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Why Do We Eat Mince Pies At Christmas?
Mince Pies are traditionally eaten at Christmas and the New Year. They are a sweet pastry pie sprinkled with icing or caster sugar.
The History Of The Mince Pie
Centuries ago the mince pie would have been a large dish filled with various meats such as chicken, partridge, pigeon, hare, capon, pheasant, rabbits, ox or lamb tongue, livers of the animals, and mutton meat mixed with fruits, peels and sugar. It was originally known as a Christmas Pye. The oblong or square shape was said to resemble Jesus' cradle. A small doll made from pastry was placed on the top in the centre of the pie where the hollow indentation would be. These were known as Crib Pies.
During the Medieval Crusades the Crusaders returned to the UK with spices and these were gradually added to mince pies until over the years meat was fully replaced by the spices. At around this time it was thought that the shape changed from oblong to round and the size made smaller.
During the reign of Oliver Cromwell they were banned along with other Christian traditions and acts. When they were reintroduced to Britain their size was again reduced, to the size as they are today, so that they could be served individually, especially to guests. They were named Wayfarer Pies.
How To Make Mince Pies
The modern mince pie is a small pastry covered pie of about 5cm size filled with mincemeat which may have been soaked in brandy or rum. The top of the mince pie is usually sprinkled with icing or caster sugar.
The mincemeat mixture contains raisins, candied peel, apples, currants, sultanas, mixed spice, nutmeg, the rind of lemon and orange, suet and brown sugar. Some cooks and chefs prefer to soak the mixture for a week or two in brandy, rum, whisky or a favourite liquer so that it soaks up the alcohol.
Short or rough crust pastry is the best to contain the moist mincemeat mixture so that they do not flake or crumble.
Mince pies can be eaten cold and are equally delicious when warmed. Favourite toppings and serving suggestions include cream, brandy butter, ice-cream or custard. The lid of the pie can be easily prised open to add the topping directly onto the mincemeat. Cheese slices can also be added - a particular trait in New Zealand who also add meat to their mince pies. In America they are known as mincemeat tarts.
Some mince pies are sold or served open and are known as mince tarts. Other bakers make mince meat turnovers.
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Customs And Traditions About Mince Pies
An English custom is for all the family to take a turn in stirring the mincemeat mixture whilst making a wish. The mixture has to be stirred clockwise to resemble the direction the sun takes around the earth. Stirring anti-clockwise is considered unlucky and may bring bad luck for the New Year.
Father Christmas loves mince pies and children should leave one or two on a plate beside a dram of whisky or brandy, by the chimney for Santa so that he delivers lots of presents and fills up the Xmas stockings. Rudolph and the rest of the reindeers should be left a carrot or two.
It is considerd good luck to eat mince pies on each of the 12 days of Christmas, even luckier to eat one on each day in a different home.
In London the cockney rhyming slang for eyes is mincepies.
More Christmas trivia questions.
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