One of my favourite traditions of mid-winter is Mince Pies
but I do not eat them of the traditional recipe.
Not so long ago the current recipe of dried fruit and sometimes suet was not the standard. What is now the suet ingredient was once ground meat, mince, either of beef, lamb and even venison.
That may seem alarming, but really a mince pie was a treat prepared from a meat pie, rather than meat added to a dessert.
Going back to the medieval times of trade there would have been an active import of tropical fruits which would have also been dried to preserve them through the winter. As meats are and were often cooked with meats in tropical countries it was thought to be exotic to add some fruit to the meat mixtures of meat pies. In some ways this may have been thought of as a Christian celebration as these would have been imported fruits of the Holy Land.
However, before Christian times there was pastry baking and meat preparing. As Apples were regarded as sacred at this time it is likely that pies were made to combine meat with apples. Meat at this time would have also been preserved, just before Samhain, in forms much like bacon, jerky, black pudding and sausages are made today. It is likely that cooked with apples and their juice this preserved meat became tender again and worthy of being part of a feast.
One tradition of meat pies is that they are to be eaten in silence.
Where this tradition came from, or how old it is, I cannot tell
but I do know myself that when I start eating a mince pie,
the last thing I want to do is talk to someone.
Heres a lovely meat free recipe to make your own ....
8 cups finely chopped green tomatoes
4 cups finely chopped apples
3 cups raisins
? cup chopped candied mixed peel
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp allspice OR ground nutmeg
a little bit of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup apple juice or water
1/2 cup brandy (optional)
Combine all ingredients, except brandy, in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for two hours. Remove from heat, stir in brandy, allow to cool down, probably leave overnight to thicken.
Makes enough filling for about about 15 deep generous individual pies.
For pastry I cheat and buy frozen sheets of short, puff or flaky pastry.
I tend to make tarts rather than pies, which is actually an older tradition.