Pork pie brings home the bacon in food awards

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Indy Lifestyle Online

With its gelatinous insides and solid pastry exterior, the pork pie is an unlikely contender for one of the world's leading delicacies. Think again. After decades of quiet service as the centrepiece of millions of ploughman's lunches, the pork pie has finally joined the list of recognised gourmet delights.

A hand-made pie made in Staffordshire and fashioned from free-range pork yesterday won the top prize in a competition to find the best food product in Britain, beating off stiff competition from more outwardly refined rivals including smoked crevettes, a pink grapefruit sorbet and a balsamic vinegar fortified with fig and sherry.

Weighing 450g and costing £2.29 each, the hefty porcine snack from Walter Smith's butchers in the Midland's market town of Cannock was named the supreme champion of the Great Taste Awards, which judges more than 4,000 food products submitted by artisanal producers from across the United Kingdom.

The winner was chosen by a judging panel including Alex James, the Blur guitarist turned cheese maker and Independent journalist, Tom Parker-Bowles, the food critic and son of the Duchess of Cornwall, and Sophie Michell, presenter of Channel 4's Cook Yourself Thin.

Bob Farrand, director of the Guild of Fine Foods, which promotes small-scale food producers and runs the competition, said the pie, made with cuts of belly and shoulder from pigs kept outdoors, showed the increasing desire among consumers for food with high values in taste and ethics.

The owners of Walter Smith's, a chain of 27 butchers based in Birmingham and the West Midlands, only started making the pies two years ago after becoming disillusioned with outside suppliers. It now makes up to 2,000 a week and centres production on each of its shops, where staff make and bake the pies each day.

Andrew Ayres, managing director of the company, said: "We realised the only way to find the quality of pie we wanted was to make it ourselves. Our pigs come from a single producer and we tested and refined the recipe until we were happy with the result. "When we first put the pies on sale, customers complained that the cost had gone up from £1.59. But gradually they have tasted one and now they are selling very fast indeed. We get through 70 pig carcasses a week."

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