This traditional British Pork Pie recipe is a classic! It’s made with ‘Hot Water Crust Pastry’, filled with chopped, seasoned pork and a strong stock which sets into a savoury jelly.
Happy British Pie Week! To celebrate I am sharing this traditional British Pork Pie recipe. I truly hope you recreate it in your kitchen too. It’s worth noting you’ll need to make them the day before you want to eat them, as they need to cool overnight in the fridge.
Ahh, the humble pork pie. I’ll admit I didn’t eat these things for y-e-a-r-s. Mostly because my younger self only bought very cheap food. And cheap pork pies are beyond gross. Along with cheap sellotape, cheap bin bags and cheap aluminium foil, cheap processed meat products are 100% not worth the saving.
However nowadays, when I happily pay more for meat that I know has lived a life my farmer Dad would’ve been proud of, I have found a whole new world of deliciousness!
They are a classic British lunch food. Nowadays they are often served with salads, Branston pickle and perhaps pickled onions, but I’m quite sure that historically they would have been served alone as an on-the-go lunch food. They are a robust little pie, and travel exceptionally well.
In warmer weather it would be advised to use an ice pack or two to keep them cool, but in the winter months they will fair very well in an refrigerated lunch box.
This is the first time I’ve made pork pies, and I wanted to make them the old fashioned way. Pigs trotters n all. So I devoured my collection of vintage cookbooks for inspiration.
Their recipes varied wildly. So I worked through them all, and devised the recipe below.
There are three components to a good pork pie:
- The pastry
- The meat
- The jelly
Let’s dive into each of those yummy elements…
Hot Water Crust Pastry
Hot Water Crust Pastry is not a commonly used recipe in British kitchens these days. Probably because it does take a little more time, and planning, than regular short crust pastry.
However, it is fun pastry to work with, and tastes so delicious.
It is a dense, buttery pastry and is made by mixing melted lard and hot water into warm flour. Doesn’t sound terribly appetising I’ll grant you, but the end result is just magnificent.
You need to keep the pastry dough warm whilst working it, so it remains pliable. To help this on a cold winters morning, I popped my mixing bowl of flour into the oven (preheated to 180) for 5 minutes, until it read 22°C on my Thermapen Professional digital thermometer.
Once the dough had been made and I cut off a section to work with, the rest was returned to the warm bowl, covered with a clean tea towel and kept away from drafts.
As this pastry bakes, it caramelises into a deep golden brown. Juices may bubble out of the hole in the top (more about that in a mo) leaving a caramelised top. And the best bit, the base becomes almost crispy with caramelisation.
That is a LOT of caramelisation my friends! And it all layers up those flavours into a decadent, savoury treat.
British Pork Pie Filling
After dredging through my cookbook collection, I decided to use pork shoulder for my pork pie filling.
I trimmed all the tough looking bits off, leaving the softer fat and of course that delicious meat. That then got diced up really small.
I seasoned it well with dried sage, salt and pepper. A good massage to blend in the seasoning and it was good to go.
Quick note: don’t season the meat until your pastry is made and ready to fill. If meat is sat around too long in salt, it draws out the moisture and makes it tough.
Traditional Pork Pie Jelly
As a hand raised pie cooks, the meat inside naturally shrinks. This leaves you with a gap between that delicious, buttery pastry and the meaty bit in the middle.
In days gone by, when refrigeration was primitive, that gap could have posed serious health risks. As there would be a stronger possibility of bacteria getting up to no good and spoiling the meat.
To fill that gap, and add extra nutrition to the pie, a thick stock would be made by boiling up the bones or carcass of the animal used. This would be poured into the cooked pie with a funnel and left over night to set firm.
I know a lot of people freak out about the jelly in a pork pie. But if it is well seasoned, it is delicious. And it’s really good for you too. It contains collagen, amino acids, protein, glucosamine and minerals among other things.
Any good butcher will be delighted to share his pigs trotters with you as they normally get thrown away. Most butchers give them for free, but the most I’ve ever been charged was £1 for four, so either way it’s not going to break the bank!
They come clean and in no need of any work. I generally rinse mine under cold running water and carry on with my recipe.
OK, let’s bring those three elements together in this fabulous, homemade British Pork Pie recipe
A quick note: Due to the temperature variants involved in making a pork pie (ie cooling a hot pie, to add a warm stock, then cooling to room temp, before refrigerating until cold) it is essential that the pork is fully cooked all the way through.
