Small shortcrust case filled with sweet mincemeat and usually dusted with sugar. Open or closed, often decoratd on the top. A winter treat. Now almost always round, mince pies were formerly made in a huge variety of highly decorative shapes (Moxon 1764, Acton 1845, etc)
Although 'Mince Pie' for a pie of savoury minced meat is known from the ancient times, the modern form of sweet mince pie is known only since about 1610, as in this from Pepys Diary for 6 Jan. 1662; "We have, besides a good chine of beef and other good cheer, eighteen mince-pies in a dish, the number of the years that he hath been married.". This and other references, make it clear that sweet mince pies have always been tiny.
Were mince pies once banned? Find out here...
'Mr Mince-Pie, the MP for Christmas',
from Punch December 30, 1893
Original Receipt in 'The Country Housewife and Lady's Director' by Prof. R Bradley, 1728 (Bradley 1728)
To make minc'd Pyes, or Christmas-Pyes. From Mrs. M. C.
Take an Ox-Heart, and parboil it, or a Neat's-Tongue, boil'd without drying or salting, or the Inside of a Surloin of Beef; chop this small, and put to each Pound two Pounds of clean Beef-Suet, cleaned of the Skins and Blood, and chop that as small as the former; then pare, and take the Cores out of eight large Apples, and chop them small, grate then a Two-penny-Loaf; and then add two or three Nutmegs grated, half an Ounce of fresh Cloves, as much Mace, a little Pepper and Salt, and a Pound and a half of Sugar; then grate in some Lemon and Orange-Peel, and squeeze the Juice of six Oranges, and two Lemons, with half a Pint of Sack, and pour this into the Mixture. Take care to put in two Pounds of Currans to every Pound of Meat, and mix it well; then try a little of it over the Fire, in a Sauce-pan, and as it tastes, so add what you think proper to it: put this in an earthen glaz'd Pan, and press it down, and you may keep it till Candlemas, if you make it at Christmas.
A Mince Pie
Image: Kevin Spencer
Original Receipt in 'The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy' by Hannah Glasse, 1747 (Glasse 1747);
To Make Mince-Pies the Best Way.
TAKE three pounds of suet shred very fine, and chopped as small as possible; two pounds of raisins stoned and chopped as fine as possible; two pounds of currants 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, two large nutmegs, all beat fine; put all together into a great pan, and mix it well together with half 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 soup plate, lay a very thin crust all over it, lay a thin layer of meat, and then a thin layer of citron cut very thin, then a layer of mince-meat, and a layer of orange-peel cut thin, over that a little meat, squeeze half the juice of a fine Seville orange or lemon, lay on your crust, and bake it nicely. These pie eat finely cold. If you make them in little patties, mix your meat and sweet-meats accordingly. If you chuse meat in your pies, parboil a neats' tongue, peel it, and chop the meat as fine as possible, and mix with the rest; or two pounds of the inside of a sirloin of beef boiled. But you must double the quantity of fruit when you use meat.
Original Receipt from 'A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes' by Charles Elmé Francatelli (Francatelli 1846)
No. 100. A CHEAP KIND OF MINCE-MEAT.
Ingredients, eight ounces of stoned raisins, eight ounces of washed and dried currants, one pound of tripe, one pound of apples, one pound of chopped suet, four ounces of shred candied peel, one pound of moist sugar, one ounce of allspice, the juice and the chopped rind of three lemons, half a gill of rum. First chop the raisins, currants, apples, and the tripe all together, or separately, until well mixed; then place these in a pan, add the remainder of the ingredients, mix them thoroughly until well incorporated with each other; put the mince-meat into a clean dry stone jar, tie some thick paper, or a piece of bladder over the top, and keep it in a cool place till wanted for use.
No. 101. MINCE-PIE PASTE.
Ingredients, one pound of flour, eight ounces of butter or lard, three gills of water, half an ounce of salt, a tea-spoonful of baking-powder. Place the flour on the table, hollow out a hole or well in the centre with your fist, place the salt and baking-powder in this, add the water and the butter, work all together lightly with the fingers, without positively absorbing or entirely uniting the butter with the flour, but, on the contrary, keeping the butter in distinct pieces here and there; then roll up the paste in the form of a ball of dough, spread it out on the floured table, and, with a rolling-pin, roll it out to the extent of eighteen inches in length, by eight inches wide; then fold the paste in three equal folds, roll it out the reverse way, fold it up again as before, and after repeating the rolling out and folding up a third time, the paste will be ready for use.
No. 102. TO MAKE A MINCE-PIE.
Having prepared the paste according to the directions given in the foregoing Number, divide it in two equal parts, roll these out either round or square, place one of the flats on a tin baking-dish, wet all round the edge of the paste, spread some of the mince-meat about half an inch thick all over the paste to within an inch of its edge, then cover all in by laying the other flat of paste evenly upon the whole, press all round the edge of the pie with your thumb to secure the mince-meat from running out at the sides, score the pie neatly over the surface, in the form of reversed strokes, and bake it for an hour.
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