PEOPLE have been pigging out on them for years, 150 years to be precise.
Besides being a favourite with Prince Charles, Appleton’s pork pies have countless other fans.
Now for its special anniversary, the butcher, which has four shops in Ripon, Boroughbridge, Wetherby and York, has created a limited edition celebration pie, using York ham and rose veal, which go on sale for a week from today to customers.
Established in Ripon in 1867, Appleton’s is best-known for its fresh-from-the-oven, hand-made pork pies, made with hot water crust pastry and warm jelly, which have locals queuing round the town’s market square.
Some 12,000 pies a week are made in Ripon, which are delivered to the other shops in their raw pastry cases, and then baked on the premises.
Owner Anthony Sterne said: “I can’t say what makes them so special because I don’t know another way of making them.
“It’s their freshness which gets people talking about them.
“The pastry’s really crisp on the outside, it is not made with butter but it has that lardy, buttery taste, it’s crispy, crumbly – and a lot of people like a little bit of jelly running down their chin.”
Mr Sterne, who bought the business from Roger Gaunt seven years ago, will have a fifth shop opening early next year in Knaresborough, after what has been a protracted planning process, in what was Robinsons Pork Butchers just off Market Square.
“That will be five and we are stopping at that,” he said.
His success shows that for all the talk of the demise of traditional butchers, there’s still plenty of demand, if you get the recipe right.
“We are a traditional pork butcher, which is different from a general butcher.
“Most of what we sell is cooked pork pies, roast hams, haslet, black puddings.
“In France we would be called a charcuterie – and that is what has kept the business doing so well.
“They are buying into all the tradition that goes into it, the expertise, we serve everybody over the counter so everybody gets the interaction with the people serving them.
“Our staff are very passionate about the things they are selling, and hopefully that comes across.”
While the horsemeat scandal did serious damage to the food industry’s reputation “it was a really good boost for us”, said Mr Sterne.
People started asking where things came from – and they could tell them.
As well as farming a few cattle for the beef pies at their smallholding on the outskirts of Ripon, they also have 20 sows, pure Large Whites, the traditional Yorkshire pig people used to keep in backyard sties, and some Berkshires.
The choice of rose veal for the celebration pie will still raise some eyebrows.
Mr Sterne said: “It is local rose veal from Hereford calves.
“Obviously veal in itself used to be much more in fashion when Appleton’s was founded in 1867, but from the 80s with the horrendous live exports it went out of fashion.
“It’s a very ethical meat now if done in the right way.”
The veal and ham pie harks back to the Victorian era – there is a recipe in Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, published in 1861, the cookery book every middle-class Victorian bride was given when she set up housekeeping.
But Mr Sterne’s recipe is original.
“I am hoping it is the sort of thing that someone from Victorian England would recognise – we are making it in a very traditional old hinged mould, and are also making some smaller ones. I think the flavour of veal is somewhere between beef and pork and works very well with the pie.”