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The humble mince pie has had a rather hard time of it. This tiny little Christmas delicacy has been associated with Catholic idolatry and was actually banned by the puritans during the English Civil War…and it’s only a pie!

I always wondered why it was called a ‘mince’ pie, mince for me has always been meat, minced beef for instance…most confusing for my young self. According to Gervase Markham (which is way back in 1615) you would use ‘Mutton, and cut the best of the flesh from the bone, and parboyl it well then put to it three pound of the best Mutton suet & shred it very small’ andSalt Cloves and Mace’ withgood store of Currants, great Raisins and Prunes clean washed and picked a few Dates sliced, and some Orange-pils sliced’. 

But to return to our present, well Victorian present…er…past we turn again to Mrs Beeton.


INGREDIENTS – Good puff-paste No. 1205, mincemeat No. 1309.

Mode.—Make some good puff-paste by recipe No. 1205; roll it out to the thickness of about 1/4 inch, and line some good-sized pattypans with it; fill them with mincemeat, cover with the paste, and cut it off all round close to the edge of the tin. Put the pies into a brisk oven, to draw the paste up, and bake for 25 minutes, or longer, should the pies be very large; brush them over with the white of an egg, beaten with the blade of a knife to a stiff froth; sprinkle over pounded sugar, and put them into the oven for a minute or two, to dry the egg; dish the pies on a white d’oyley, and serve hot. They may be merely sprinkled with pounded sugar instead of being glazed, when that mode is preferred. To re-warm them, put the pies on the pattypans, and let them remain in the oven for 10 minutes or 1/4 hour, and they will be almost as good as if freshly made.

Mince Meat Recipe:

INGREDIENTS – 2 lbs. of raisins, 3 lbs. of currants, 1–1/2 lb. of lean beef, 3 lbs. of beef suet, 2 lbs. of moist sugar, 2 oz. of citron, 2 oz. of candied lemon-peel, 2 oz. of candied orange-peel, 1 small nutmeg, 1 pottle of apples, the rind of 2 lemons, the juice of 1, 1/2 pint of brandy.

Mode.—Stone and cut the raisins once or twice across, but do not chop them; wash, dry, and pick the currants free from stalks and grit, and mince the beef and suet, taking care that the latter is chopped very fine; slice the citron and candied peel, grate the nutmeg, and pare, core, and mince the apples; mince the lemon-peel, strain the juice, and when all the ingredients are thus prepared, mix them well together, adding the brandy when the other things are well blended; press the whole into a jar, carefully exclude the air, and the mincemeat will be ready for use in a fortnight. Mrs beeton’s book of household management 1861

or from Cassell’s Dictionary of cookery you can take you pick of several recipes.

Mincemeat, Old fashioned.
Take a pound of beef, a pound of apples, two pounds of suet, two pounds of sugar, two pounds of currants, one pound of candied lemon or orange peel, a quarter of a pound of citron, and an ounce of fine spices; mix all these together, with half an ounce of salt, and the rinds of six lemons shred fine. See that the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, and add brandy or wine according to taste.” 

Mincemeat Royal.
To an ounce of clarified butter add the yolks of four eggs, and beat in two table-spoonfuls of pounded sugar, with the grated rind and strained jice of a large lemon. Mix these ingredients with half a large lemon. Mix these ingredients with half a pound of rich mincemeat, without beef, and nearly fill the patty-pans with the mixture. Put them into a moderately quick oven to set. Ice them with the whites of the eggs, previously beaten to snow, with a quarter of a pound of pounded laof sugar, and place them in the oven again until they are of a nice rich brown.” 

Mincemeat and Mince Pies.
Take four pounds of raisins stoned, and four pounds of currants, washed lean, four pounds of apples, six pounds of suet, and half a fresh ox-tongue boiled, half a pound of candied orange-peel, ditto lemon, and a quarter of a pound of citron, all chopped; the juice of three oranges and three lemons, with the peel of two grated; half a pound of moist sugar, two glasses of brandy, two of sherry, one nutmeg grated, a spoonful of pounded cinnamon, and half an ounce of salt. Mix all these well together, put the whole into jars, and keep them tied over the bladder. A little of this mixture baked in tart-pans with puff-paste forms mince pies.

Or peel, core, and chop finely a pound of sound russet apples, wash and pick a pound of raisins, and let both these be chopped small. Then take away the skin and gristle from a pound of roast beef, and carefully pick a pound of beef-suet; chop these well together. Cut into small pieces three quarters of a pound of mixed candied orange, citron, and lemon-peel; let all these be well stirred together in a large pan. Beat or grind into powder a nutmeg, half an ounce of ginger, and a quarter of an ounce of cloves, the same of allspice and coriander-seeds; add half an ounce of salt, and put these into the pan, mixing them thoroughly. Grate the rinds of three lemons, and squeeze the juice over half a pound of fine Lisbon sugar, mixed with the lemon-peel; pour over this two gills of brandy and half a pint of sherry. Let these ingredients be well stirred, then cover the pan with a slate; and when bout to use the mincemeat take it from the bottom of the pan.

Or, to make mince pies without meat, carefully prepare, as before directed, a pound an a half of fresh beef-suet, and chop it as small as possible; stone and chop a pound and a half of Smyrna raisins; well wash and dry on a coarse with two pounds of currants; peel, core, and cut small three pounds of russet apples; add a quarter of an ounce of mixed cinnamon and mace in powder, four cloves powdered, a pound an a half of powdered sugar, a tea-spoonful of salt, the juice of a lemon and its peel finely grated, and a table-spoonful of mixed candied fruit cut very small. Let all the above be well mixed together, and remain in the pan a few days. When you are about to make mince pies, throw a gill of brandy and the same of port wine into the pan, and stir together the mince. Line the required number of patty-pans with properly-made paste; fill from the bottom of the pan; cover, and bake quickly.” Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery 1883