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top ten Mince
Pie history

Top 10 Things to know about Mince Pie:

  1. The Medieval mince pie was known as the Christmas pie.

  2. It contained suet, spices, fruit, leftover different cuts of meat, and was part of the main meal.

  3. It may be made with leftover meat, but at the finest tables they used frankincense, myrrh, and gold (which was treated as a condiment and a decoration) for the spices.

  4. If you were poor, well, you wouldn’t have used pastry, but an unleavened bread.

  5. The pies weren’t small, but one large oval shaped pie that was transformed into a crib for a pastry baby Jesus.

  6. And it was unlucky to cut the pie with a knife because it’s the baby Jesus’ crib, so traditionally a spoon or hand was used.

  7. First bite was given to the youngest child present who would make a wish.

  8. The Puritans in the 17th Century disapproved of the pies, and changed the shape to round, made them smaller, got rid of baby Jesus…and the name from Christmas pie to mince pie.

  9. By the late nineteenth century, meat was removed, the pie was no longer the main dish, most of the spices were removed, and sugar was added for that treat (that I still love).

  10. But some traditions have remained: To ensure good luck, one mince pie is to be eaten on each of the twelve days of Christmas at a different house. And remember it’s okay to eat one bite, but bad luck if you refuse!

(If you want more Medieval Christmas Traditions read: Jackson, Sophie. The Medieval Christmas . The History Press).


Mince Pie Recipe

I've never made this. I cheat with bought pastry and jarred modern mince and bake it in muffin tins (with added orange peel and nutmeg). But if you're curious:

Makes 24 little mince pies or 1 large one

For the Pastry 225g/8o suet 450g/1lb plain flour Pinch of salt


For the Filling

225g/8oz mixed meat (beef, pork and lamb)

1 tablespoon coriander, chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, chopped

2 big cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons brown sugar

11⁄2 teaspoons cumin

Salt and pepper

11⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons mixed fruit

1 small onion, chopped

1 carrot,  chopped

2 tablespoons red wine

1. Place the suet in a saucepan with a covering of water. Put on a high heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour and salt. Mix together well to form dough. Leave to cool but make sure it does not dry out; if this occurs, add more water in small quantities.

2. Once cool enough to handle, roll out the pastry. Use cutters of two sizes to cut out bases and lids for the pies (depending on the size of the cutters, you will get different quantities of pies). This recipe uses one 8cm/31⁄4in round cutter for the base and one 6cm/21⁄2in round cutter for the lid. Different shapes could be used to create unusual lids, such as star-shaped ones. Grease and flour baking tins for small pies and fit the bases into them. If making a large mince pie, use a shallow oval dish and line with pastry.

3. Mix together the pork, beef and lamb so you have a quantity of minced meat weighing 225g/1⁄2lb. Add to this the chopped coriander, ginger and garlic and mix together thoroughly. At the same time combine the brown sugar, cumin, salt and pepper and cinnamon.

4. Layer the ingredients into the pastry cases. Start with a layer of the meat mixture, then add the mixed fruit, onion, carrot and the sugar mixture. Spread the filling evenly between the pies without overfilling them and then pour a teaspoon of wine over each one. 5. Wet the edges of the cases with cold water and fit the tops, gently pushing them into place. Make a hole in the top and brush the lids of the pies with beaten egg. 6. Bake in a preheated oven 220°/fan 195°C/gas mark 6 for between 20 and 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Variation For a slightly different version, prepare the same meat mixture with coriander, ginger and garlic but then layer that with 2 tablespoons of mixed fruit, 2 tablespoons of red wine and 3 tablespoons of red Leicester cheese. (This is an updated version of the original Christmas pie, based on a recipe by the WDA Food Directorate and used with their kind permission.)

From: Jackson, Sophie. The Medieval Christmas . The History Press.  

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