Mince Pies like Christmas pudding were originally filled with meat, most usually lamb, although beef, veal and goose have also been used.
The origin of the ingredients goes back to the 13th century and the crusades when pilgrims and crusaders went to the Middle East and experienced food which combined meats, fruits and spices. For Christians this unusual combination represented the gifts given to the baby Christ by the biblical Magi and accounts for the original shapes of the pies being oval or oblong like a manger, sometimes with a representation of the baby Jesus on the top. During Stuart and Georgian times they became a means of winning friends and impressing people and came in a range of interesting shapes like stars, hearts and flowers, sometimes even fitting together like a jigsaw or a knot garden. Pastry cooks of fancy festive treats became very sought after and expensive.
Known by various names over the years, most commonly the Christmas Pie, they were banned at the time of the civil war during the mid 17th century as a reflection of Catholic Idolatry and unfit to occupy the plate of a clergyman. In an essay published in The Gentleman’s Magazine the popularity of the ‘Christmas Pye’ being perhaps to the ‘ barrenness of the season’ and the scarcity of fruits and milk. The author of the article also refers to the Quakers who objected to the treat as an invention of ‘the scarlet whore of Babylon, a Hodge-Podge of Superstition, Popery, the Devil and all his works.’
Frankly I feel they may not have tried mince pies with clotted cream or Brandy Butter, these two additions may well have quelled their objections. As one who was raised by a catering lecturer, I must confess that I have had more mince pies and petit fours than hot dinners, although they also featured high on my mother’s dinner/lunch repertoire. Raised on the college restaurant surplus and demonstration visual aids I still appreciate a really good mince pie. This year with my mother having retired some many years a go I will be sampling the Christmas delights of Loafley – their Frangipane mince pie being a culinary delight par excellence – what a combo!!!
Ps Mum, I still love you x
If you eat a mince pie on every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (5th January) you will have happiness for the next 12 months! (Well according the tradition of the middle ages)
Canned mince pie filling during Prohibition-era Chicago saw its alcohol levels spike to more than 14%
Don’t forget to leave one out for Father Christmas along with the carrot for the reindeer! OO and the brandy…for father Christmas not the reindeer…