I love a pork pie, especially at Christmas, when they’re topped with cranberries. I’ve never made them though; I don’t know why, I just haven’t. I remember watching ‘the Great British Bake Off’ a couple of years ago and the contestants were making hot water crust pastry. I’ve never made that, or puff pastry. In fact, the only pastry I’ve ever made is shortcrust, both savoury and sweet. So, when I had the opportunity to go to Norfolk recently and make pork pies, it only seemed right that I should go.
Sarah Pettegree started ‘BraysCottage Pork Pies‘ in north Norfolk and now sells her pies in local markets and in pubs and delis, all over the county and further afield too. Just occasionally, she opens the doors to pie hq and lets unsuspecting members of the public in and teaches them how to make the perfect pork pie. For one thing, it doesn’t contain jelly. This is something of a relief to me as I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted my pie to have.
Sarah was very welcoming and as soon as I had arrived, she put the kettle on and the hob for the bacon sandwiches. When we had all gathered in her kitchen (I still can’t believe it’s as small as it is!), we were shown how to make the pastry and we were then let loose. I tried a dolly as there were some on the side and I wanted to at least have one attempt. It actually took two for me to have something that resembled a pie case and I moved it to the fridge speedily, lest it should break!
The filling in the pies was a mixture of pork loin and shoulder, which her local butcher minced for her and we added some smoked bacon and assorted herbs and spices. Sarah kept her special mix a secret and I experimented with nutmeg, mustard powder and sage, which I had thought was thyme. When I was happy with the seasoning, it was time to fill the pies and then decorate them. This was something I could do! Leaves for my big pies, faces for my little ones; yes, I was making piggy pies!
As soon as they went in the oven, it was time to eat. Who knew that pie making could be such hungry work? After an hour, they were done, a quick blast in the cooler and it was time to take my pies and face the long drive home.
I spent such an enjoyable time in Norfolk and I now feel confident I could replicate my pies. I had some leftover pastry, which shamefully (though not unexpectedly!) is still sitting in my freezer. I intend doing some sort of vegetarian pie, possibly with spinach or butternut squash. One day… I will definitely be leaving the pie making to Sarah and her wonderful team however, and will gladly stick to cakes.
If you’re after an unusual gift, this is a great idea; in fact, the workshop was a Christmas present gift from generous spouses for most of the group.
The pie itself? Whilst I still have to taste one of Sarah’s, hand on heart, it’s probably the tastiest pork pie I’ve had. I knew exactly what went in it and it was made with love. Especially the little ears.