I have no idea what’s been going on out there, but all of a sudden I’ve had a whole heap of people ending up at the site looking for the answer to one question: what is the difference between a mini Melton Mowbray pork pie and a mini pork pie?
I did rather cheekily tweet that the answer was rather obvious and already in the question, but must remember that not everyone is so close to the differences. We live as part of Melton Borough Council and therefore the pork pie figures large in our life around here. I am not saying it’s the only reason we live here but…well, put it this way, when you’ve got Stilton and pork pies, what more could you want?
In case you didn’t already know, a Melton Mowbray pork pie has Protected Geographical Indication status, meaning it has to come from a specific area , and has distinct characteristics. Its sides are bow shaped, as it is baked free standing rather than in a tin of some description, and it uses fresh pork, not cured, giving the meat a more grey appearance, not pink. The meat must be pure chopped pork, as opposed to minced, and you’ll get a good amount of jelly and seasoning.
If you want to know about the history of the Melton Mowbray pork pie (and it is interesting in terms of clever cooks turning a problem into a profitable business) then I recommend a read of Rupert Matthews’ Leicestershire Food & Drink. The book covers the pie’s history from humble beginnings through to protected status, and also covers that other great protected product of the area, Stilton.
Never mind all that, what about eating them? Well, there are 10 manufacturers who belong to the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association. Here’s my thoughts, coloured completely by the big pork pie lover in the house, who has worked through them all!
1. Dickinson & Morris – if you came to Melton Mowbray, then Dickinson & Morris is the most visible pork pie manufacturer in the town. You can possibly even see a demonstration of how the pies were made. You don’t even need to come to Melton as most of the big supermarkets carry them. A number of family members proclaim them pretty good, especially the hand raised one. But you will have to go to the shop for that one. They do good hampers of local produce which I have sent to my awkward to buy for relatives a couple of times, and they have been well received.
2. Mrs King’s – I don’t know how many more accolades Mrs King’s needs. One of Rick Stein’s Food Heroes, and also features in Simon Majumdar’s Eat My Globe, this is also MGG’s favourite and features on the lunchtime menu at our local, and several others in the area. Generally we buy this ready to be cooked at home, where you also add in the jelly as well. Or not, depending on your preference. This is an old family company, and there are a number of stockists around the country, but they don’t have a website. Give them a ring on the phone. Or if you are in Nottingham then stop in the excellent cheese shop in Flying Horse Walk, they definitely stock them.
3. Brockleby’s – I’ve featured these before, but the pies from Brockleby’s are the only certified organic Melton Mowbray pork pie. The pork is from rare breed pigs, either at the farm or from neighbouring ones. These are worth the trip out to the farm shop, or you’ll find Ian and his team at many of the farmer’s markets in the area. Or, if you’re posh, then Daylesford Organics carry them too!
4. Pork Farms – you know what, I don’t buy their pork pies, or any other of their products. I am amazed they are in the organisation. My view, and that of these tasters, is don’t waste your money.
5. Northfield Farm – another stalwart of local food festivals, normally cooking up very tasty sausages and burgers, but also make a very good Melton Mowbray pork pie. Northfield are really big on rare breeds, and the pork comes from their pigs. Pies are hand raised and baked without support, in the traditional manner. You can order online, and I highly recommend their burgers as well.
6. F Bailey & Son – a small, traditional butcher, this is stocked by our local butcher, and is a good standby pie for our household. This is a slight variation, as this is baked in a mould, so not entirely traditional.
7. Nelsons of Stamford – if you fancy somewhere a bit different on the pie run, then head to Stamford and get one from Nelsons. Stamford is lovely, and Nelsons not only make a pork pie but some great tasting Lincolnshire sausage as well. The pies have been feted with over 50 medals, and there has been a butchers carrying the Nelson name in Stamford since 1826. Whilst you’re in Stamford, you might want to stop by the Adnams shop, great beer and wine selection, bound to be something good to go with your pie!
8. Patricks – we have failed, I am sorry. For some reason this one has passed us by. They’ve been in business over 20 years, so I guess they know what they are doing.
9. Chappell’s Fine Foods – look for these labelled as Forryans Melton Mowbray Pork Pies. Again, nearly 40 years of experience, following the traditional methods, this gets rated as per the company name: fine.
10. Walkers Charnwood Bakery – producing a lot of the supermarket own brand Melton Mowbray pork pies, you can also buy this under their own name of Walkers, but mainly just here in the East Midlands. But when we have so much choice, it’s a rare moment when we do.
So, this is perhaps part one, and should tell you what the difference is, and what I would recommend eating, but it has to be said there are some fabulous pork pies being made without the Melton Mowbray name, with different techniques, and enjoying a bit of a revival. I’ll come to those later in the week.
Happy pie eating though in the meantime!
Photo of a fabulous Mrs King’s pork pie by Dan Taylor on Flickr.