Yorkshire in December 2008   




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.


Yorkshire in December 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Pie Club History

They divide the nation with their love it or hate it taste. To some, they are the king of meat products and the perfect accompaniment to a pint; for others they're the lowest of the edible low. But pork pies are a British culinary institution and a group of men in Ripponden, near Halifax, has spent more than 25 years giving them the recognition they deserve.

These dedicated connoisseurs are members of the Pork Pie Appreciation Society, which meets every Saturday night in Rippondens Old Bridge Inn. For more than two decades they have stoically pressed on with their self appointed task: to drive up the quality of pork pies, sort the culinary masterpieces from the downright disasters, and have a few pints and a chat along the way.

Theres nothing better than a pork pie and a pint, says society president Kevin Booth. Hes not alone in this belief: in fact, his brother and fellow member Stuart even opted to have a three-tier, 50lb pork pie as his wedding cake a few years ago. It caused a bit of a stir, Kevin says. It was cut into portions and served with mushy peas and mint sauce.

To the untrained eye, the weekly meeting might just look like ten or so men filling up on pies and pints but the rules of pork pie critique are taken seriously. One of the staple principles is the fetch. Each week one of the members, nominated the previous week, buys the pies from a different, secret location. This week, the fetcher is Mark Travis, who confesses that while he bought 20 pies, only 18 of them have made it to the meeting.

The pies are tasted and each person discretely writes their mark out of ten on a piece of paper. The rules have built up over the years, says Peter Charnley. One of them is fetchers privilege we expect the fetcher to give a better mark to his own pies, but he cant abuse his position. Each member is invited to reveal his mark and share his thoughts about the pie, starting with the person to the left of the fetcher.

Perhaps a bit ironically, the whole thing began when a new health club opened in 1982. After a Saturday afternoon workout, several of the men used to walk to the nearby pub for a pint One lad used to bring a pork pie that his wife packed for him, and we always watched him eat it enviously; he never shared; Peter says. Eventually, another member of the group offered to bring pies for everyone, and after a few months it was suggested that the responsibility should be shared.

We soon got a bit competitive, as lads do with a bit of my pies better than your pie Peter says. Soon, marks were introduced, and the results written on the wooden tea box used to fetch the pies. These days, he says, the marks are recorded in a book, but they still have the box. It's been in the wars, seen some things, heard some tales.

Testing the pies isn't all that happens in the meetings the members also discuss the world events of the week, carefully recording the minutes in a book. Interspersed with jokes, pint buying and bites of pies, they cover housing prices, the state of the banks and the American economy.

Currently, the members are all men. Are women allowed? Our wives often come along after, says Peter. They are welcome for the whole thing, but strangely they don't seem to want to come along:

The group is also often joined by Tim Eaton Walker, the landlord at The Old Bridge Inn which is reputedly the oldest hostelry in Yorkshire. As well as hosting the meetings, the pub is home to the annual pork pie championship held in March, which draws about 60 entrants from all over the country and has had guest judges including celebrity chef Brian Turner.

So what makes a good pie? As it turns out, it's more complicated than one might think. In Yorkshire we like the meat to be pinkish, whereas in Leicestershire they like greyer meat, explains Richard Neville. It must be made fresh on the day. It should have short, thin pastry, and preferably no rat runs thats gaps in the meat. No white bits; well filled; nice jelly; no voids; no soggy bottoms; steep sides. It should be tight, crispy and crunchy, with a nice glaze. Phew.

According to Kevin: In my opinion, theres no such thing as a bad pork pie; theres only good and great. But the other members are quick to remind him of last weeks meeting, when Kevin was forced to give his own fetch a mark of zero. I couldn't give it a mark, he admits. Even the goose didnt like it. The goose? Yes, theres a goose nearby that gets our leftover pastry.

Finally, then, it's time to see how Marks offerings measure up. Overall, it does rather well: Kevin calls it a darn good pie and gives it an 8.5; Phil Batley judges it a good fetch fresh, nice meat, the right size and gives it an eight, and Peter, although he deems it a bit small its a slimmers pie gives it a healthy seven. Richard isn't so sure, though, and gives it a six, saying: it was bland and a bit fatty: Its quite common for the markers to disagree, of course. We can get quite heated about it! says Kevin. It's all friendly banter though.

At last the source of the pies is revealed, unusually they are Lancashire pies, from Walmsleys in Ramsbottom. The results are carefully recorded in the book: this is pork pie history in the making.

We all like a pie, a pint and a chat, and the order depends on what we feel like, summarises Peter. The pie isnt all it is; it's about the sum of the parts.


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