The History of Mince Pies And Two Delicious Recipes
Mincemeat pies are an English holiday tradition that has been around since the 15th century. However, this old-time tradition is virtually unknown to many in our modern era, especially those that live in the U.S. To shed some light on this quintessential English delicacy, we thought it would be fun to learn how it came about and why it is associated with Christmas.
What is a Mincemeat Pie?
Mince literally means “small” in Latin. Thus, mincemeat refers to finely chopped meat. Mincemeat pies are typically filled with a mixture of diced up fruit, cooked meats, and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Nowadays, the pies are often cooked without meat and instead primarily use fruit soaked in brandy. Traditionally, they were made into large pies, some even in the shape of a rectangle known as “coffins.” However, now they are often baked into bite size pies. Mincemeat pies can be found on store shelves and in bakeries during the holidays throughout the British Isles and other English speaking countries (aside from the U.S.).
Religion and Mincemeat
It is said that the idea of mincemeat originated from the Middle East where meats were spiced with both sweet and savory flavors. Crusaders during the 12th century returned home to Europe with Middle Eastern recipes that included meat, fruits, and spices. After centuries of alterations, this mincemeat mixture ended up in pie shells and became a rich delicacy eaten primarily during celebratory events such as Christmas. Some “Christmas pies” were filled with decadent ingredients such as beef suet, boiled pork, mutton, rabbit, stewed bird, egg, cheese, sugar, saffron, salt, citrus fruits, currants, and spices. These lavish pies were seen as gluttonous and even idolatrous by Puritans. There came a point in British history where Oliver Cromwell and his religiously strict government banned the pies from England as part of their crackdown on lavish celebrations. Thankfully, the ban on mincemeat pies and other celebratory treats was lifted after the fall of Cromwell’s government and King Charles II took over. When the Puritans came to the Americas, they did not want to associate the so-called Catholic tradition of mincemeat pies with Christmas. Instead, the pies found their way into their Thanksgiving celebrations.
How Can I try a Mincemeat Pie?
If you would like to try the old fashioned version with cooked meats, we found a fun 19th century recipe on Wikipedia for you to give a go at. If not, there is also a meat free recipes below. Bon Appetit!
19th Century Mincemeat Pie Recipe
2 lbs raisins
3 lbs currants
1 1⁄2 lbs lean beef
3 lbs beef suet
2 lbs moist sugar
2 oz citron
2 oz candied lemon peel
2 oz candied orange peel
1 small nutmeg
1 pottle of apples
the rind of two lemons, the juice of one
1⁄2 pint brandy
Stone and cut the raisins once or twice across, but do not chop them; wash, dry and pick the currants free from stalks and grit, and mince the beef and suet, taking care the latter is chopped very fine; slice the citron and candied peel, grate the nutmeg, and pare, core and mince the apples; mince the lemon peel, strain the juice and when all the ingredients are thus prepared, mix them well together, adding the brandy when the other things are well blended; press the whole into a jar, carefully exclude the air, and the mincemeat will be ready for use in a fortnight. Source: Wikipedia
Mom’s Mincemeat Pies
Prep Time Total: 3 hours 15 mins Serves: 8
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup currants
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 Granny Smith apple—unpeeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup brandy
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
Make the crust In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the flour with 1/4 cup of ice water until a paste forms. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour with the shortening, butter and salt, cutting in the shortening and butter until pea-size pieces form. Add the flour paste and gently knead until the dough just comes together. Pat into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the filling In a large saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except the rum and brandy. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and the apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the rum and brandy and let cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Cut the dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out each half into a 12-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fit 1 round into a 9-inch pie plate. Spread the filling in the pie shell, then top with the remaining dough round. Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch, then tuck the top edge under the bottom edge and crimp decoratively.
Glaze and bake the pie Brush the pie with the melted butter and drizzle over the milk. Sprinkle with the sugar and make 8 small slits in the top. Set the pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, until the crust is golden. Transfer the pie to a rack to cool completely.
The filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. The baked pie can be stored at room temperature overnight.