'Hagged sheep meat': The pie you’ll only find in the South Island

Travel News from Stuff - 01-05-2023 stuff.co.nz

It’s said that you never forget your first bite of a mutton pie.

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Unlike the regular pie filling of rich and silky gravy concealed in pastry, the interior of a mutton pie is a dense slab of minced meat moulded into the shape of a cricket ball. The block of meat paste is spicy, sweet, greasy and might just leave drippings all over your clothing.

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In a moment of last-minute panic in the heart of Central Otago, I opted for the unconventional snack and found that it is not only delicious but the perfect stomach filler for a long, hard day behind the wheel.

Officially called a Scotch pie, these traditional double-crust pies were originally brought to the southern reaches of New Zealand by Scottish settlers.

The filling of minced mutton, any sheep older than two years, offers a fattier and gamey alternative to lamb.

It is traditionally seasoned with spices including basil, marjoram and oregano, then formed into a lump and cooked in the casing during the baking process. In Scotland they are deep-fried.

Stop into any bakery or tearoom south of Christchurch and you’ll likely encounter this dense hand-held delight in the warming cabinet.

McGregor’s Bakery in Palmerston is well known for its creations, describing its cabinet offering as “juicy mutton seasoned with spices and surrounded in short crust pastry.”

Jimmy’s Pies serves reliable mutton pies from its outpost in Roxburgh, as well as its famous mince and cheese.

Further south in Invercargill, Fat Bastard Pies' mutton pie is said to be one of the best in the country.

Co-owner Simon Owen says the key to a good mutton pie is, “A solid core of hearty hagged sheep meat, with fat dripping out, running down your forearm, and staining your new tan trousers.”

In anticipation of the spillage, Owen recommends wearing a poncho “as appropriate attire,” when taking that first bite into a mutton pie.

Why mutton pies have never properly made the jump across Cook Strait is a great mystery.

In the same way that the pāua pie is native to the North Island, the regional exclusivity of the mutton creation comes down to the greater supply of sheep and the local appetite.

While mutton pies are best eaten in their natural environment and hot from the oven, those in the North Island can still experience the delicacy. Fat Bastard’s pie subscription delivers chilled boxes of fresh pies every month anywhere in the country.

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