At least, that's my theory on the matter. Which means that it's a good thing that Beth from Printcess has stopped by again this year to share some Regency-era recipes with us, to help sate that Austenesque hunger being built up by this year's Read Along.
(You are participating, right? If not, allow me to give you some motivation...)
Take it away, Beth!
"On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard in spite of all the noise of the others."
"Did Charlotte dine with you?
No, she would go home. I fancy she was wanted about the mince-pies. For my part, Mr. Bingley, I always keep servants that can do their own work; my daughters are brought up very differently."
—Pride and Prejudice
Mincemeat pies date back to the 11th century. Originally they did contain chopped up, leftover meat (making them popular with travelers and the economical) and seem to have always been associated with Christmas, mostly because they can be easily made ahead and are best served cold. So while your kitchen is hopping with that roast goose, the feast table can be laid out with these filling, sweet, spiced pies.
In the mid-1600s, owing to Oliver Cromwell's public pressure to forego meat (yay Puritans, outlawing Christmas as a Pagan holiday of gluttony and drunkenness), this pie was outlawed. But this beloved recipe was a natural rebel. I don't know how people went from "fill it with meat" to "fill it with fruit", but it works. And so it lives on today!
Modern Variation of the RecipeIngredients for 24
6 Tblsp. apple sauce
8 oz. dried currants, if you can get them (I used dried blueberries)
4 oz. dried cherries, tart if you can get them (to taste)
Shortcrust pastry (for the best taste, of course, make your own. I'm lazy and stink at pie crusts so I cheated and used crescent roll dough rolled thinly)
1 cup sugar (I prefer brown, but white may be more period?)
1/2 tsp. mace
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
8 oz. wine (or fruit juice, if preferred)
- Combine the apple sauce, dried fruits, sugar, spices, and wine/juice in a pan over medium-high heat until simmering.
- Let simmer 10 minutes to reduce some of the liquid.
- Remove from heat and let sit for at least four hours (overnight if you can).
- Mash util it's got a consistency similar to applesauce.
- If it's too thin, add a thickener (I used rice flour) until thickened as desired.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roll out the pastry and cut into hand pie-sized circles (or, if using crescent rolls, use the pre-cut segments).
- Spoon fruit onto each dough segment, being careful not to fill so much it doesn't close.
- Fold the dough over to make a pocket, and gently crimp the dough edges closed.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit.
- Let cool. These can be served warm, but the period way would be to serve them cold.
Actual Regency RecipeTo Make Mince Meat Pies the Very Best Way
"Take three pounds of suet shred very fine, and chopped as small as possible; two pounds of raisins stoned, and chopped as fine as possible; two pounds of currants nicely picked, washed, rubbed, and dried at the fire; half a hundred of fine pippins, pared, cored and chopped small; half a pound of sugar pounded fine; a quarter an ounce, of mace, a quarter of an ounce of cloves, two large nutmegs, all beat fine; put all together into a great pan, and mix it well together with half a pint of brandy, and half a pint of sack; put it down close in a stone pot, and it will keep good for four months."
-Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747
Check out the previous Eat Like Austen recipes: White Soup and Ratafia Cakes.
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