Delicious traditional meat pies made by hand for farm shops and direct to the public in true cottage industry style!
The upside: Locally made using quality ingredients, these pies are the best for miles.
The downside: Not available outside Milford currently, but that might change in the future.
The flipside: You are supporting a new food start up when you buy Carolyn’s pies and helping to keep the local economy afloat!
These meat packed home-baked pies are made with top quality ingredients by experienced dedicated pie maker Carolyn who is famed for her culinary prowess. Delicious products like these are the epitome of what a really good, meat pie should be! Quality local ingredients, fresh stock, gravy and of course perfect handcrafted pastry.
I love modern contemporary cooking but sometimes you seriously need a throwback to the traditional. Meat filled pies with gravy or a creamy sauce are part of our food culture. Eel pies sold by hawkers in London were one of the first fast foods we had and there are still some old school pie and mash shops around the UK. When done well a meat pie is hard to beat but they take time and a good skill set to confidently produce. On a recent visit to Secretts Farm Shop I met Carolyn Smith who had just started her own pie business, the pies she had just delivered looked fantastic and I wanted to find out more. Carolyn lives just a mile away from the farm shop in Milford so we arranged to meet. This pie-maker literally lives right down a leafy lane and luckily Carolyn warned me beforehand otherwise I probably wouldn’t have made it as far as Pie HQ.
On arrival I was shown into the newly built kitchen, the core of her business. Well designed, spotless and professional it was no surprise that Carolyn was awarded 5 Stars for food hygiene by Waverley Council. Unlike many small food business start-ups Carolyn knew exactly what she was getting herself into as she has years of pie making experience up her sleeve and her kitchen and its organisation reflects this. Starting her early career as a pub chef Carolyn took time out to raise her children. Returning to work years later Carolyn worked for Country Cooks who produced a range of pies for a local butcher. This gave her a really good understanding of what products sell in this category. This market sector is divided into hot and cold eating pies. Hot pies have meat or poultry with a gravy or white sauce, which creates a delicious middle to a good pastry case. Cold eating pies are known for hot water crusts (usually made with lard or white fat) and minced or cubed meat, which is finished with a jelly. When you boil down bones for stock it will solidify when its cold but you can add aspic or gelatine to achieve this too. This is added to the pie once it’s cooked to fill the cavity at the top and make it air tight and add texture and flavour.
There are a few commercial pie-making companies around but they tend to have a high sauce to meat ratio, thick pastry and lack the finesse of a handmade relative. Not surprising as it’s a business too so profit is king. This is where Carolyn is different. She prides herself on producing the real deal, the sort of pies that your granny would make packed with meat, chicken, ham, mushrooms or leeks. Carolyn for example makes pies for Black Barn Butchers in Milford using their meat. Free-range chicken, ham and beef is poached or casseroled and seasoned into scrumptious fillings. These are then chilled and packed into pastry cases. You can buy these from their fridges and freezers to cook at home. In contrast pies for the farm shops are ready cooked and will just need heating through again before eating. These pies come in foil trays and should be reheated in an oven and not in a microwave. Microwave ovens heat food by vibrating the water molecules and with this destroy the texture making pastry soggy to eat. The oven should be your choice here.
On pie production days Carolyn works with her sister Sally who looks after the paperwork for the business. The day before a pie making session Carolyn prepares the fillings and pastry. Poaching chickens she reserves the stock for the silky white sauce that accompanies the filling. Beef is cooked with red wine for some recipes and mushrooms for other. She rings her regular customers for orders and then may also have a few additional pies to make for individuals. As a new business but with a hardcore following Carolyn sells direct to consumers as well as butchers and farm shops. Secretts were the first farm shop to take her pies as they knew of her from Country Cooks they were keen to support her new venture realising that their customers would love her fabulous pies. The price of these pies reflects the level of filling and quality of the ingredients, individual pies start at £3.85 and a larger one for 2 from £8.75 a keen price given that similar products are inferior.
On pie making days Sally put on her apron too as she is key here to making a production day go smoothly. Carolyn makes a core range of products but once a pie is finished it has to be identified. So here the trick is to use pastry cut outs in the form of animals and letters. So a chicken and leek pie will have a chicken pastry topper and the letter L on top. No chance of a mix up here. The day I was there they were producing pies for Black Barn and Secretts. So all the meat for this came from the butcher. David Mitchell’s meat is always top notch and its all local too apart from the chicken, which, comes from Crediton. The pies are produced and baked to a strict production sheet. Filling for each pie is weighed and labelled, brushed with an egg glaze before being labelled and baked. Chilled and packed for delivery later in the day this is as close to an old school cottage industry as you can get.
It is really heart warming to see that the local food movement is alive and kicking in our county.
For orders email Carolyn at Carras.firstname.lastname@example.org
Currently this business does not have a website, Facebook page or twitter feed.