There are dozens of different techniques for making classic rural English pork pies. They range from an involved, two-day long process rife with opportunities to injure yourself with hot, liquid fat to this fairly simple hand pie recipe for people who want to make up three batches of different pies in a single afternoon. Sitting down to a pork pie, mushroom pie, and apple pie makes for a balanced meal and civilized Elevenses.
Like most recipes from Tolkien’s childhood, the original source material offers frustratingly vague directions like, “mix in enough flour” or “use a good quantity of pork” and tell you to mix them with, “all the right herbs.” In the spirit of the rural Victorians, feel free to start with these instructions then improvise madly.
- 1 lb / 450 g pork sausage, mushed into crumbles
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 tbsp flour
- ½ tbsp thyme
- ½ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
- Pinch coarse salt
- 1 batch short crust pastry
You don’t want hearty sausage links here. Get the kind of loose, ground country sausage that comes in a tube or on a flat. You want a loosely ground spiced meat full of delicious fat to bind the filling together.
Brown the sausage and remove it from the skillet. Add the onion to all that tasty grease. Cook it until the onion has sweat out most of its moisture (this helps the pies keep from getting too mushy) and started to turn a nice brown at the edges.
Once your onions are browned, turn the heat down to medium. Return the sausage to the pan and add in the thyme, allspice, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mix well, so everything is coated, and keep cooking for another 1-2 minutes.
Now sprinkle the flour over the top of the mixture. Patiently let it soak in for about a minute before you start stirring. This should thicken up the filling and help bind it together. Take the filling off the heat and let it cool to room temperature before stuffing your pies.
Just as with the mushroom hand pies, you want to roll your short crust pastry dough out until it’s no less than ¼ – ⅛ inch / 3-6 mm thick. Use a 4 inch / 10 cm wide cookie cutter to cut it into large rounds. If you’re making a big batch of different pies and don’t want the first bite of every one to be a surprise, have fun using different shaped cookie cutters for each filling.
Whatever shape you use, tightly pack 2 tbsp of filling into the middle of your crust. Fold the crust over, pinch it tight, and crimp the edges tightly closed. Once the edges are crimped, punch a couple holes in the top for steam to escape. Arrange your hand pies 1-2 inches / 2.5-5 cm apart on a well-greased cookie sheet.
Whisk 1 egg plus 1 tbsp of water together. Use a pastry brush to paint the tops of your hand pies. Once they’re shiny and beautiful, bake them at 375F / 190C for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
This is a dense, heavy pastry designed to withstand a day rattling around in a rucksack. If your adventure only takes you as far as your living room for a watch party, feel free to substitute some far more fragile (but still very tasty!) store bought pie dough for the shortcrust pastry.
Need more Hobbity goodness in your life?
Preview even more recipes from An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery, available now!
Sample recipes from all seven chapters of An Unexpected Cookbook:
Breakfast – Poached Pears Stuffed with Frumenty
Second Breakfast – Beef and Mushroom Stuffed Hand Pies
Elevenses – Shire Seed Cake
Luncheon – Stewed Hare with Root Vegetables and Dumplings
Afternoon Tea – Shortbread
Supper – Stuffed Roasted Mushrooms
Dinner – Boxty on the Griddle with Bacon
Need more? Buy your own copy of An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery from Amazon.com.