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Popular pork pies of all stripes a winner for West Midlands butchers

What is it about pork pies that makes people go back for another piece?

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Martin Thomas and Craig Thomas show off some of the top quality pies produced at the butchers

With more than 135 million pies sold in the UK over the year from 2021 to 2022, the pork pie is something dear to the hearts of people, particularly across the Midlands where 20 per cent of all pies in that period were sold.

There are many butchers and places that make pork pies, a type of traditional meat pie made of roughly chopped pork and pork fat, surrounded by a layer of jellied pork stock in a hot water crust pastry, across the region.

One of the best is Martin Thomas Butchers in Pattingham in South Staffordshire, which has been making pies in the village since 1972 and has been recognised for the quality of its meats and pies since opening in Old Hill in the early 1920s.

Martin Thomas Butchers have been produced top quality meat and pies since opening in Old Hill in the early 1920s. Henry Isaiah Thomas and Blanche Thomas pose outside the shop

Amongst the awards and recognition for the six-generation butchers include the gold medal from the Black Country Festival of Food in 2002 for its pork and pickle pie, the 2003 National Pie and Pasties gold medal for its small pork pie and reaching the finals of the Meat Management industry awards in 2020 for its pork and pancetta pie.

Craig Thomas is the sixth generation of the family to work at the butchers and has received awards for the quality of the pies, as well as the Black Pudding produced by the butchers, which has won numerous gold medals.

Mr Thomas, who is also treasurer of the National Craft Butchers, said the pies produced by Martin Thomas were so well received due to being their own recipe and how they are made.

He said: "They're our own recipe which we created and all of the pastry is hand-raised, original hot water crust and we not only start everything from scratch, but it is all proper ingredients, locally sourced from farms in Staffordshire and Shropshire.

"That means proper flour and proper lard, all done warm and run around the pies as they start to chill, not making the pastry 24 hours before and letting it go cold."

The meat inside the pork pie is pink, seasoned and has a smooth and flavourful taste

The pies produced by Mr Thomas and the butchers have a rich taste to them, with the meat a bright shade of pink and the crust creamy and full of flavour alongside the jelly lining, with a good level of seasoning added.

While the regular pork pie is an award winner and very popular, Martin Thomas is also famous for the number of varieties of pork pie it makes, with Mr Thomas detailing some of the favourites, including his own personal favourite.

He said: "What we aim for is a plain pork base, but then we might do different variations with pork and red pepper and red onion, then we've done pork and pancetta, a type of small bacon wrapped around it, which is my favourite.

"At Christmas, we'll do a plain pork and take the lid off, then put chopped apricot or chopped cranberries on so that people can have a fruity flavour to go with a different Christmas party.

"We also do one with our multi-award-winning black pudding and have done special ones for weddings, including one which was five or six pies tall.

"Some of it comes from what we think goes with our type of meat, so it's part trial and error and part what customers suggest and we can then alter and tweak what we believe works best and make around 40 or 50 pies in one batch."

Around 40 to 50 pies are made in a single batch

Mr Thomas said the popularity of the pies wasn't just confined to the local area and people had travelled from across the country to buy pies from the butchers, and the team sent out pies out nationally during the Covid-19 lockdown.

With National Pie week running from March 6 to March 12, it had been a busy week for Martin Thomas Butchers, and Craig said they always marked it with special pies.

He said: "We always do a standard four or five pies each year for National Pie Week, with us doing plain pork, pork and chorizo, pork and pickle, pork and mustard and pork and pancetta throughout this week.

"We'll also add two or or three at occasional times in the week, such as one with tomato and red pepper, plus the pork and black pudding one over the weekend, so it provides the customer with flavours they won't usually get.

"This week also coincides with National Butchers Week, so you might get a few more people who see posters for the butchers and they come and want to try our pies."

Craig and Martin Thomas show off some of the awards and recognition won by the butchers over the years

Mr Thomas said there was something very British about the pork pie, saying that while there were other pastry pies in other countries, the pork pie was something very home-grown.

He said: "You do find some variations in Ireland and in France and Germany where they use pastry, but there aren't many other countries that make pastry-based products.

"In Germany, they do a number of cold eating pies, but they are more game-based, while pork pies are a very British thing and we're proud to be able to make ones that people enjoy."