Pie Society   




Artisan Class


1st Honley Village  Butchers – pork, chorizo, goats cheese & sweet chilli sauce 
2nd Keith Dyson – full English breakfast
3rd Honley Village Butchers – pork, chicken & stuffing
4th J. Thomas of Helmsley 
5th E. Middlemiss – pork, stuffing & Yorkshire chutney


Traditional Class


1st Hoffman’s of Wakefield 
2nd Wilson’s of Crossgates, Leeds 
3rd Broster’s of Lindley, Huddersfield.
4th Honley Village Butchers, Huddersfield.


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Pie Club History

To the untrained eye, they’re just blokes pigging out in a pub. To our pork-pie makers, they’re judge and jury.

For more than 20 years, a snug room at The Old Bridge Inn in the West Yorkshire village of Ripponden has been the setting for a unique gathering. Every Saturday evening, exclusive even elite group of men assemble to discuss weighty matters and cast a ver­dict of no small importance. Theirs is the power to lift up or cast down, a responsibility not to be taken lightly. This is the Pork Pie Appreciation Society, and their weekly meeting is about to start.

“We love our pies. We’re very passionate about this,” says Kevin Booth, life president of the society and one of its founder members. Just how passionate can be gauged by the fact that when his brother and fellow society member Stuart was married earlier this year, instead of a wedding cake there was a three-tier, 50lb pork pie, complete with miniature bride and groom on top. “I think we might have made a few converts,” Booth says with quiet confidence.

The society started in 1982, ironically enough following the opening of a new health club in the village. “About eight of us used to go there to work out. Then we’d retire to the pub,” recalls Peter Charnley, one of Booth’s fellow founder members. “Because the pub didn’t serve food, the wife of one lad used to pack him up with a pork pie, which he’d eat in front of us. He never shared. So another lad offered to bring pies in for all of us from then on” With the landlord’s blessing, the Saturday-night pork pies became a ritual — until the week when the pie provider couldn’t come. A pieless evening loomed.

“We were a bit upset,” Charnley admits. Drastic action was needed: they decided they would take it in turns to fetch the pies. Male competitive spirit being what it is, it soon became a matter of pride as to which “pie fetcher”, as they became known, could bring the best Butcher’s shops for miles around were scoured in search of pies with crispier pastry, tastier filling. Marks out of ten were awarded and comments noted, at first on the wooden Ceylon tea box used to carry the

pies (which is still brought out for meetings like a religious relic), but then in a more official logbook. The Pork Pie Appreciation Society was born.

The club now has a hard core of nine members, from self-employed builders to managers for Yorkshire Water, all living within a five-mile radius of Ripponden. Each week, the designated pie fetcher will select a traditional butchers shop, sometimes travelling up to 20 miles in their hunt for the perfect pork pie. There are far fewer independent butchers now than when the society started, although it’s generally agreed that those that have survived are of a very high quality. “We’ve done all the butchers in this area, so it’s nice when guests bring pies from somewhere different,” says Booth, who is renowned for being able to recognise an individual pie maker’s handiwork after a single bite. Before anyone thinks this is just an excuse for a bunch of middle-aged men to sit in a pub drinking beer and scoffing pies, it should be point­ed out that the society is now acknowledged in pork-pie circles as one of the foremost authorities.

Its annual pork-pie championship, which takes place in spring, attracts around 50 independent butchers and pie makers from the North and Midlands. It’s so highly regarded that even a placing in it can make a huge difference to the entrants.

“Business can double,” says Simon Haigh of Hinchilife’s Farm Shop in Netherton, Huddersfield three time championship winner and the maker of the giant pork pie for Stuart and Jo Booth’s wedding. There are, he says, other pork-pie competitions, not least the National Pork Pie Championships run by the Meat and Livestock .Commission. “But this is probably more important They’re pie lovers, not from the industry. It’s the best one to win.”

So what constitutes a good pork pie? For a start, it must come from a traditional butcher’s rather than a supermarket. Ideally, it should be eaten the day it’s cooked. While it is possible to “boost” an older pie by warming it in the oven, that’s something pork-pie purists regard in the same light as an athlete taking steroids.

Then there’s appearance. A pie should have straight or bulging sides (pork pies should always be cooked in a mould so they keep their shape). The pastry should be neatly crimped, crisp, golden, and well-filled so there are no gaps “rat-runs”, as they’re known to afi­cionados. The pork can be either cured or uncured but has to be high quality, and seasoned using just salt, pepper and perhaps a few herbs. As for additives or preservatives.., the less said, the better.

After that, it’s down to personal taste. “We don’t always like the same pies. It’s not always unanimous,” says Booth. This week, hot weather has meant the pies have been kept in the cool pub cellar to stop them spoiling. Each member takes one, munches away thoughtfully and scribbles his score on a scrap of paper.

But the results aren’t revealed yet. In fact, the pies aren’t men­tioned at all. In a sort of formalised version of what men tend to do in pubs anyway, current and sporting events are first discussed, with each topic faithfully recorded in the logbook. Finally, Booth clears his throat. “Right We’ll get on with the pies now.”

One by one, starting with the person sitting to the left of the pie fetcher, each member gives his verdict. And it’s immediately obvious there’s a problem. The pub cellar has cooled the pies too much: ideally they should be consumed at room temperature. “It killed everything,” sighs the first speaker, but awards it eight out of ten anyway. “This pie looks familiar,” offers another. “Pastry thick but fresh. Well-filled, plenty of compact meat A good all-rounder.”

Finally, the pie fetcher himself delivers his own judgment a tad defensively after the criticisms about the temperature and reveals the pie’s provenance: bought that morning from P. & I. Hopkins at Birkenshaw, Bradford. “Bloody hell, that’s a pedigree pie,” one member declares, to general nods of approval.

Business concluded, the PPAS members settle down to their pints with the satisfaction of a job well done. “I think we’ve helped to make pork pies better,” says Booth. “There’s good pies and there’s great pies. But there’s no such thing as a bad pork pie.”.

Report Simon Beckett Photographs John Angerson

Pie Club Images


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