A Very Porky Pie

December 30, 2009


Pork Pie

I am now officially 80% pork fat. My Dad reckons that the other 20% is made up of beer. Yet again I have stuffed myself to the button-popping threshold of what is socially and physically acceptable and gained more than I care to mention. It all started with this pork pie.

Every year mum and I have a Christmas cook-off – the entire day is spent in the kitchen churning out essentials such as sausage rolls, glazed ham, bread sauce and this year, an absolute monster of a pie. She was big, golden brown and stuffed with three cuts of pig. She was beautiful; bubbling and spluttering with porky juices as we  sat there and actually watched her cook and yet, she would also prove rather tricksy.

First I had to contend with a smelly trotter. Worried I wouldn’t have time to pick one up back home, I boarded the coach with a previously purchased cloven hoof for my companion, but when I came down to making the stock, the thing seriously kiffed and had to go in the bin. I’d been sold a funky foot. Unable to find another, it was a very small hock which eventually came to the rescue; we simmered it as you would the trotter, with some bones, herbs and onion, and it made a stock which set to a rich savoury jelly. Phew.

Jelly crisis averted, things looked up with a hot water crust which came together easily despite the fact that the recipe in front of you reads contrary to everything you know about making any kind of pastry. Butter and lard are heated with water then added to the flour; it comes together into a very soft and pliable play-doh like ball, before being stuffed to the brim with three kinds of pork; 1.3 kg of diced shoulder, 250g minced belly, and 250g back bacon.

A proud little bay leaf preserved a hole through which to pour the jelly later, and she went in the oven for an hour and half, before coming out of the tin for glazing and going back in for a further 15 minutes to go all shiny. The re-heated jelly stock is then slowly funnelled into the top of the pie once cooled and, if you are unlucky like me, three hours later it bursts out the bottom. My mum discovered the pie on her way to bed, sitting in a clear pool of partly set liquid and, thinking it would make the pastry soggy (as would I), tipped the jelly away and crossed her fingers. In the end though, a pie that blew any shop bought version out of the water. At one point, we got so emotional that the pie was actually described as ‘resplendent’. Annoyingly, the jelly in particular was incredibly tasty; some at least was retained around the base and quivering gems studded the meat where the liquid had seeped into every available space.

I will be making another pork pie, certainly next Christmas, if not before. The meat inside was seasoned just how I like it, because obviously I made it; heavy on the white pepper, hints of mace, sage and thyme in the background. Most of all it’s full-on pork. The remaining jelly was savoured and a lesson learned: there is only so much pork one can ever get into a pastry case. You’ve just got to accept it. A big fat wedge made a very welcome addition to the ‘pork plate’ alongside my mum’s glazed ham with Cumberland sauce and a couple of crisp, buttery sausage rolls; pickles must of course be close at hand. A porky goodbye to 2009 and here’s to a slightly less porky me in 2010. Stranger things have happened.

I hope you all had a delicious Christmas too and a very Happy New Year!

Pork Pie

(makes one absolute beast of a pie which fills an 18 or 20 inch cake tin)
It is easiest to start the pie the day before you want to eat it.

For the Stock

A few pork bones
A pig’s trotter or a very small hock
1 onion, halved and studded with six cloves
A stick of celery, chopped in half
Six black peppercorns
Parsley, thyme and bay leaves
Roughly 2 litres of water

Put all the ingredients in a pan and then gently simmer for 3-4 hours, skimming off any scum as necessary. Strain the stock then leave in the fridge overnight or until well chilled and set to a jelly. Scrape off the layer of fat on top and the stock is then ready to be re-heated. You will need about 250ml for the pie (don’t try to get any more in, trust me). The rest is a very valuable addition to your freezer.

For the Crust

The crust recipe I used comes from this site.

100g butter
100g lard
200ml water
550g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, plus another for glazing later
1 bay leaf

Melt the butter and lard with the water over a gentle heat. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the salt in a large mixing bowl then add the eggs. Use a knife to start cutting it together as you normally would when making pastry. Begin adding the melted fat and water mixture a little at a time until it starts to all come together like this. Then go in with your hands and bring it together into a ball. Knead very briefly until smooth then wrap in cling film and refrigerate while you make the filling.

For the Filling

1.3 kg pork shoulder
250g smoked back bacon
250g belly pork, minced
1 heaped tablespoon chopped sage
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1 generous teaspoon salt (don’t go overboard as the bacon is salty)
1 generous teaspoon black pepper or to taste
1 generous teaspoon white pepper or to taste
Half a teaspoon of ground mace (substitute nutmeg if you don’t have it)

First, finely dice the pork shoulder, removing any sinewy bits. I went for quite a coarse dice, about 1/2-1cm square. Then finely dice the bacon too and mix all three meats together in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine well. Take a little bit of the mixture and form into a small patty about the size of a 50p piece, then cook in a frying pan to check the seasonings and adjust to taste as necessary.

