Saturday, 6 September 2008

Local specialities

My home county of Leicestershire produces a range of speciality foods unique to the area, here's a selection of what's on offer...

Melton Mowbray pork pies are probably the best known food Leicestershire produces, rich and filling pork pies are always served cold, they are a popular as a snack or eaten for lunch and are well known all over Britain.
Made from uncured pork encased in a hot water pastry crust. This kind of pastry requires the dough to remain hot while it is being worked and is quite a skill to make well.
What separates a Melton Mowbray pork pie from regular pork pie is that a Melton pie must be hand raised, this means the pastry is formed by hand and not by a machine. They must also be baked without the support of a metal ring or hoop, this gives the finished pie a characteristic bowed shape where the pastry has sunk a little.
Picture taken fom Here
Pork pies are traditionally served at Christmas, although they are eaten all year round often as part of a buffet or with a ploughman's lunch.
The Melton Mowbray pork pie has just gained protected status from the EU, this means it is now illegal to label a pie as Melton Mowbray unless it is made within the area of Melton, it must also be baked unsupported without a hoop or tin.
The pork pie is hugely popular throughout England, there is even a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie association, members are passionate about their pies and seek to protect the pie from imitations.

Stilton cheese is a blue veined cheese similar to Danish blue or Roquefort, there is also a less well known White Stilton. Both varieties have been granted the same protected status as the Melton Mowbray pork pie, this means Stilton can only be called Stilton if:-
  • It is made within Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire.
  • It is made in a cylindrical shape
  • Is allowed to form it's own crust
  • Is un-pressed
Stilton is the kind of food you either love or hate, it provokes reactions of utter disgust a la my sister! or utter delight. The cheese is rich and creamy with quite a strong flavour, often served with crackers and Port particularly at Christmas time. It also makes excellent soup when partnered with broccoli and is a good match with fuit such as pears.
I love Stilton and always buy some for Christmas, the best I have tried comes from Quenby Hall. The milk for the cheese comes from an ancient breed of cattle which have huge horns, the cows scare me but the cheese is excellent!

Red Leicester cheese is well known throughout the world, it originated in Leicestershire as a way to use up milk left over from Stilton making. The cheese is similar to Cheddar but with a milder flavour and crumbly texture, it owes it's red colour to the plant extract annatto.
It is a very versatile cheese, used in everything from sandwiches to quiches or on pasta and potatoes.Surprisingly until 2005 there was no one making Red Leicester in Leicestershire! Now there is one farm producing it in the traditional way. I don't really like Red Leicester although I probably should as that's where I live! I find the supermarket varieties bland and boring. Sparkenhoe Red Leicester however is delicious, it shows that when made properly it is an excellent cheese.

I would to hear about different foods from around the world. Is there something only available or only made where you live? leave a comment!


Christina said...

I've never tried Stilton before, but I do love blue cheese.

The pork pies sound really good. I don't think I've heard of a hot water pastry before.

Tracy said...

I love Stilton! How lucky you are to be from the same area as such a great cheese.

As far as foods original to my hometown (New York City), we are famous for New York-style pizza and cheesecake. Also, the Waldorf salad is said to have originated here.

Great post, Sam. I look forward to hearing what foods your other readers grew up with.

Foodycat said...

I love stilton - as long as it isn't that abomination white stilton with fruit in it! Apparently one of the local specialties around here is the Chiltern Hills Pudding, but I haven't tried it or even seen it!

Sam said...

Christina: I guess Stilton would be quite hard to find in the US, it would have to be imported.

Tracy: I love New York cheesecake! there's so many great foods in New York, bagels come to mind.

FoodyCat: Chiltern hills pudding is a new one on me!

Hopie said...

Oooh, put me in the love Stilton category! You can definitely get it imported in the US, but like a lot of imported cheese, it's not cheap. I've never tried pork pies...

I'd have a hard time pinpointing my home town because I've lived so many places, although my parents currently live in central PA, where there are a lot Amish specialties like Shoo Fly Pie (and other sticky desserts with lots of molasses).

P.S. I mentioned you in my Sunday baking today because you inspired part of it :-)

Amanda said...

Oh that pork pie looks amazing. I wonder where I could get such a creation here in NY?

I, too, am very fond of stilton. Yum...

We have lots of regional specialties here in Central New York State. Two specific ones are Chicken Riggies (but don't follow the recipe on the wikipedia page, or the Food Network one--horrid!) and Turkey Joints.

Katie said...

I love all Cheese!!! Thanks for this post. Great blog.