Making pork pies

Start this recipe by making the hot water pastry dough.

First, sift together the flour and salt.

Make a well in the center, then break an egg into it.

Set this aside for a moment.

In a small pan, put the butter, lard, and water.  I get my pork locally from Brad and Heather at The Piggery, who raise heirloom breeds of pigs and produce the most delicious pork products. It’s amazing the difference between heirloom, pastured pork and industrially farm pork–absolutely worlds apart. If you’re not near The Piggery, try the pork from your local farmers market. You’ll notice a big difference!

Bring the butter and lard mixture to a boil. Then quickly work it into the flour and egg using a spoon. When it has pulled together as a dough, knead it a little to make sure everything is evenly mixed. Wrap in cling film and put in the refrigerator to chill for an hour.

You’ll have a beautiful dough that looks like this:

While the dough is chilling in the refrigerator, make the filling.

This is my new toy–a real, solid, electric meat grinder. I’d checked out the big-name brands, but ended up buying this model from Northern Tool, and I’m really pleased with it. Solidly made, not too expensive.

I’d tried grinding meat using my grandmother’s counter-mounted hand-crank grinder (the kind everyone’s grandmother or great-grandmother once used). I really didn’t like the result, because the cutting blade didn’t fit well against the grinding plate, and too much meat got caught up in the machinery, making an awful, tangled, unappetizing mess.

Then I tried my food processor. That’s a great way to get meat paste, but not a good way to grind meat.

No, if you’re going to grind your own, you need an electric meat grinder. This one is relatively fast, and the results are just beautiful. (Okay, I think this is beautiful. You may have your own definitions…)

Add the ground pork to the sausage meat, and mix well. I used my own sausage meat made for Oxford sausages, but you could use any good quality bulk sausage.

Bring the pastry out of the fridge and put on a lightly floured surface. Cut off about a third of the pastry and rewrap until later. That will be used for the tops of your pork pies.

Cut the main portion of the pastry into 6 pieces. Roll each into a circle about 4.5 to 5 inches in diameter. Make sure the pastry isn’t too thin, however. The pastry needs to be strong, since it isn’t supported by a pan or dish.

After you’ve rolled out the 6 pastry bottoms, unwrap the remaining portion of pastry and divide into 6 smaller portions. Roll each into a circle about 3-3.5 inches in diameter. These will be your pork pie tops.

Now, to assemble the pork pies. Get a small dish, like this Pyrex custard cup.

Drape a pastry bottom across the dish, making sure it is even on the sides.

Next, divide your meat mixture into 6 portions. Roll one portion into a ball and place on top of the pastry in the Pyrex dish.

Make an egg wash with an egg yolk and a tablespoon of water. Brush along the edge of the pastry bottom, then place a pastry top over the pie.

Crimp all of the edges together. It will look rustic and homemade, which is exactly as it should be. Take it out of the Pyrex dish, then brush the whole pastry top with egg wash.

Place all six of your pork pies on a cookie sheet, and put into a 375°F oven. (Note to self: Be sure to clean your oven first, if you’re going to take pictures to show people.)

Bake for 15 minutes at 375°F, then lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for 10 more minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.

Enjoy your pork pies warm or cold. They’re great with Branston pickle and a Guinness!

The full recipe to come shortly.

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