It doesn’t get more British than this! Once Christmas hits the fan, the English roll out mince pies in order to gain a lot of weight.
Along with the legendary Sunday roast dinner, this is about as Winter time sort of foodstuff tradition as it gets.
But how (and why) did this dessert pie become such a stirring part of Christmas traditions all around the world? Let’s have a gander.
What are Mince Pies?
Mince pies are a sweet pie made from pastry, with dried fruit and spices as the innards. This is the “mincemeat”.
The pies are typically lightly dusted with frosting or sugar and are sometimes served with mulled wine. The latter bit is up to you. Depends whether you’re a raging alcoholic or not, eh?
Anyway, traditionally you’ll have a mince pie by itself. You don’t serve it with custard or anything. Even though that’d be quite nice.
Generally, mince pies are consumed en masse during Christmas day and are one of those foodstuffs that quickly lead to dietary changes for New Year’s Resolutions.
This is because they’re very nice, just not very healthy. But don’t let that interfere with Christmas traditions, eh?
What’s the History of Mince Pies?
In previous generations, mince pies were also called “mutton pie”, “shrid pie” and “Christmas pie”.
Mince pies were around with those there various names long ago.
Shrid pies were popular during Tudor times (1485-1603) in England and were made from shredded meat, suet, and dried fruit. Spices were then added.
Now if you read Over the Edge of the World and Ferdinand Magellan’s hellish trek to try and get some spices, during the Age of Discovery you didn’t come by spices easily.
Anyway, the Tudors believed the mince pie idea came from the Roman tradition of Saturnalia. This is where spiced meats were presented to fathers.
During the Tudor era, shrid pies were pretty large and weren’t much like modern day mince pies.
And they were packed with quite a lot of meat. Beef tongue, gammon, and meat off the bone was a common addition.
But it wasn’t always easy sailing. During the English Civil War (1642-1651), mince pies were banned!
Puritans took a dim view of them and, as with hot cross buns, they were banned for a good old period of time.
Once available again, the pies continued to grow in popularity.
This carried on for some time into the Victorian era. Check out this little bastard from 1847, one William Henry Hunt about to enjoy his shrid pie.
By this point the recipe was spreading around the world, with North American variants around 1854 including beef tongue.
And over the decades, the pies became smaller and typically more focussed around zero meat and lots of sweet, dried fruits and spices.
Once the 20th century landed along with mass production, mass marketing, and upholding traditions, mince pies became integral to the Christmas experience.
You can buy the things any time of year, of course, but even with us it’s sort of intrinsically built into our brains to not eat mince pies except at Christmas.
Most Brits appear to agree. In 2011, Greggs shifted over seven million of the things during the Christmas run.
How to Make Mince Pies
Zomg, here he is again! It’s Sexiest Man Alive and total dreamboat Mr. Jamie Oliver! You better believe it.
If you want to make these things in the Victorian era way, then refer to the below video. The same applies for your traditional trifle.
But whatever, the ingredients you’ll need are as follows:
Mincemeat (raisins, currants, brown sugar, nutmeg, mixed spice, chopped apple)
1 large egg.
So yeah, you’ll need to make the bloody pastry and all that shizzles. Then jam the mincemeat into the bloody pastry, you hear!?
Then bake the things until they’re as golden as a golden goose. Or some such.
Making Good Old-Fashioned Good Old Days Mince Pies
Now, back in the good old days when racism and sexism where socially acceptable and encouraged, you did add meat to mince pies.
This returns us to Friends and that episode where Rachel adds beef to a traditional English trifle. Well, her recipe is based in some truth.
Mince pies had spiced beef in them. And why the heck not? Unless you’re a vegan. Then it would have been a problem.
But whatever. That was Victorian days and now we’re all WOKE and we can’t even bloody well have meat in pies no more because of lefties. *mumble grumble*
Oh, except for all those pies that do have meat in them. And pasties. But that undermines the argument, so best not mention that.