It’s the holiday season, and that means mince pies are back in stock in those brick-and-mortar stores as well as online. (For some strange reason, they become quite scarce during the rest of the year.)
Mince pie has been a holiday tradition for centuries, going back as far as the early 1400s and were served at the coronation of King Henry V of Britain in 1413. At that time, these pies actually were mince meat pies (such as chicken, pigeon, pheasant, rabbits, ox or lamb parts, and mutton) where the spices (brought back to Britain by the Medieval Crusaders) and dried fruits we are familiar with today were used to help preserve the meat in the pies (along with suet and brandy or rum). A variation of this pie was called the “Crib Pie,” oblong in shape and with a little pastry “Baby Jesus” in the middle of the top crust.
Since mince pies were associated with the Catholic religion and the British monarchy, when Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan, came to power around 1657, he banned them. When they were finally re-instituted, they were smaller sized, more of an individual portion for serving to guests, and renamed Wayfarer Pies.
How to Enjoy This Treat This Year
Those of you who have a lot of energy, time, and, most importantly, cooking talent will want to make your mince pies from scratch. Recipes abound online, or you may have one passed down to you through past generations. Nothing beats fresh baked anything during the holidays, but fresh mince pies are the best!
Others of us who want to take a shortcut and/or assure a better tasting filling (a testament to our low-level cooking skills) will use the pre-made kind. I tend to like the Robertsons Mincemeat, chock full of good things (a variety of fruits from apples, raisins, and sultanas, to candied orange and lemon peel, plus spices and other ingredients) and alcohol-free. But there are other equally good brands to suit any taste preference.
Of course, you can always go for the pre-made mini-mince pies. There are several brands to choose from:
- Quick ViewHoppers Mini Mince Pies —Made with rich fruit and delicious hot or cold. Their rich shortcrust pastry cases are filled with delicious mincemeat that are then dusted with sugar.
- Mr. Kipling’s Mince Pies — A decadent holiday treat. Buttery pastries filled with mincemeat, accented with sweet bits of glace cherry, and topped with a sprinkle of sugar. More about Mr. Kipling’s Cakes.
- Walkers Luxury Fruit Mince Tarts — A very traditional fruity and tangy filling make these a seasonal favorite. Leave one or two on a plate at the foot of the chimney as a thank you to Santa Claus for well-filled stockings. (See also The Story of Walkers) You might also try the special version with a touch of mellow Glenfiddich Whisky.
All of these are good either warmed up or cold and taste even better with a dollop of clotted cream or Devon cream. And don’t forget that steaming cup of tea to wash it all down!
See also: Prepping for the Holidays — Mince for All
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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