Assembling the Pie

Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut off a third of the pastry and set aside for the lid (back in the fridge), then roll out the remaining two thirds on a lightly floured surface. You want a circle big enough to cover the base and edges of your cake tin. Mould the pastry into the tin, making sure that there are no gaps, then stuff with the filling. You can pack it down well as it will shrink during cooking, leaving room for the jelly.

Roll out the remaining pastry to make the lid and brush the sides of the pie with beaten egg before putting the lid on top and crimping and sealing well with your fingers. Use a bay leaf to make a hole in the top of the pie and bake on the centre shelf for 30 minutes. After this time, reduce the heat to 160C and back for another hour. Then remove the pie from the tin and brush all over with beaten egg before baking again for 10-15 minutes.

Leave to cool for 30 minutes before removing the bay leaf, then re-heat 250ml stock and slowly funnel it into the top of the pie. This takes some time as you have to do it bit by bit. Allow to cool completely and refrigerate to allow the jelly to set completely.

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  • Reply Y December 31, 2009 at 11:35 am

    This sounds incredible. I have yet to attempt a homemade pork pie, though now that you’ve mentioned the word pork, I’ve just realised that for the past week my dinner menu has featured nothing but pork and more pork (ham, bacon, sausages, ribs, belly..!!).

  • Reply Lizzie December 31, 2009 at 11:35 am

    That. Is. Mammoth. It puts my pork pie efforts to shame.

    Funny how we both made pork pies and both had jelly issues on the same day. I laughed at the kiffy hoof – eurgh!

  • Reply Fiona Beckett December 31, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Oh that does look amazing. Bet it smelt wonderful when it was cooking too. White pepper is really the most underrated seasoning and together with mace quite perfect with pork. May have to try one next year!

  • Reply Niamh December 31, 2009 at 11:37 am

    This looks great Helen! I love the gargantuan nature of it.

    I really need to make pork pies this year. I have some scirbbled notes in notebooks for a number of years now on the must make list and it includes this. COuld be a January project.

  • Reply aforkfulofspaghetti December 31, 2009 at 11:38 am

    OH. MY. WORD. I heart pork pies, and if I’d known you and your mum were making this, I’d have been round like a shot… 😉

    Fantastic pie, Helen – and more for 2010, please! Have a great New Year!

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  • Reply Helen December 31, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Y – I know me too! Christmas always seems to be all about the pork. I wasn’t joking about being 80% pork fat…

    Lizzie – I know, hilarious! I wish my jelly had leaked out whilst cooking too so I could have patched it up like you did to retain a bit more of it. I can’t believe I tried to get so much in there to be honest – disgraceful!

    Fiona – Yes! Another white pepper fan! I actually started writing about it in the post and then deleted it for fear of boring everyone with a rant about white pepper. What is wrong with people?! It did smell good I must say, I wasn’t kidding about us watching it cook.

    Niamh – Do it!! The pork pie demands your attention!

    Aforkfulofspaghetti – Thank you! You would have been very welcome 🙂 A very happy new year to you too.

  • Reply Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen December 31, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    WOW WOW WOW! That looks so good Helen! It is truly a work of art – and I am glad you allowed yourself to indulge! 🙂 Happy New Year to you and yours!

  • Reply Wendy December 31, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Speechless. That is the best looking pie I’ve ever seen in my life. I want it so much, I hurt!
    Have a great hogmany. 🙂

  • Reply Petra Barran December 31, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Oh yes! Now this is some real hefty action pulled off most porkily. I commend you and think it should be included in the Swinelovers Picnic to be held in South London as soon as the frost is gone.

    Big up!


  • Reply Caitlin @ Roaming Tales December 31, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    What a good looking pie! With a vegetarian husband and a New Year’s vow to lose weight and eat less meat, I don’t think I’ll be attempting this soon, but it does sound delish. Maybe next Christmas! I’d love to learn to make good vegetable pot pies though.

  • Reply LexEat! January 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Wow, how truly brilliant! and how satisfying!

  • Reply ginandcrumpets January 2, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Oh my God, that is an enormous pork pie. It looks fantastic. I am full of admiration for your baking prowess.

  • Reply James January 3, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Always good to be ‘pie eyed’ at Christmas!

    Like the bacon. I used ham. Maybe next time would be good to try different versions. Do you think anchovy would be good in the pie mix? Or maybe layer with veal. Diced apple in the mix and cider in the jelly?

  • Reply Tracy January 3, 2010 at 7:58 am

    WOW! Your pie is a work of art!

  • Reply we are never full January 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    we just got back from visiting our english side of the family and the best thing i ate all week was many, many pieces of pork pie. i swear, i could eat it every day and be happy (and very, very fat). i’ve been wanting to make it for a long time now but it seems very time consuming and i’m a horrid pastry-maker. but i do wish i could just dive into the computer screen right now. hope you had a wonderful holiday season.

