LIFESTYLE NEWS - Filled with a mixture of fruits and spices called “mincemeat”, mince pies are traditionally served over the Christmas festive season in many English-speaking countries around the world.
The ingredients of mince pies can be traced to the crusades from Europe to the Holy Land. Crusaders returned with recipes from the Middle East which often combined meats, fruits and spices.
Mincemeat pies, initially made with minced mutton, became popular in Britain more than 500 years ago.
Mincing meat developed as a way of preserving meat without salting, curing, smoking or drying it. These pies were quite large and filled with a mixture of finely minced mutton, beef, rabbit, pork or game; suet; chopped fruit; a preserving liquid; and spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
As fruits and spices became more varied and plentiful from the 17th century, the spiciness of the pies increased.
Mince pies were originally known as ‘mutton pies’, ‘minched pies’, ‘Christmas pies’ or ‘shrid pies’ – which refers to the shredded suet used to make the pie dough.
The tradition of eating Christmas pies continued through to the Victorian era, but by then they had become sweeter and much smaller.
The traditional meat filling fell from grace in the late 19th century with fruits, suet and spices taking over as the main ingredients. Sugar had become cheaper and more easily available, which also contributed to sweet pies becoming more popular.
And it is still a tradition in the UK that children leave out mince pies for Father Christmas by the fireplace, often with a glass of whisky or brandy.