And All Things Nice
It’s usually the first sign of Christmas when mince pies become available in the shops and our annual tradition starts of doing a taste test of pretty much every brand
Every year the media run their polls and predict which are this year’s favourite, but it’s all down to personal preference. There seems to be a marmite relationship with mince pies, some prefer them hot with cream or ice cream, or cold with a brew or a glass of hot mulled wine and some just don’t like them at all and with the big brands to the smaller local producers making their own variations, (some with secret recipes), either factory or hand-made, a taste test is probably the best way of finding out your favourites.
The mince pie has been around for centuries and has got quite a history, with the ingredients also changing over the years. They actually date back to the middle ages, when they were seen as a luxury to have over the festive season and they were savoury, filled with meat such as lamb or pigeon, spices and alcohol to preserve them, rather than the fruit it has today. They also weren’t round, with many being oval shaped with reports suggesting it was to represent a cradle or a coffin. An alleged custom from that period says that if you eat a mince pie on every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night, you will have happiness for the next 12 months. Worth a try!
It was said that King Henry V was served mince pies as part of his coronation celebrations, which took place in 1413. Mince pies also became associated with Catholicism. During the Puritan era, Oliver Cromwell’s parliament made many attempts to ban Christmas, and all the food and festivities that went with it. On 24th December 1652, parliament proclaimed, ‘no observance shall be had of the five and twentieth day of December, commonly called Chyristmas [sic] day’ and mince pies were subsequently restored along with the monarchy.
Things had settled down by the 1800s and a recipe listed from 1788 which included suet, fat, currents, peel, apples, spices, brandy and sugar, isn’t too far from what we eat today. Who would have thought that the humble mince pie caused such a stir over the years?
For local bakeries Christmas is probably one of the busiest times of the year. For Booths and its supplier Bells of Lazonby, more than one million mince pies were made for its customers. Lathams of Broughton is another family run business, based in the heart of Lancashire, specialising in high quality indulgent desserts, cakes and biscuits. During the Christmas period it sells its special vine fruit packed mince tarts.
They make their own mincemeat made to Nana Lathams own recipe using only sultanas, currants, raisins, vegetable suet, apples and spices, demerara sugar and lemons. Only the finest ingredients are used and no preservatives. The mincemeat is then encased in short crust pastry and baked to perfection.
So, if you’re a mince pie fan, then why not try them all, it is the season for indulgence after all and don’t forget to let us know your favourites. Or if you fancy making your own try this simple mince pie recipe.
And don’t forget to leave one out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve. He has a very busy night.