In 2010 I decided that I was going to prepare my very first mincemeat for Yuletide. I planned on having a 100% British dinner and didn't want serve anything too heavy or rich as we had absolutely no desire to have bursting stomachs, feel unwell, sick and bloated...
"Mince Pies" (also called "Minced Pies") are British mini shortcrust pies or tartlets which are filled with mincemeat and eaten during the Christmas holidays (though it seems that during the Easter festivities you can sometimes find those pies - with a cross on the top - in stores too). The origin of those petits fours can be traced back to the 13th century when European crusaders returned from their campaigns in the Middle East where they tried to recapture the Holy Land and Jerusalem. At that time the people living in those far-away regions cooked many sweet and savory meat dishes which included fruits as well as spices (they still do). During the Middle Ages our cuisine was highly influenced by the culinary prowesses of the Orient, hence it is not surprising to learn that this combination was also very popular in our hemisphere.
In Tudor England they were often called "Shrid Pies" and consisted of shredded meat, fruits, suet and spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg). By 1596, they were also known under the name of "Mutton Pie" and "Christmas Pies". In the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras they were defined as "Minched pies".
"Mince Pies" have always been associated with Catholic idolatry and considered a kind of consecrated cake. During the English Civil War (1642–1651) they were banned by the Puritan (English protestants) authorities who regarded them as sinful due to the guilty, forbidden pleasures they confered. Cromwell hated Christmas which was not sanctioned by the Bible and saw it as a pagan holiday promoting gluttony and drunkennes. Nevertheless, the tradition of eating "Mince Pies" on Christmas day was perpetuated long after that sad episode and is still well-alive today. The recipe has evolved over time. It is during the 19th century that those tartlets radically changed by becoming sweeter, not containing meat anymore, being reduced in size and altered in shape (early pies were much larger, oblong in shape and supposed to represent Jesus's crib).
Like all English folks my grandparents made "Mince Pies" solely in December and didn't break that old tradition. Speaking of that, here's an interesting fact for you: Cromwell's law forbidding the consumption of anything linked to gluttony (puddings and mince pies mainly) has never been rescinded, so "Mince Pies" are still illegal on Christmas Day. Hilariously ludicrous, no? That leads me to wonder why nobody ever gets rid of certain conventions and starts baking those pastries on other occasions. It is such an incredibly luscious goodie that it seems a pity to eat it only once every 12 month!
Of course, you could argue and bring up the fact that those pies carry a religious symbolism and that anything related to the birth of Christ has no reason of being produced out of that sacred moment of the year -though it must be said that their meaning is nowadays quite obsolete (most British citzens are surely incapable of explaining why they are holy) and taken a lot less seriously than at the time of their creation. That is totally ok if you are a Christian but in my opinion, if you are not a god-fearing believer then I reckon that it is not a blasphemy at all to enjoy "Mince Pies" when you feel like doing so. Not eating them more often, now that is what I would qualify as sacrilegious!
Mincemeat used as filling for "Mince Pies" is a preserve that can be stocked for a while (if one adds suet just before putting it in jars) and can be made all year long since it's components are available most of the time. So it would be awfully sad not to enjoy this delicacy whenever you feel like it.
Imagine going for a picnic in spring, organizing a potluck, a wedding or a birthday party, enjoying a divine pudding wine while admiring the stunning fall scenery or celebrating Easter... I bet you have no problem picturing yourself gobbling one of those gorgeous little pies during those events . So, I think we should declare that "Mince Pies" are too scrummy to be consumed exclusively during a restricted period of time!!!
I was really satisfied with my "Mince Pies" as they were flawless and reminded me of those I had tasted in England. The pastry was delicately flaky, tender and baked to perfection (just ever so slightly golden) and the interior was exquisitely moist, mouthwateringly citrusy, subtly spicy and blissfully fragrant (thanks to my well-ripened mincemeat). To die for!
~ Mince Pies ~
Recipe for the "Shortcrust Pastry" by Rosa's Yummy Yums 2011.
Makes 18 pies.
350g All-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 Tbs Powder sugar
1 Tsp Sea salt (fine)
120g Unsalted butter, cold and cut into little cubes
60g Lard, cold and cut into little cubes
4-10 Tbs Cold water
1 1/2 Jam jars (about 375-450g) mincemeat
Castor sugar for decorating
1. Sift the flour, icing sugar and salt into a bowl, add the butter and lard. With the help of a pastry blender, work them together until the mixture fine breadcrumbs or coarse sand.
