A Growler fit for the King! A medieval street food that features 80’s sitcoms & modern pub menus.
Ranies Street Food Blog
Published at : 01 Jan 2022
The Pork Pie
Growing up through the 80's, my first thought when I hear the words Pork Pie are from the Sitcom Desmond's. A cheeky elderly gentleman in the series who was always at the barber shop, gossiping and simply being the "Uncle" we all have somewhere. The name of his character was Pork Pie, and we heard it bellowed out so many times during each episode. Now in Cockney rhyming slang, the words pork pie are used as a reference to a lie. Sometimes people in the East End of London would refer to a child telling "Porkies" or fibs. This however is definitely not the case when we talk about the brilliance and shear delight that this humble pie has brought to millions over the years.
Having been developed from the medieval meat pies from across Britain and France, these chopped up pork meat filled parcels in their perfect hot water crust pastry cases, have seen them progress from a simple carrier of meat for horsemen of the early medieval era, to modern day pub food culture across Britain. At its inception, believed to be by King Richard II in 1390, this pie is thought to have been a way for the poor to consume food on the street (Street food) without the need for plates of utensils. When most dwellings, usually inside the walls of a castled community, had no means to cook their own food or store food in their own homes, it was the street vendors that supplied supper on most occasions. The jelly, a gelatine of pork hot pork stock, was added to the pies originally to preserve the meat in its shortcrust pastry case after cooking. This would allow the pies to be transported and also consumed for days afterwards, as a cold pie. King Richard later in 1399 used Yorkshire as his base with his returning army from Ireland before heading south to London. If only the pies created from his royal kitchens could have been smuggled into his cell, whilst imprisoned in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, that he may have survived.
It is these cold versions of the pie that we enjoy in todays culinary world. The modern pork pie has been embraced by all classes of society and can be found throughout the country in delicatessens, cafes, village farmers market, the local corner shop and also the traditional pub for a bar snack or on a Ploughman's lunch platter. There are many variants to this popular pie, including Melton Mowbray, Grosvenor and the Yorkshire Growler. It was the beautiful Yorkshire pie that I enjoyed recently on a trip to The Shambles Market in the town of York. Although the town is famous for its history as the origins for the Chocolatier families of the Cadbury's and Terry's, it also has a huge history of upheaval throughout history, with invasions and civil war. Famously, it is also the birth place of Guy Fawkes, who was baptised at St. Michaels Belfry in the shadows of the beautiful architectural splendour of York Minster.
The Shambles Sausage and Pie Company, found in the cobbled streets behind the shambles market, caught my attention from the wonderful display of pies in its window. Somewhat like the stall holders of medieval Britain would have done, it definitely enticed me to sample its delights. Watching the owner in the back of the shop, preparing his pastry and filling them with sausage meat, I obviously had to order a Huntsman Yorkshire Pork Pie and a Ploughman's too. The difference between the more widely known Melton Mowbray and the Yorkshire Growler is in the way the case is formed. With the Growler, it is much more uniformly staged in the oven, inside appropriate sized circular tins to protect the pastry walls of the pie. The Melton Mowbray ones however, have a free formed case and are generally heavier based and rounded due to the way they slightly drop whilst cooking in the oven.
It was the initial crusty bite of the Hot water crust that captured my soul and the devil inside me that would not come up for air until I had managed to fill my face. Absolutely beautiful in every way. The texture of the crust, the shape and colour of the filling that screamed out to have teeth sunk into it and as for the flavours...the chicken on the top of the Huntsman with its sage and onion filling too was just pure testimony to the passion inside the store.
Even though horsemen in the 18th century wouldn't accept the pies for their robust consumable packaging, when they would ride across the Dales and the Pennines; And the Melton Mowbray pie being given protective naming rights to the form of pie it creates in 2008; the Yorkshire pie should surely be given the same protection for its Heritage and association with the armed forces of Britain, throughout its long and very delicious history.
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