Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rhys's Twelve Days of Christmas--Day 7

Today I'm going to attempt to continue with my Christmas countdown, reminding ourselves that life must go on and we have to find joy in each other, in family and in small pleasures.

So today I'm going to talk about one of my favorite Christmas traditions--mince pies. My grandmother made them, my mother made them, I always make them and now my daughters do as well. They were always available to be served to people who stopped by, and we ate them warm on Christmas morning as we opened presents.

Mince pies are made in small muffin pans, with short crust pastry filled with mincemeat, sprinkled with sugar. Mmmm. Mince meat doesn't actually contain meat any longer, although it used to. Now it is a mixture of various dried fruits and some rum and sugar. But the origins of mince meat are quite different. In the middle ages small farmers couldn't afford to keep their livestock over the winter as there was nothing to feed them with. So many beasts were slaughtered. But there was no refrigeration to preserve the meat through the winter (the winters in England not being cold enough on the whole to make ice). So the meat was mixed with dried fruits and spices to preserve it. And afterward it was served in pies--mince pies.

I'm not sure exactly when it became a Christmas tradition, but poor peasants rarely ate meat in their diet so having a mince pie as part of the Christmas feast was a logical thing to do.

If you want to make it part of your tradition you no longer have to buy your own mince meat. Crosse and Blackwell make an excellent mincemeat with pippin apples and rum. Roll out the pastry dough nice and thin, cut circles and line muffin pans. Fill each about half full (more and it will bubble over). Cut out smaller circles for lids and press on with a fork to seal the edges. Make a small slit in the top to let steam escape. Bake in pre-heated oven 425 degrees for about ten minutes, until they start to turn golden brown. Let them cool as the mincemeat inside remains very hot.


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