Well it’s not easy. There are a lot of different kinds of pork pies in England. However they fall into two broad categories: those that are made with cured pork products — ham, bacon, sausage, loin and the like — and those that are made with fresh, uncured meat. Of the latter the most famous come from a town called Melton Mowbray up in the Midlands of England in the County of Leicestershire (which is how the British spell “lester”).
There they make their pies tall and without forms, using a tool known as a “pie dolly” to shape them, basically a plug-like piece of wood. The dolly is pushed down onto a blob of dough and the walls of the pie are pulled up around it to create a cylindrical shape. The dolly is then removed, the filling put in and the lid crimped on. The shaped pies are then baked free-standing which gives them a slightly squat shape, but then that’s the classic look of a Melton Mowbray pie.
One other thing that defines this style of pie is that it contains a gelatin-thickened broth (“jelly” in the across-the-pond parlance) which is poured in through holes in the crust while the finished pie is still hot. A bit of an odd technique I’ll grant you, however the jelly is more than an oddity, it serves a real purpose: of adding moisture. For Melton Mowbray pies are rather massive. As such they require a lengthy baking time and that can dry out fresh chopped meat. The jelly gives the pie filling a moister mouthfeel. It also brings more flavor to the party.
This is clearly the pie I need to make. Apologies to all the vegetarians who regularly read the site, but this is going to be a full-on pork-fest: lard crust, meat filling, gelatin broth…the works. I can hardly wait!