Mince Pies – A British Christmas Tradition

The following is a guest post.

I have lived out of England for over 20 years but without fail I still bake batches of mince pies every Christmas. To me they are just one of the most typically English ingredients that make a great Christmas. And biting into that delicious, sweet, juicy mincemeat and flaky pastry can transport me back to my childhood in Cheshire in an instant.

Making mince pies

Mince Pies have been part of English Christmas tradition for centuries. As far back as the 11th century mincemeat was developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking. The pie is a remnant of a medieval tradition of spiced meat dishes, usually minced mutton, and the spices, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg brought back from the Holy Land by the Crusaders. Over the years the meat content has been reduced to just suet with spices, fruit and brandy making up the modern day mincemeat.

Fresh from the oven

I have converted many American friends to mince pies, who, at first, hesitantly try one to be polite, I’m sure. Maybe they are put off by the name! Most end up loving them though. My American born son loves them too and begs me to make them at other times of the year, but I still save this treat for December. This way the small round pies with the pastry lids maintain their special place in the Christmas celebrations.

I make my own shortcrust pastry as taught by my mum and grandmother, but must admit that I don’t make my own mincemeat. Robertson’s fabulous mincemeat makes perfect pies and is becoming more available in the US now too. Donna picked up 3 big jars for me at the local supermarket – I think she sees a mince pie and a cup of tea in her future!

Mince pies and a cup of tea

My mum and grandmother seemed to have a never-ending supply of mince pies to offer during the Christmas period. Anyone stopping by would be offered a nice warm mince pie, dusted with icing (confectioner’s) sugar. They go perfectly with a cup of tea or even a glass of sherry! Some people are even known to pour double (heavy) cream over them. My grandmother was insistent though that you should never cut a mince pie. As they are nice and small you just pick it up and take a bite. She was superstitious like that.

Lucinda Sears is a British expat living in Massachusetts. She and her friend Donna started a business selling British items called The Bees Knees British Imports. Read her guest posts here.

Comments

  1. Jean | Delightful Repast says

    My mum and grandmother put suet in their mincemeat, but I just use butter. It’s been too long since my last batch of mince pies – thanks for the reminder!

  2. Julie Stilwell says

    I too have lived in the US for over 20 years and my mince pie making has grown in that time as American friends discover the joys of eating them. It is not unheard of for me to be making a batch of five dozen! I use Robertson’s mincemeat, although I do get homemade from British friends who make it for sale as a fundraiser for a British organization we belong to. The mince pies made with the ‘special’ mincemeat tend to stay in our house! My mince pie making is usally confined to this time of year, although my husband, an expat also, says that they can be made and eaten all year (I guess that is a hint?).

  3. Marion says

    I have been here in the U.S. since 1986 and have always made my mince pies and sausage rolls every Christmas. Then when my kids left home and had their own families I made theirs also. So last week I was baking as usual, 5 dozen mince pies which I gave my eldest 3 dozen as the youngest two do not like them. But when it comes to sausage rolls they’re waiting in line for them. So I make them all 3 doz and I froze 6 doz and hid 3 doz for guests and myself and my husband.

  4. says

    Thanks for reading my post! My son and husband would agree about the “all year” idea. I also use the Robertson’s mincemeat. I got a great deal a local store this year!

  5. says

    Thanks for reading my post! That is funny about the sausage rolls too! My kids also love them. My daughter will just eat about 5 for lunch given the chance! Whereas my son is the mince pie lover! Guess I better get baking too!

  6. says

    All this talk of mincepies makes me hungry! they look delicious! I enjoy reading your posts about English things as I’ll be moving there to get married soon! I love England!

  7. Mary says

    My mother was as American as she could be, but she made Mince pies every Christmas. I think her recipe was passed down to her, but I can’t be sure. She always used finely ground sirloin and Nonesuch jarred mincemeat. She also added diced apples, some applesauce, a tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate, as well as increasing all the spices. Interestingly, she made a HUGE 10″ pie and kept it in the fridge throughout the season. She and I would take a sliver and warm it in the microwave, having it with a cup of tea. I make them now – they are such a special treat!

  8. Sylvia Hew says

    I’ve been here 34 years and make around 4 dozen mince pies every year even though my daughters are not keen on them. I give them away to American friends who do seem to like them. I use Cross & Blackwell’s mincemeat. It has no suet and this year one daughter is bringing her vegan boyfriend so he might like them. I make my own pastry with all vegetable marg and shortening.

  9. Christine says

    Nonesuch (marketed by Borden, I think) also sells decent mincemeat here in the USA. My grandmother always had LARGE (9″) mince pies at the holidays when I was a child, but I lived in East Anglia in the late 1980s with my husband who was stationed at RAF Lakenheath before I had the taste for it myself. (Guess it was a matter of maturing into it.)

  10. Katherine Brown says

    My Mum made her own mincemeat and pretty much everything from scratch .I did not inherit her great baking skills.I have lived in the USA for over 20 years now and oy been home for Xmas once in that time :-( I really can’t remember the last time I had a mince pie either!!!.I am going to see if I can find some Robertsons and make my own!!!!I miss them as much as pork pies :-) there is so much I miss about home….my Mum made an awesome sherry trifle and x.as log at Xmas .Was never a huge fan of pudding or cake but we had it all .The cake was always an awesome winter scene and the pudding was so pretty all lit up.Crackers hats and fun.Oh the memories :-)