They are made in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, in what is called the “pork pie belt” of England.
The pie filling is diced pork flavoured with sage, and pork jelly. The pie’s crisp, golden crust has a texture remiscent of soft biscuits.
The pork is packed into the pastry raw, and the pies are baked in a slow oven overnight standing on their own — not in any kind of tart or pie pan.
The meat cooks up beige-grey (not pink — that would mean cured pork) with lighter spots of fat in it. The contents are at least 30% meat. Seasonings include pepper.
The pork jelly is made from pork stock.
The sides should be slightly bowed out, not perfectly straight.
The pie has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Status (EU Council Regulation 510/2006.) Only producers in the area of Melton Mowbray (including Nottingham, Grantham, Stamford and Northhampton) can call a pie they make a Melton Mowbray pie. The only ingredients allowed are fresh pork, lard or other shortening, pork gelatine or stock, wheat flour, water, salt and spices. The predominant seasoning is pepper. The pie must be 30% meat. No artificial colouring, flavouring or preservatives can be used.
Town bakers in Melton Mowbray started to be known for their pork pies in the 1820s. Pies from the town started to be sold in London in the early 1830s.
The first known person to ship them outside the area of Melton Mowbray was possibly an Edward Adcock, who had a bakery on Leicester Street in Melton Mowbray where he baked his pies. He sent them to London each day on the stage coach from Leeds to London that passed through Melton Mowbray.
The Dickinson & Morris shop was started by John Dickinson on Burton End street in 1848 to make the pork pies. In 1851, he moved to a shop in Nottingham Street. The company has been baking them there since. It’s now called “Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe” (sic).
John Morris started as an apprentice with Dickinson in 1886; the family made him a partner in 1901.
The same company also makes Melton Hunt Cake and a Stilton cheese. The company has been owned since 1992 by Samworth Brothers. They give workshops allowing visitors to make their own pork pie, which they come back to collect, fully cooked, the next day.
Producers of Melton Mowbray Pork Pies have attempted to have it protected by the EU, so that people outside the area can’t call their pork pies Melton Mowbray. To this end, they started seeking Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in 1998. Some food producers outside the area, such as Northern Foods in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and Market Drayton, Shropshire, have been making pies they call “Melton Mowbray” for over a century. They think the producers in Melton Mowbray are just trying to give themselves a protected market, isolated from competition. The producers in Melton Mowbray argue that they’re just trying to protect consumers, so that when consumers buy a Melton Mowbray pie, they know exactly what they are getting. An English High Court judge, in December 2005, turned down Northern Foods’ legal challenge, allowing the PGI application to go ahead.
On the 4 April 2008, intentions to award the pie PGI status were published in the European Union Journal. The status became official on 4 October 2008.
Alleyne, Richard. Melton Mowbray pork pies join the Euro elite after 10-year fight. London: Daily Telegraph. 5 April 2008.
BBC News. Pork pie protectionists win case. 21 December 2005. Retrieved 3 January 2006 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/4548068.stm.
Booth, Jeremy. Melton Mowbray pork pie in High Court victory. London: Times. 21 December 2005.
Derbyshire, David. Melton Mowbray puts the bite on pie imitators. London: Daily Telegraph. 1 March 2005.
Quinn, Jennifer. Selling porkies – an almighty pie fight. BBC News Online Magazine. 29 July 2004.