The easiest way to test this is to poke a digital thermometer probe into the hole you have created for the stock to be poured in. Aim the tip for the centre of the pie (which takes the longest time to cook), and when cooking pork remember that you need to ensure you read a minimum of 65ºC.
At the end of the cooking time when the pastry is golden and the juices are bubbling, expect to see a reading around the high 90’s. Don’t worry though, the meat will still be moist and tender inside that pastry mini oven!
I use a Thermapen Professional which is a piece of kit that every foodie should have on hand.
Happily, they are made in Britain, and they’re a very user friendly tool. The LCD screen remains off until you open the probe by pulling it away from the body, thereby saving battery life.
The LCD screen also rotates which is particularly handy when precariously testing the temperature of something boiling something like this Sloe and Blackberry Hedgerow Jam! This also makes it perfect for left or right handers too.
If you’d like to win your own Thermapen, I have the competition just for you! Good luck!
- 350 g plain flour sieved
- 140 ml water
- 110 g lard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg beaten
- 500 g pork shoulder diced
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 pig trotter
- 1 litre water
- 1 onion halved
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
Preheat the oven to 180.
Sieve the flour into a large, ovenproof mixing bowl and pop in the oven to warm. You're not trying to cook the flour, just warm it and the bowl through, so reduce the heat as necessary if you don't get to work on the pastry straight away.
Place the water and lard into a saucepan. Gently bring to a boil and when the lard has melted, pour into the flour and salt mixture.
Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Working quickly, knead the dough when it is cool enough to handle. It will feel just lovely!
Place on a floured board and cut off 1/3 of the dough. Replace this into the mixing bowl with a tea towel over the top to keep the heat in. This off-cut will be 'lid' to your pie or pies.
With the remaining 2/3 you are going to make the 'body' of your pie. If you are making one large pie, keep it as is. However if you are making smaller pies like I have in the pictures, divide the pastry into as many pies as you are making.
Work on one portion of dough at a time, keeping the rest in the warm bowl.
I use pigs trotters for my savoury pork pie jelly, but you can also use gelatin sheets if you prefer.
Place the cleaned trotter into the slow cooker along with the water, onion, salt and white pepper. Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low overnight.
I like to split the trotter halfway through the cooking time to allow more of the gelatin to be released into the cooking water.
Once cooked, drain well, keeping all of that wonderful stock. The debris can be disposed of and any extra stock can be frozen in ice cube trays and used in sups, stews and casseroles to enrich and boost nutrition.
Dust a Pork Pie Dolly or an upturned glass with flour, then mould the warm pastry into an even layer with your hands.
There should be a small overhang to seal the lid on, and you don't want any gaps or splits.
Repeat with the remaining dough. carefully remove the pastry from the glass, and tie a strip of folded baking paper around the 'belly' of the pie to help hold it up.
Mix together the pork, sage, salt & pepper. Carefully fill each pie with 1/3 of the mixture, pressing down as necessary and leaving the meat in a dome shape in the middle.
Divide the 'lid' pastry into as many pies as you are making, and roll each piece out into a circle.
Brush the overhang area with the beaten egg, and place the lids on.
Now seal the edges of the lids and body pastry together. You can simply press the pastry together firmly, or crimp it as in the pictures.
Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce a hole in the pastry and twist the knife to make the hole round & a little larger. This is where you will pour in your stock once baked, so the hole needs to be big enough to fit your funnel tip.
Brush the pies generously all over with egg wash. The more egg used, the shinier the pies will be.
Bake the pies in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Then reduce the oven to 160, and continue cooking for a further 50 minutes.
Halfway through the cooking time, take out of the oven, remove the baking paper sleeves if using, and brush again all over with egg wash. Return to the oven to finish cooking.
It is essential that pork reaches a minimum of 65 to be safe to consume.
Set the cooked pies to cool on the kitchen counter. When at room temperature, move to the fridge to let cool fully.
Take your cold pies and gently insert the tip of the funnel into the hole in the lid.
Pour your hot stock into the hole slowly. You don't want it to overflow so allow it time to soak down into all the gaps and crevices.
When the pies are full of stock, return them to the fridge to fully cool again. Do not cut into them until the stock has had plenty of time to solidify, preferably overnight.
When ready to eat, cut the pie into wedges to see your work of art, and enjoy!
Huge thanks to Thermapen for inspiring this delicious bake to celebrate British Pie Week. As always all thoughts, and leftovers, are my own.