The Chronicles of Mince Pies
Christmas and mince pies are undeniably synonymous. Once a year, these seemingly dividing treats appear on shop shelves the globe over and undoubtedly segregate the population. Mince pies have been both adored and detested amongst the people of the world for centuries. Love them or hate them, they have a pretty interesting history, and if you think you don’t like them now, try a mince pie from 400 years ago.
The History of Mince Pies
We’ve got the low down and the know-how on everything you need to know about your favourite (or worst) Christmas treat.
Long Live the Mince Pie
Let’s start by dissecting the name ‘Mince Pie’. More obvious than expected, the name is derived from the fact that mince pies actually used to be filled with a stomach-curdling combo of ground meat, suet (visceral cow fat) and the usual suspects found in mince pies today. Pretty grim right?
Back in the 1600s, folks in Europe adopted Middle Eastern food practices, which combined minced meats like beef, mutton or lamb with suet, spices and dried fruit to make these troublesome creations. Back then they were known as ‘shrid pies’ or ‘Christmas pies’.
The common spices were the flavours we know in mince pie today like nutmeg, cinnamon and clove and the dried fruits were much the same with raisins, sultanas, currants, dates, cranberries and orange peel.
Back then, mince pies were not baked into the sugary bite-sized shapes they are today. Rather, they were fashioned into an enormous oblong shaped pastry rumoured to reflect the shape of baby Jesus’ manger.
Also known as ‘coffin’ pie crust – which, with all those funky ingredients, is quite aptly named if you ask me.
Pennies over Pies
In this bizarre culinary period of the 16-, 17- and 1800s, having mince pie at your Christmas party meant that you were fairly important and well-off (who knew mince pies were a sign of wealth, right?). This may seem pretty strange but this actually has some meaning.
Mince pies in extravagant shapes and sizes were often a sign that you had enough money to hire a dang good pastry chef. The more elaborately sized and decorated your mince pies, the more dough you had in your pocket and your kitchen.
The Modern Mince Pie
Today, we find our mince pies sprinkled with sugar and neatly parcelled in round, easy-to-bite shapes with no funny meat business and we’re pretty happy with that. Suet, however, is still a relatively common ingredient in many pastries, but who doesn’t like a little bit of fat?
If you’re making your own mince pies, they are without doubt best eaten within minutes of coming out of the oven whilst they’re still warm and comforting.
If you have store-bought mince pies, you can eat those straight out the tray/box, which is probably the most common way to munch on a mince pie but even those benefit from a few mins in a hot oven. Alternatively, you can warm them up in the microwave and serve with a dollop of cream (are you drooling yet?).
Be warned though, microwaves are not kind to pastry and you’re better off using the oven.
How We Eat Mince Pies
We like to take our mince pie snacking to the next level and shake things up a bit. Here are our favourite mince pie recipes to date that you can make at home.
Fruit Mince Pie No-Churn Ice Cream
We disassemble store-bought mince pies and layer them into our homemade no-churn vanilla ice cream for a summery Christmas dessert.
Christmas Mince Pie Baked Alaska
We dress our mince pies up with a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream topped with golden baked meringue and spun sugar for some added festive pizzazz.
Berry Christmas Mince Pies
This homemade mince pie is solely dedicated to berries. Swap out the classic dried fruit combo for a selection of dried strawberries, cranberries and currants.
Ultimate Christmas Mince Tart
If you love mince pies as much as we do, then you’re going to love this epic creation which packs all the classic flaves of mince pie into a family sized tart.
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