Pies for holiday feasting have long been a tradition. Often we'll have
more than one for the family to dine on. These may include apple,
pumpkin, lemon, chocolate cream, and for those who remember old-fashioned
Christmas meals - mincemeat pies.
By Mary Emma Allen
In my childhood, we couldn't purchase mincemeat in the store. It was
homemade consisting of chopped apples, raisins, perhaps some other dried
or candied fruit. However, the main ingredient was cooked beef.
Today's Mincemeat Mix
In these days of prepared mincemeat mixes, most American mince pies are
made without a scrap of meat. The cook who prepares her mince pies with
meat is indeed rare. But years ago, a cook's reputation could hung on
her mincemeat making ability.
A friend once gave me a recipe for making homemade mincemeat using
venison. She said the neck meat of the deer made some of the tastiest
mincemeat you could find.
An Early Holiday Food
Mincemeat is one of the oldest pie fillings and was esteemed as holiday
fare in the era of Henry VII, who proclaimed Christmas a day of feasting.
Back in the days of ancient Rome, the first type of mincemeat made its
appearance when Apicium, a Roman chef who wrote the first known cookbook,
preserved meat with honey.
This method of preserving meat, or retarding the growth of bacteria
causing spoilage, continued throughout the years when other cooks found
that meat could be kept for a number of months if it were mixed with
enough spices and sugar.
An Early Recipe
An early recipe for mincemeat pie was published in "The Good Hous-Wiues
Treasurie" by Edward Allde, in 1588. The recipe, "To Make Minst Pyes,"
called for meats and various cut-up fruits.
Allde also called for rosewater and cooked egg yolks in his recipe.
Then he baked the filling in a crust made with eggs as one of the
In another early English cookbook, "Minst Pye," a concoction of veal or
mutton, was combined with fruits and spices. Gradually cooks added
apples to the mincemeat. Some recipes called for ingredients such as
Seville oranges and red wine.
Pies in Many Shapes & Sizes
Some early mince pies were baked in the shape of a manger, and a replica
of the Christ Child was formed on the top crust. Through the years, the
pie shape became rectangular, then circular. Sometimes these early pies
weighed as much as 100 pounds.
In Elizabethan England, huge mince pies were made during the 12 days of
Christmas. Guests were offered a piece whenever they visited.
Mincemeat Ingredients Different in New World
The English colonists brought their mincemeat recipes with them to the
New World. Here it was made with the available ingredients. One early
recipe called for a filling of bear's meat, maple sugar, and dried
pumpkin baked in a cornmeal crust.
Later recipes included dried fruits, wheat flour for the crust, and
imported white sugar. During our colonial days, mincemeat pies were a
favorite dessert throughout the year, not just for the holidays.
For a very different mincemeat pie, try ICE CREAM MINCE PIE. Mix
together 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup melted butter or
margarine and press firmly into a greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 375
degrees F. for about 8 minutes; cool. Or use a prepared graham cracker
For the filling: Stir 1 quart vanilla ice cream to soften; mix in 1 cup
well drained mincemeat and 1/4 to 1/2 rum or brandy flavoring (if
desired). Spoon filling into pie crust and freeze until firm. Serve
with whipped topping and maraschino cherries.
(c)2000 Mary Emma Allen
About the Author
Mary Emma Allen has been writing food columns and articles for more
than 30 years. Her "Country Kitchen" column appears in print and online
publications. If you're interested in running it on a regular basis in
your publication, please contact her: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org;
or visit http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetene/mea
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