– Chapter 1; An Unexpected Party, The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
Post rewritten and recipe updated June 2020. First posted January 2013.
When I first made Melton Mowbray pork pies, I thought, ‘it’s a pork pie’, therefore the recipe must be adjustable. I was wrong. While you could just make a pork pie for a Hobbit party, to make a Melton Mowbray pork pie, there are specifics that set the pie apart from others.
tips for serving pork pies for your hobbit party
Made as individual servings, pork pies are perfect finger food for your Hobbit party. And, as Bombur requests, delicious served with a salad on the side.
Make the pie dough and jellied stock two days before the party and chill in the fridge overnight.
Cook the pork pies the day before, then store in the fridge.
Bring the pork pies out half an hour before serving.
Know that everyone will have a preference on how they prefer pork pies! Melton Mowbray pork pies are meant to be eaten cold, as heating up the pies will melt the jelly, turning it into a liquidy mess.
What sets a Melton Mowbray pork pie apart?
The shape: a Melton Mowbray pork pie bulges around the middle as they are freestanding when baked, with no pie pans or hoops used to keep the shape.
The meat Colour: While some pork pies use cured meat to keep a pinkish hue, fresh pork is used in Melton Mowbray pork pies, naturally turning the meat grey after cooking. Cut: Some recipes call for pork shoulder, others pork belly. Either way, these two cuts of pork are used due to their fat percentage. The perfect proportion for pork pie is one-third fat to two-thirds lean meat. The pork should be chopped, not minced or ground. Seasoning: Anchovy essence is the special secret ingredient of a Melton Mowbray pie seasoning. The only other seasoning you need is salt and pepper.
The jelly: A jelly made of pork bone stock is used to fill all the air gaps. This does three things: a) it reduces the amount of oxygen with access to the filling, keeping the pie from spoiling as quickly, b) it keeps the pie moist and c) it keeps the crust from crumbling and, therefore, the pie from falling apart.
The pastry: The pie crust is made using a hot water crust pastry, and formed using a pork pie dolly, a wooden pie crust shaper used when making traditional hand-raised pies. A beer bottle will do in a pinch.
Tidbit about Melton Mowbray pork pies
Technically Melton Mowbray pork pies are protected under EU law, so only pork pies made traditionally and near Melton Mowbray (near Leicestershire, UK) can use the name when branding their pies. The same way a Cornish Pasty can only be branded as such if made in Cornwall, and Champagne can only be sold if it comes from Champagne, France.
Melton Mowbray pork pies are as British as they come, so learn how to make these very specific pork pies for your next Hobbit Unexpected Party.
3.2lb / 1.5 kg pork shoulder with bone [if sold boneless buy 2.2lb / 1 kg pork and some pork bones]
1 tsp anchovy essence *
salt and pepper
Bone jellied stock
1 pig’s trotter or hock **
Bone from pork shoulder
1 onion, peeled, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
a handful of parsley
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
3litres cold water
Hot water crust pastry
1pound / 450g lard
1pint / 475ml water
3.3lb / 1.5kg flour
2 tsp salt
Remove bone from pork shoulder and set aside.
Chop pork into 1cm cubes, stir in the anchovy essence and season with salt and pepper.
Place in an airtight container in the fridge until ready for use.
Bone jellied stock
In a large saucepan or dutch oven, place in pork bones and trotter, with the herbs, spices, chopped vegetables and cold water.
Cover the pot and simmer on low for 3-4 hours.
Strain the stock into a clean pot and simmer down to 500ml. ***
Hot water crust pastry
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the lard, then pour in the water and stir. Bring to a boil then pour into the flour and mix either in a mixer or with a wooden spoon until smooth and stiff.
Older recipes recommend placing the dough in an earthen pan covered with a linen cloth near a fire. For those without, place in a warmed dutch oven or warmed glass bowl, cover with a clean warm dishtowel and place in a warm spot in your kitchen.
Set aside for approximately half an hour, when the dough is still warm but cool enough to touch. ****
Pulling it all together
If you’ve chilled your dough overnight, bring it back to room temperature.
If using a beer bottle or jam jar, wash the outside, then grease and dust with flour.
Tear off a handful of dough and roll out into a circle so even thickness.
Place the bottle at the centre, then use your hands to roll the dough up. *****
Gently remove the bottle. The pastry should stand up on its own.
Press in the chopped pork mixture. [Do not fill with jelly yet.]
Tear off another piece of pastry and roll to form a pastry lid.
Place on top of pork pie and pinch edges together. Press a hole in the top to use later.
Repeat until pork pies are formed, then place in the oven on 150C/300F for 1.5 hours.
Before removing from the oven, heat up jellied stock to turn back into a liquid. As the pies come out of the oven, use a funnel to pour stock into the pie holes so full.
Set aside to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge.
Recipe adapted from numerous sources, including:
Good Things in England by Florence White, 1932 [Mr. Fred Wright’s Family Recipe, 1927 and Mrs. Loudon, 1851]
* If no anchovy essence, use a crushed anchovy. Cans can be found in the canned fish section of the grocery store.
**Trotters are the feet and the hock is the first joint. Both are high in collagen, which when cooked, turns into gelatine, so either can be used. Depending on your butcher or supermarket, one may be easier to source than the other. If you can’t find either, or it makes you squeamish, store-bought gelatine can be added once your pork broth is cooked. However, this is the traditional way.
***The jellied stock can be poured into a glass measuring cup, set aside to cool, then placed in the fridge for the next day. Alternatively, if you are using oven-friendly cookware, place it in the oven at 140oC overnight (9 hours) with the lid on, but slightly ajar to allow the liquid to reduce.
**** You can wrap the dough in the tea towel, then wrap in cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight. When ready to use the next day, bring back up to room temperature.
***** If pie crust breaks or crumbles, it’s too cold or too dry. Allow dough to warm first, which can be done by kneading with warm hands. If still crumbling, add a tsp of warm water and knead in. If it’s too soft and not holding form, it’s too warm. Wrap and chill for a few minutes in the fridge before trying again.