Mince Pies and Where to Buy Them
Following up from our blog on getting prepared Christmas, today we turn to the favourite sweet treats of the season. Who doesn’t love a mince pie? Served warm from the oven, with a good dob of thick cream, these are the go-to sweet nibble of the festive season. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a mince pie! You can begin to make these now, getting to them to the point of baking then popping in the freezer in their baking trays, ready to take out and cook as you need them. But before you get up to your elbows in sifted flour, let us tell you a little about the history of this favourite Christmas pie.
The mince pies we know today are all about the mix of great quality plump dried fruit and mixed citrus peel, flavoured with heady spices and possibly whiskey or brandy, encased in buttery shortcrust pastry. But it may surprise you to know that these little pies, which date back to the 13th century, were originally made from meat and thought to have been introduced from the Middle East.
In the original meaty mince pies, minced mutton (mature lamb meat) or beef was mixed with spices and beef suet and sometimes fruits. By the 16th Century, mince pies were popular as a festive treat. Slowly but surely, the meat was replaced by more fruit and the addition of nuts. The mince pies we know and love today were born.
Mince pie presentation can be diverse and unusual. The common topping is a crust completely covering the filling and pastry case, sprinkled generously with sugar before baking, to give a crunchy finish. But there are also traditional toppings which have their basis in the story of Christmas.
Old fashioned Bakers would often adorn their mince pies with a single star made from pastry, which is thought to depict the star The Three Wise Men followed to find Baby Jesus. Other heritage presentations included making the pies in little oblong pastry tins, with a baby shaped pastry crust on top. The oblong shape of the little pies is believed to represent the manger, while the pastry baby is the symbol of the Holy newborn in lying in his humble bed.
Another tradition, and one we love because it gives us an excuse to eat lots of mince pies, dictates that eating a pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas ensures good luck for the New Year. Not that we need any reason to munch the treats of the season during the twelve days of Christmas, but if they’re going to bring us good luck if we do - bring them on!
We have a few recipe ideas for the best mince pies from our member chefs, who really know how to make a good pie!
From Ballymaloe Cookery School comes Mince Pies with a variety of toppings. These include tasty little pies topped with crisp Meringue, nutty Almond Crumble, boozy Irish Whiskey Cream, or traditional shortcrust pastry toppings in different shapes. Darina Allen and her team get highly creative this time of year!
At Aqua Restaurant in Howth, Co. Dublin, mince pies come with a delicious frangipane topping and are served elegantly with fruit compote and ice cream. Very delicious and beautifully presented! Our own Good Food Ireland recipe uses delicious home made mince meat from Foods of Athenry to fill buttery shortcrustpastry cases, then topped with the traditional Christmas star.
They are finished with a light dusting of icing sugar to represent a scattering of new snow. Very Christmassy and pretty!
GIVE SOMEONE THE GIFT OF PIES
Nikki Walsh of Lady Eve Cookery has made the art of mince pie making into the perfect gift this festive season. Her gorgeous frangipane topped mince pies flavoured with Irish Whiskey come perfectly packaged in their own beautiful box, tied with a bow and complete with gift card.
We can’t think of a nicer gift to land on the door step than a box of these, made by a lady who knows all the special touches to make her food taste fantastic. Check out the details and order your box now, in plenty of time for the holiday period. You’ll be loved forever by whomever recieves them! And that’s gotta be good!