Sunday, December 6, 2009

Maximus Porcus Pius

A few weeks ago I was going on about the satisfaction that making terrines gives and that making pork pies produces a similar feeling of wellbeing. 3 years ago I got into making pork pies and loved it. Soooo satisfying. Last week the opportunity to sell some pies arose so I got myself together to make some. As I got to try and make money out of it, this requires doing larger than domestic quantities so requires more money and more consideration. Also I gotta get the time taken/quantity produced equation right or my family will die of starvation.

I went through my files and found no record of “how to make 10 pork pies before Doomsday” so had to poke around in my memory. It took me two days before I could remember. Lots was easy to remember but there were vagaries - the pins and the baking parchment? Where the hell do they come into the process? 

The measurements I give are for 2 pork pies the size of the ones in the photos. There are lots of stages which can be done over a couple of days or all together but they are all simple and very satisfying.

I put a couple of split pigs trotters into a good chicken stock and set it to simmer for a few hours. The trotters will have completed their job only when they fall to pieces when you try to pick them up. When it is at this point, strain it and allow it to cool.

The hot water pastry is lovely to make. It is quick, easy and forgiving and you end up with a lovely warm dough that would make a nice bed. If only you were a pixie. Heat 200ml water and 200g lard until lard melts. Pour it into 550g flour with a good pinch of salt and break an egg into it. Work it till it comes together into a dough. Split the pastry into 2 pieces. One 2/3 size and one 1/3 size. Squash them flat and cover with film. Leave them to cool a bit.

Next you make the meat mix. Pork is well suited cos of its high fat content and ability to stand up to long cooking – the hot water crust takes a while to cook. Game pies are good but tend to be dry I find. So I got 500g pork shoulder cut into small cubes, 250g belly minced fine and 125g of good bacon. I added ground juniper, thyme, nutmeg, pepper, a little ground clove and a lot of salt and I mixed it. If you got some sort of Kenwood or other mixer, use it. Not only does make the mixing easier but I think it does something good to the finished texture. Same with sausages.

Take a bit out, fry it and try it to test for seasoning. Adjust as necessary.

Now roll out the bigger piece to normal pastry thickness and then lay it over a mould. This can be an upturned glass, pan, flowerpot or something. It has to have high sides. You are going to mould the pie case by hand to a shape and size that will fit all the meat in. You start off this process with your upturned receptacle that is about the right size. Think about the finished product and what you want to achieve – you want something that looks like a pork pie, not an apple pie nor a stovepi(p)e hat. 

Once you have laid the pastry over the mould, press the pastry against the side and flatten any overlap with your fingers. Squish the sides to the right height and ease it from the mould onto a floured surface. You should have a piece of pastry casing the shape of a cup that looks a bit like it might melt. Don’t worry, it will hold its form.

Quickly roll out the lid piece to just bigger than the rim of the casing. Make a little hole in the top. It is through this hole that the stock will be poured later on. Put the meat into the casing and push it down and into the corners. It should go out to the sides and rise up to the rim. Then wet the rims of both pastry pieces with water and put the lid on. Crimp the edges together between your two first fingers and thumb making sure it is sealed all the way round. Pin a baking parchment collar around it to help it stay upright whilst it cooks.

Put it in the oven at 180ÂșC without fan (140 with) and cook for 40 minutes. Remove the collar, glaze it with a brush of milk and cook for a further 20. When the meat juices bubble through the aperture in the lid, it will be done. If you want to make sure, poke a skewer into its middle and test against your lip. Be careful. It will be hot. If it aint, cook it some more.

Let it cool and contract, a good hour or so, and then pour in the stock. Let it cool properly so the stock becomes lubberly jelly and then eat it. It will last for a couple of weeks like this but if you can manage to get the cooking, contracting and jelling bit done in one day, you will eat a pork pie unlike any you have had before.

This really is a product you can hold in your hand and contemplate as a thing of beauty. When I was making them before loved them so much I would carry one around with me in a cool bag, as well as a small chopping board and long switch blade so whenever I came across a likely taker I could cut them a slice.

I reckon pork pies must have come into existence for two reasons. The first that it is a self contained piece of delicious sustenance and the second that it has good longevity, an important consideration pre-refrigerators. The jelly in the finished pie stops the air, and thus bacteria, getting to the meat. This increases its shelf life considerably.

A good pork piece is a piece of perfection.

200 lard
550 flour
1 egg
500g pork shoulder cut into small cubes
250g belly minced fine
1/2 tspoon ground juniper
1 tspoon thyme
1/4 tspoon nutmeg
ground black pepper
1/4 tspoon ground clove
a good tspoon of salt