My next sentence is likely to cause a furore. In my view there are not more than ten regional dishes – even if you count “cheese” as one dish – coming from the UK that are worthy of export and promotion on an international scale. Somewhere high in the ranking of my top 10 you’ll find the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie.
As we approach Christmas I am on the hunt for a large Melton Mowbray pork pie that we have along with other cold meats, turkey ham and beef on Boxing Day with salads and heaps of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and Maille Dijon Mustard (see our previous posts on these two iconic dressings)
Melton Mowbray sounds like a mythical town from an Enid Blyton novel but its a charming town in Leicestershire where in 1998 a local association of pork pie manufactures was set up to help to protect the town’s eponymous pork pie recipe. With an application to the European Union in 1999 under the Protected Geographical Indication rules protection was sought to ensure that products only from the immediate area could benefit from carrying this iconic brand.
After some legal wrangling with a competitor who sought to muddy the waters PGI status was granted and came into effect in July 2009 with the Melton Mowbray name now only being available for pork pies made within 10.8 square miles of the town. With the PGI denomination, Melton Mowbray pork pies join the ranks of other great European foods including Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Feta, Camembert, Herefordshire Cider, Cognac, Champagne and the Mustards of Burgundy (that includes Dijon mustard).
Why did Melton Mowbray become home to world’s the best pork pies? As a bi-product of the Stilton cheese making business that had dominated the Melton Mowbray economy for several centuries “whey” was great pig fodder ensuring that pork was a regular meat for the local consumers. Developed over many years from its original of a pastry topped clay pot, the wrapped pastry case was originally merely intended as packaging and was not eaten.
Spending some time in a local hardware store – an Aladdin’s cave of fantastically antiquated but all still newly available kitchen utensils – I came across a sort of door stopper device with a turned handle on top and a solid cylindrical body about 12 cms high and with a girth of 8 cms – it was called “a dolly” and in researching this review I have now discovered that it was designed to take the now familiar hot water crust pastry that is used as the case of the Melton Mowbray pork pie.
The dolly is covered by pastry that is hand worked until it covers most of the body of the dolly. Once the dolly is removed the deep pie casing is ready for filling with the pork-pie mixture. The completed and baked pie warm and fresh from the oven – with its distinctive bowed sides – is topped up with bone-stock jelly to fill the air gaps in the pies and increase the preservative quality of the pastry.
How do you know the pie you are eating is truly a Melton Mowbray pork pie? The pie must consist of at least 30% fresh pork, shortening (usually lard), pork gelatine or stock, wheat flour, water, salt and spices (primarily pepper). The use of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives is prohibited.
Image by http://www.MMPA.co.uk