Sunday, January 1, 2017

Holiday Feasting - Mince Meat Pies

Ulrich von Richental’s 15C The Chronicle of the Council of Constance

1588: Minst Pyes, with rosewater.
From: The good hous-wiues treasurie Beeing a verye necessarie booke instructing to the dressing of meates; Anon. 1588
To make minst Pyes.
Take your Veale and perboyle it a little, or mutton, then set it a cooling; and when it is colde, take three pound of suit [suet] to a leg of mutton, or fower [four] pound to a fillet of Veale, and then mince them small by themselves, or together whether you will, then take to season them halfe an once [ounce] of Nutmegs, half an once of cloves and Mace, halfe an once of Sinamon, a little Pepper, as much Salt as you think will season them, either to the mutton or to the Veale, take viii [8] yolkes of Egges when they be hard, half a pinte of rosewater full measure, halfe an pund of Suger, then straine the Yolkes with the rosewayer and the Suger and mingle it with your meate, if ye have any Orenges or Lemmans you must take two of them, and take the pilles [peels] very thin and mince them very smalle, and put them in a pound of currans, six dates, half a pound of prunes laye Currans and Dates upon the top of your meate, you must taek tow or three Pomewaters or Wardens and mince with your meate, you maye make them woorsse if you will, if you will make good crust put in three or foure yolkes of egges a litle Rosewater, and a good deale of suger.


Vincento Campi. c1580 Making Pies in "The Kitchen"

1615: Gervase Markham's Minc't Pie
Gervase Markham The English Housewife, (London: 1615)
Take a Legge of Mutton, and cut the best of the flesh from the bone, and parboyl it well then put to it three pound of the best Mutton suet & shred it very small; then spread it abroad, and fashion it with Salt Cloves and Mace: then put in good store of Currants, great Raisins and Prunes clean washed and picked a few Dates sliced, and some Orenge-pils sliced ; then being all well mixt together, put it into a coffin, or into divers coffins, and so bake them and when they are served up, open the lids and strow store of Sugar on the top of the meat and upon the lid. And in this sort you may also bake Beef or Veal, onely the Beef would not be parboyld, and the Veal will ask a double quantity of Suet.


The Pie Maker. a fresco, Italian School, at Castello di Issogne in Aosta, Italy

1660: Mince Pies, French and Italian Fashion.
From: The Accomplisht Cook, by Robert May.
Minced in the French fashion, called Pelipate, or in English Petits, made of Veal, Pork, or Lamb, or any kind of Venison, Beef, Poultrey, or Fowl.
Mince them with lard, and being minced, season them with salt, and a little nutmeg, mix the meat with some pine-apple-seed, and a few grapes or gooseberries; fill the pies and bake them, being baked liquor them with a little gravy.
Sometimes for variety in the Winter time, you may use currans instead of grapes or gooseberries, and yolks of hard eggs minced among the meat.
Minced Pies in the Italian Fashion.
Parboil a leg of veal, and being cold mince it with beef-suet, and season it with pepper, salt, and gooseberries; mix with it a little verjuyce, currans, sugar, and a little saffron in powder.


Pieter Claesz van Haarlem's (1597-1660), Detail Still Life with Meat Pie, 1627, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

From the late 16C onwards, mince pies were increasingly frowned upon in English Puritan circles, along with other traditional Christmas celebrations. Many Puritans thought that mince pies were self-indulgent and reminiscent of Catholic superstitions and come the Interregnum when the "godly" were in power from 1649-1660, there were many attempts to stamp out such decadent Christmas traditions. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 curbed Puritan influence but didn’t lessen their dissaproval. An essay in the December 1733 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine  describes how Quakers supposedly inveighed against “Christmas Pye, as an Invention of the Scarlet Whore of Babylon, an Hodge-Podge of Superstition, Popery, the Devil and all his works.”

1675: Meatless Mince Pies.
From: The Accomplish'd Lady's Delight In Preserving, Physick, Beautifying, and Cookery, Hannah Woolley; 1675
To make an Egg-Pye, or Mince-Pye of Eggs.
Take the Yolks of two dozen of Eggs hard boyled, shred them, take the same quantity of Beef-Suet, half a pound of Pippins, a pound of Currans well washt, and dry'd, half a pound of Sugar, a penny-worth of beaten Spice, a few Carraway-Seeds, a little Candyed Orange-peel shred, a little Verjuice and Rosewater; fill the Coffin, and bake it with gentle heat.


Shapes for pies from T. Hall, The Queen's Royal Cookery (London 1713). Mince pies on the salver.

For diarist Samuel Pepys, mince pies were a firm Christmas fixture. Although his Christmas dinner in 1662 was generous, consisting of “a mess of brave plum-porridge and a roasted pullet”, he felt that it wasn’t complete without mince pies. Unfortunately his wife was “not well [enough] to make any herself” so, he “sent for a mince pie abroad.” At Christmas 1663, his wife was feeling better and he was pleased to see, on coming home very cold from a long day at work, that she was busy making mince pies. In December 1666, Mrs Pepys was once again slogging away in the kitchen. Pepys’s entry for the 25th December reads “Lay pretty long in bed, and then rose, leaving my wife desirous of sleep, having sat up till four this morning seeing her mayds make mince pies.”

Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery, made Plain and Easy, 2nd edition, 1747 By the 18C in England, mince pies were getting sweeter, due in large part to the increasing availability of cheap sugar from West Indian slave plantations. Although meat was still usual, it was no longer essential. In her 1747 edition, Glasse writes “if you chuse meat in your pies, parboil a neat’s tongue [ox tongue], peel it, and chop the meat as fine as possible, and mix it with the rest; or two pounds of the inside of a sirloin of beef boiled.”


Adriaen van Utrecht (1599–1652) Detail of a meat pie

1750: Mince Pye
From: The Country Housewife’s Companion; William Ellis, 1750.
To make a Mince-Pye costly and rich.
To one pound of the meat of a tongue, add two pounds of suet, six pippins, and a green lemon-peel shred small, with an ounce of Jamaica pepper, two pounds of currants, citron, lemon, and orange peels, candy'd and shred small. Mix all these with half a pint of sack, and fll your pye with it. And to make this richer still, add two spoonfuls of lemon juice or verjuice, stoned and sliced dates, with some chop'd raisins. - Another says: take an ox heart, or tongue, or meat of a surloin of beef, parboil it, and chop it with two pounds of suet to every pound of lean meat; this mix with a two-penny grated loaf and eight pippins minced fine. It makes excellent pyes, if spice, sack, and orange-peel are added, with two pounds of currants to every pound of meat. Also that this composition may be kept in an earthen pot in a dry place a month or more good, and to make the pyes eat moist, as soon as they are out of the oven, put in a glass of brandy or white-wine.--Another says, that savoury mince-pyes are best made with equal parts of mutton and veal, and other proper ingredients.--Another says, that double tripe boiled tender and minced small, with currants, sugar, and other materials, makes good mince-pyes.--Another, to make mince-pyes without flesh, says: Boil a dozen or more of eggs hard, then boil also a pound of rice very soft; mince the eggs, and beat the rice to a pap: Mix these with beef suet shred, currants, raisins, sugar, nutmeg, candy'd orange-peel, and put the whole into a pye with sack, and bake it in an oven moderately heated.

For clever glimpses into English mince pie history & much more, see Caecilia Dance