  • Reply Food Urchin January 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Pies, pies and more pies. I keep spying nothing but pies!

    I must make one but will it compare to the wonder of the beast that you created?

    I doubt it so I bow to you, mighty pie maker.

  • Reply Jonathan January 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    That is one mother of a pie. Great work. It looks utterly amazing. Well done for improvising with a spare ham hock. You know you’re fairly keen on cooking when you’ve got one of those bad boys just lying around.

  • Reply Kerri January 4, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I can’t say it any better than others already have but this looks amazing! A huge amount of effort but so rewarding I bet. I love the idea of a Christmas cook-off too.

    Hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Year.

  • Reply Alex January 5, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Oh my. That is one great pie.

  • Reply The London Foodie January 5, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Hi Helen,

    Fantastic photography and recipe, I just love a good pork pie. I shall be trying this recipe for my next picnic in late spring!


    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  • Reply Margaret the boyfriend's Mum January 6, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Now I’m definitely going to have a go at pork pie, one of my all time favourites! I have some left over homemade cranberry sauce that would be just the thing to enjoy it with!!

  • Reply Helen January 6, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Jenn – I never have a problem allowing myself to indulge…

    Wendy – I hope you had a good hogmanay too!

    Petra – Funnily enough the pork pie was going to be my original contribution! Hurrah! Hurrah for porky pie stuffed bellies and lazy summer afternoons. xx

    Caitlin – Hmm yes, doesn’t sound like you are in the ideal situation to be making a porky beast of a pie. Maybe next Christmas as you say…

    Lexeat – Oh, it was satisfying alright! A little bit too satisfying sometimes. No, scrap that, I’d eat the whole thing again if I had another one and another week.

    Ginandcrumpets – Why thank you, kind lady. I am very flattered to receive such a compliment from a lady who is so well known for filling her pies with meat. Even when people are not expecting it…

    James – I am liking your style, as ever. I did think about variations earlier in the year actually. I thought about doing one with fennel seeds in or chopped apricots like I do with my sausage rolls sometimes. I am loving the apple and cider idea. You need to make that!

    Tracy – Blimey! Thanks!

    We are never full – yeah, it is rather time consuming I have to say but then what’s not to like about spending three hours in the kitchen making the mother of all pies! Don’t worry about the pastry though, this is not like any other pastry you’ve ever made. The hot water thing makes it very simple and it comes together very easily.

    Food Urchin – Yes bow, bow to my wonderment! Ahhh pie. I wonder who invented the pie. They deserve a medal. Or a really big pie.

    Jonathan – The ham hock saved the day. Well and truly. Here’s to pork adventures! You with your sausages and me with my pie. Is this heaven?

    Kerri – yeah it was a lot of effort but totally worth it as you say! Totally. A massive beast of epic proportions.

    Alex – Why, thank you.

    The London Foodie – Thanks! Do let me know what you think if you try it and remember, don’t try and force too much pork into that pie!

    Margaret – Hello! Oh yeah cranberry sauce would be absolutely delicious! I love it with loads of pickles.

  • Reply Linda (aka goodshoeday) January 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Just catching up and spotted your mammoth pie. Looks just fabulous. I think it would be perfect for summer picnics as well as winter feasts. I love making hot water crust pies and I love eating them even more. Must try one soon, good to hear that hock makes good jelly id trotters aren’t to be had.

  • Reply Jeanne @ Cooksister! January 15, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Lordy, I think I have gone to hog heaven. I have ALWYS loved a good pork pie and yours is indeed resplendent. “if you are unlucky like me, three hours later it bursts out the bottom” – ROTFLMAO!!

  • Reply Recipes Pork Picnic Shoulder January 21, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    I now have the answers to my questions – at last! Thank you for a great site. Gratefully, Beth

  • Reply Dani February 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Amazing… am going to make this for my Dad’s birthday, he’s a butcher and a pork lover just like you! Just out of interest how deep does the baking tin need to be as yours looks mammoth compared to mine?!!

  • Reply madi eaton April 8, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I read about your cooking on the internet and hoped you might also be a good bakers. We are maknig a BBC2 series on baking. We are looking for top level amateur bakers. My telephone number is 020 7067 4860.
    Thanks very much

  • Reply Hans June 4, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Wonderfull looking pie.
    Little trick. When pouring jelly into pie,make sure the liquid is nearly at setting point. Smear all cracks with soft butter, befor pouring jelly into refridgorated (cold) pie. When jelly has set you can remove butter with a scraper or small knife. Good luck.

  • Reply Paul November 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

    dont know if you have managed to use camera trickery here but your Pork Pie looks gigantic. It puts mine to shame. The pictures of your pies and other recipes look so fresh and homemade and actually make my mouth water. Its great to see fresh food talked about so pationately

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