I had initially planned to make my own mince meat pie back home in Seattle, but time did not allow for me to fit this into my schedule. I was a tad disappointed, but I knew that I now had something to look forward to for next holiday season.
Little did I know that I would be entering a country where they take their mince pies very seriously. In fact, the tradition of mince pies comes from England.
First things first, mince pies are not the same thing as mince meat pies. However, mince pies are a derivation of mince meat. Mince meat pies were often made around the holiday seasons of the seventeenth century, made from minced pieces of beef and pork with suet, and sweetened with sugar and/or dried fruit. The pies would be topped with a facsimile of the baby Jesus made out of dough, and this doughy baby Jesus would be eaten.
The puritans, none to keen on seeing the sacrilegious act of eating of God, banned the eating of the mince meat pies for the Holiday season, and if my tour guide is correct, these laws are still on the book today.
Over the past three hundred years, mince meat gave way to raisins, sultanas, and dark sugar. Very few mince meat pies are actually made. Here in London, mince pies were everywhere. Mince meat pies were more difficult to procure. I was able to find a few at the food halls of Fortnum & Mason, one of the many upscale department stores here in town. Yes, that’s real beef in the center there.
Sweetened beef is an odd idea, but the taste was surprisingly good. Yes, the raisins gave it the sweetness we usually associate with the pie, but the minced meat pie wasn’t cloyingly sweet.
Now I hear that these are served with a dollop of whipped cream. Alas, I had none, and had to make due with what I had. It was still quite good, and made for a great Christmas day.