all thoughts and opinions are my own.