2. Add the water (quantity depending on the himidity of the air) and with the help of a table knife stir until the mixture comes together and forms a pastry ball.
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very briefly until smooth.
4. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 18 x 8cm rounds using a fluted (or not) cutter and re-kneading and rolling the trimmings.
5. Lightly grease the cupcake tins (I made 18 little pies) with butter and line with the pastry discs, then prick lightly with a fork.
6. Spoon 1-1.5 Tbsp mincemeat into each case.
7. Now with the leftover patry cut out 18 x 6cm pastry rounds or 18 stars (alternative pie lids), re-rolling as necessary.
8. Brush the edges of the pies with water or egg wash and press lids down onto the bases, sealing well.
9. Chill for 20 minutes.
10. Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F).
11. Brush the lids with water and sprinkle with castor sugar.
12. Bake for 26 minutes or until very lightly golden.
13. Remove from the oven and let the mince pies cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove them delicately from the pan and place them on a wire rack.
If you don't want to use lard, them replace it by white vegetable shortening or butter.
It is possible to freeze the unbaked pies in the trays (for at least 4 hours or overnight) and then transfer the frozen pies to plastic boxes, layered with baking paper between. In that way they can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months (to cook, bake from frozen but for a few minutes longer than indicated previously).
The pies can be kept for up to a week at room temperature in an airtight box.
Serve warm or cold with a dollop whipped cream, clotted cream or brandy butter.
~ Mince Pies ~
Recette par Rosa's Yummy Yums
Pour 18 tartelettes.
350g de Farine blanche (+ un peu pour saupoudrer)
1 1/2 CS de Sucre en poudre
1 CC de Sel de mer fin
120g de Beurre non-salé, froid et coupé en cubes
60g de Saindoux, froid et coupé en cubes
4-10 CS d'eau froide
1 1/2 Pots à confiture de mincemeat (environ 375-450g)
Sucre cristallisé pour décorer
1. Tamiser la farine avec le sucre et le sel dans un bol. Ajouter le beurre et le saindoux. Les travailler ensemble afin d'obtenir un mélange sableux.
2. Mélanger avec un couteau de table tout en ajoutant assez d'eau afin d'obtenir une boule de pâte.
3. Sur une surface farinée, légèrement/rapidement pétrir la pâte, puis l'étaler.
4. Couper 18 ronds (flutés) de 8cm de diamètre (réutiliser les restes de pâte).
5. Beurrer des moules à cupcakes (18 trous) et garnir avec les ronds de pâte, puis piquer les fonds.
6. Garnir chaque tartelette avec 1-1.5 CS de mincemeat.
7. Découper 18 ronds de 6cm de diamètre avec la pâte restante ou 18 étoiles (couvercles).
8. Humidifier les bords des tartelettes avec de l'eau (ou du jaune d'oeuf) et souder les couvercles en appuyant avec les doigts sur les bords des tartelettes.
9. Mettre au frigo pendant 20 minutes.
10. Préchauffer le four à 190° C.
11. Peindre le dessus des couvercles avec de l'eau et saupoudrer avec du sucre cristallisé.
12. Cuire pendant 26 minutes, jusqu'à ce que les tartelettes soient très légèrement dorées.
13. Sortir les tartelettes du four, puis les sortir des moules après 5 minutes de repos. Mettre les tartelettes à refroidir sur une grille.
Si vous ne voulez pas utiliser de saindoux, alors vous pouvez soit le remplacer par de la margarine soit par du beurre.
Les tartelettes peuvent être congelées non-cuites. Placez-les sur une plaque et mettez cette plaque au moins 4 heures au congélateur jusqu'à ce qu'elles soient congelées. Puis les mettre dans une boîte et les conserver au congélateur pendant 3 mois maximum (cuisson sans les dégeler + augmenter le temps de cuisson).
Conserver ces tartelettes une semaine maximum à température ambiante dans une boîte hermétique.
Idées de présentation:
Servir les Mince Pies froids au chauds, avec de la crème chantilly, de la clotted cream ou du brandy butter.