Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Mincemeat Pie


Even though generations have been mincing meat for pies it seems most people know little about this very old Christmas tradition.
According to the food historians, mincemeat pie dates back to Medieval times and the recipe not only included meat, it also often contained dried fruits, sugar, and spices.

Middle Ages and into Renaissance times and beyond it was commonplace to spice up the meat with dried fruit, and it seems likely that the earliest mincepies contained a generous measure of such raisins and currants..

The earliest type of mincemeat pie was a small medieval pastry called a chewette, which was a combination of chopped meat of liver, or fish on fast days, mixed with chopped hard-boiled egg and ginger.
This might be baked or fried. It became usual to enrich the filling with dried fruit and other sweet ingredients.
By the 16th century minced or shred pies, were a Christmas specialty.

From 1747, here's a recipe to make Mince-Pies.

Take three Pounds of Suet shread very fine, and chopped as small as possible.
Two Pounds of Raisins stoned, and chopped as fine as possible.
Two Pounds of Currans, nicely picked, washed, rubbed, and dried at the Fire.
Half a hundred of fine Pippins, pared, cored, and chopped small.
Half a Pound of fine Sugar pounded fine.
A quarter of an Ounce of Mace.
A quarter of an Ounce of Cloves
A Pint of Brandy, and half a pint of Sack; put it down close in a Stone-pot, and it will keep good four Months.
When you make your Pies, take a little Dish, something bigger than a Soop-plate, lay a very thin Crust all over it, lay a thin Layer of Meat, and then a thin Layer of Cittron cut very thin, then a Layer of Mince meat, and a thin Layer of Orange-peel cut think over that a little Meat; squeeze half the Juice of a fine Sevile Orange, or Lemon, and pour in three Spoonfuls of Red Wine; lay on your Crust, and bake it nicely. These Pies eat finely cold. If you make them in little Patties, mix your Meat and Sweet-meats accordingly.
For your Pies, parboil a Neat's Tongue, peel it, and chop the Meat as finely as possible, and mix with the rest; or two Pounds of the Inside of a Surloin or Beef Boiled.

Mincemeat was developed as a way of preserving meat without having to salt or smoke  500 years ago.
In England,  mince pies are still  an essential tradition to holiday dinners just like the traditional plum pudding.
This pie has a a medieval tradition of spiced meat dishes, usually minced mutton, that have survived because of its association with Christmas.
This pies have also been known as Christmas Pies.
Mince pie as part of the Christmas table had long been an English custom.

The 11th Century The Christmas pie came to be at the time when the Crusaders came back from the Holy Land.
They brought home a variety of oriental spices. It was important to add three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) for the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi.
To show respect  to the the birth of the Savior, the mince pie was originally made in an cradle shaped casings, with a place for the Christ Child to be placed on top.
The baby was removed by the children and the manger (pie) was eaten in celebration.

These small pies were thought to bring luck if you would eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas (ending with Epiphany, the 6th of January).

As the years passed, the pies became smaller, the shape of the pie was gradually changed from oblong to round, and the meat content was gradually reduced until the pies were simply filled with a mixture of suet, spices and dried fruit, previously steeped in brandy. This filling was put into little pastry cases that were covered with pastry lids and then baked in an oven.
Today, this is the this is the English mince pie.
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), the self-appointed Lord Protector of England from 1649 until 1658, hated Christmas, and thought of it as a pagan holiday that encouraged gluttony and drunkenness.
Oliver Cromwell's Puritan Council abolished Christmas on December 22, 1657.
In London, soldiers were ordered to go round the streets and take, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration.
The smell of a mincemeat pie or goose being cooked would bring trouble, Cromwell considered such things as a guilty, forbidden pleasure.
As a result, the traditional mincemeat pie was banned. King Charles II (1630-1685) restored Christmas when he ascended the throne in 1660.

Today, we think of mince pie as a dessert, but actually "minced" pie and the "mincemeat pie" started out as a main course dish with with more meat than fruit.
But as fruits and spices became more available in the 17th century, the fruit increased in the pies and eventually became a fruit pie.