Happily Ever Christmas Afters – Lover Of Creating Mincemeat

Happily Ever Christmas Afters – Lover Of Creating Mincemeat

In the run up to the big event, we are going to be filling our Happily Ever Afters kitchen with the smells and flavours of Christmas. We’re not going to be advising about cooking turkeys or how long the sprouts need to be on for, we’ll just be sharing our favourite things. When we talked about some of our favourite smells and flavours around the festive season we both agreed that mincemeat had to be up first. Caro’s dearest Mama made the most sumptuous melt in the mouth mince pies, as did my very own darling Grandmother. We both have fond memories of them both making mincemeat and of course tasting the results. Here is our own homage to a wonderful British Christmas tradition with a twist, of course.

Mincemeat originally developed as a means of preserving meat without salting or smoking it about  500 years ago in England. Mince pies are still considered an essential accompaniment to Christmas dinners together with the traditional Christmas pudding. This pie is a remnant of a medieval tradition of spiced meat dishes, usually minced mutton, that have survived because of their association with Christmas festivities.  Nowadays, we eat mince pie as a dessert, but actually “minced” pie and its follow-up “mincemeat pie” began as a main course dish with with more meat than fruit (a mixture of meat, dried fruits, and spices).  As fruits and spices became more plentiful in the 17th century, the spiciness of the pies increased exponentially.

The Christmas mince pie became a tradition when the Crusaders returned from the Holy Land. They brought home a wide variety of oriental spices. It was considered important to add three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) to food to represent the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi. In honour of Christ’s birth, the mince pie was originally made in oblong casings (coffin or cradle shaped), with a place for the Christ Child to be placed on top.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 pies were not very large, and it was thought lucky to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas (ending with Epiphany, the 6th of January). Gradually, over the years, the pies grew smaller, the shape of the pie was gradually changed from oblong to round, and the meat content was reduced until the pies were simply filled with a mixture of suet, spices and dried fruit, steeped in brandy. This filling was put into little pastry cases that were covered with pastry lids and then baked in an oven, basically,  today’s English mince pie.

In 1657,  Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), the self-proclaimed Lord Protector of England from 1649 until 1658, who detested Christmas as a pagan holiday abolished Christmas. In London, soldiers were ordered to remove, by force if necessary, food being cooked for a Christmas celebration. The traditional mincemeat pie was banned. Mince pies, sometimes known as shred or secrets pies, were made in eccentric shapes, maybe to originally hide the fact that they were actually mince pies which were banned during the Christmas celebration in England, and possibly the tradition just continued well into the seventeenth century. Thankfully, King Charles II (1630-1685) restored Christmas when he ascended the throne in 1660 but what a miserable curmudgeon Cromwell was! Sadly, his Puritan influence spread across the Atlantic ocean to American British Colonies, and many towns of New England went so far as to actually ban mincemeat pies at Christmas time and Christmas itself was banned in Boston from 1659 to 1681. Those celebrating it were fined.

Ingredients

  • In the run up to the big event, we are going to be filling our Happily Ever Afters kitchen with the smells and flavours of Christmas. We’re not going to be advising about cooking turkeys or how long the sprouts need to be on for, we’ll just be sharing our favourite things. When we talked about some of our favourite smells and flavours around the festive season we both agreed that mincemeat had to be up first. Caro’s dearest Mama made the most sumptuous melt in the mouth mince pies, as did my very own darling Grandmother. We both have fond memories of them both making mincemeat and of course tasting the results. Here is our own homage to a wonderful British Christmas tradition with a twist, of course.
  • Lover of Creating Mincemeat
  • Recipe
  • Ingredients
  • 3/4 pint of strong dry cider ( we used Thatchers)
  • 1 lb muscovado sugar
  • 1 lb Bramley apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spices
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger
  • A small pinch ground cloves
  • 12 oz currants
  • 12 oz raisins
  • 8 oz sultanas
  • 6 oz almonds, finely chopped
  • 3 oz hazelnuts, finely chopped
  • The zest and juice of an orange
  • The zest and juice of a lemon
  • 1/4 pint of dark rum
Read the whole recipe on Lover Of Creating Flavours