The Most Mouthwatering Christmas Treats: British Mince Pies

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A Tradition In Name Only

British Mince Pies

As a migrant who settled in the UK, of course, I got to learn and appreciate local traditions. But I remember staying away from mince pies for several years. The reason? I did not get why a meaty thing would be placed in a pastry sheet and have sugar sprinkled on top! My prejudice wilted when I decided it was time to do some research and get to the bottom of the story! 

It turned up they were only called mince pies because, historically, they would contain minced meat (mainly mutton). In time, dry fruits would replace the meat and people would start adding booze to the fruity filling. It would not be the only dessert that uses alcohol, which enhances the taste and preserves the fruits in this case.

Mince pies seem to have made it to Britain in the middle ages, brought by the crusaders from the Middle East. At the time, they were filled with meat, fruits and spices and were not a dessert but the main course. Fibre and protein are not an ideal combination for human liver, but medieval medicine was not advanced enough to acknowledge this fact.

The most extreme times this traditional pie had seen, was the brief kingless period England had known in the seventeenth century. Oliver Cromwell went to the limit, not only banishing pies in an attempt to make the population thrifty but cancelling Christmas altogether. 

He was no fun! And had a warty nose! I saw it in Horrible Histories!  (I’m just being a sarcastic bully at the expenses of a dead historical character, I know!)

Rightly so, England returned to its monarchic tradition that also meant the reinstatement of Christmas and the continuation of pie baking.

In time, mince pies have seen changes, but have never disappeared from the traditional festive table. 

Today, the entire English-speaking world would have them at Christmas, filled with a delicious and extremely fragrant combination of booze-soaked dried fruits and spices still called mincemeat!

There is even a superstition saying that if you eat one each of the twelve days of Christmas, you’ll be lucky the entire following year! I have to make an effort to get mine to last this long; otherwise, I’m busted! Given that 2020 was the weirdest year in an entire century, I don’t know who would be willing to take a chance!

Merry Christmas!

mince pies Christmas

Mince Pies

5 from 15 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Cooling 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine British
Servings 28

Ingredients
  

For the crust

  • 500 g plain flour (4 cups)
  • 150 ml melted coconut oil (⅔ cup)
  • 150 ml melted unsalted butter (⅔ cup)
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 lemon zest
  • 1 pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 100 g Medjool dates (about ½ cup)
  • 100 g dried figs
  • 100 g dried blackcurrants
  • 100 g raisins
  • 100 g dried cranberries
  • 100 g dried goji berries (optional; I used them for colour)
  • 2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds Skip if you have a nut allergy!
  • 2 tbsp cocoa nibs (optional)
  • 1 orange (juice+chopped peel)
  • 2 orange zest
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp organic dried ginger
  • 3 pcs peppercorn
  • 4 pcs star anise
  • 8 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 10 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp Martini (or any liquor)
  • 1 vial rum oil essence

Instructions
 

For the crust

  • Sieve the entire quantity of flour in a large bowl, add the sugar, lemon zest, salt and the melted fats. Mix using your hands or a kitchen mixer if you have one.
  • The dough will be very crumbly at first, but when you add the eggs, the proteins found in them will help bind it better and work it easier.
  • Cover the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate it for at least half an hour (an hour is better). Cooling helps the oily ingredients solidify, and this will make rolling easier. I tried to save time, but working the dough before cooling it was useless; all I got was crumbles spread on the worktop.

For the filling

  • Preferably, the mincemeat should be prepared a week before use and kept in the fridge to allow all the savours to mix nicely and create an absolutely intoxicating flavour!
  • Grind all spices together.
  • Finely chop the large fruits and the orange peel. Mix with the rest of the dried fruits, sugar and orange zest.
  • Add the wet ingredients (orange juice, liquor, water). Some recipes recommend lard instead of water, which I find revolting! Besides, it is not healthy to mix pork with fruits!
  • Place the mix in a jar, cover with a double clingfilm, then put the lid on and store it in the fridge for about a week.
    mincemeat jar
  • If some fancy popstar would “create” a perfume smelling like this insane combination, I would pay money to have it and wear it daily! Thinking of it, if anyone goes ahead and commercializes such a perfume now, I am claiming intellectual property rights!

Make the mince pies

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
  • Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and use a part to roll a 2-3 mm thick sheet.
  • With a large glass or a round form, cut the base. Use either a smaller glass or any Christmassy shape to cut the lids/tops. I used a star shape because it covered better than the others.
  • Place and adjust the large pieces in the tray, add a spoon of fruit filling, put a pastry lid on and coat with a beaten egg using a brush.
    mince pies in tray
  • Repeat until you have used the entire dough.
  • Optionally, sprinkle a little bit of coconut sugar, then put the tray on the middle rack in the oven.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the mince pies turn golden brown. Allow cooling when finished and before serving.

Notes

 
Mince pies can be stored in airtight containers in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for maximum three months. 
In general, I use organic ingredients. If it is not always possible, at least the oranges should be organic to avoid ingesting pesticides and wax.
Keyword Mince Pies

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The World Is An Oyster

Working as a journalist during university was pretty exciting. But landing a cruise ship job barely a year in my new graduate career was something else! Overnight, I moved from an already exhilarating job to an even better one. One that would allow me to wake up every morning in a different country. What more can a twenty-something wish for? The fact that I was fluent in a few languages helped. It made it easier to obtain the position I was seeking at the Shore Excursions department. Apart from dispatching tours in the morning and selling tickets in the evening, I would spend nearly every day on different trips. I did this a few years, spending half a year onboard and about two months at home. I enjoyed it immensely. I met fascinating people from all over the Globe and collected memories to last me a lifetime. Not to mention that I received a salary for seeing all those magnificent places the Earth has to offer! In an ideal world, everybody should live as they want. For me, that would translate into travel, then travel some more and keep travelling!

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31 Responses

  1. Ashley Lynn says:

    5 stars
    The mince pies are the one calling my name!
    This is a must-try 🙂

  2. Ann says:

    Never heard of these before 🙂 So glad I found this post!

  3. Andrea says:

    Looks very delicious can’t wait to try this! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jamie says:

    5 stars
    Yum! Is all I can say ❤️

  5. Amara says:

    I love miced pies but have never tried making it! Glad I found this recipe

  6. Richie says:

    5 stars
    Hi. I absolutely love mince pies! We’ve tried so many variations over the years, it beggars belief. And, to continue that tradition, we should probably try your recipe too 🙂 Have you tried Frangipane Mince Pies? They are awesome – one of my favourites.

  7. Kalin says:

    I can so relate!! I always thought mince pies were odd since they were filled with meat — but now I know the truth and will have to try them! The first thing I did was read through the ingredients list and it sounds like a really tasty filling. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Jeannie says:

    5 stars
    interesting and it looks so good! Im just talking to a friend about putting rum or liquor in cookies and this is perfect! I would like to try one day 🙂

  9. marita says:

    5 stars
    I never bothered eating mince pies until I left the UK and now I am craving them. They look delicious.
    Also thank you for adding the recipe for mince meat as this is something I cannot get here in the UK.

    x

  10. Mimmie says:

    This looks amazing!!

  11. 5 stars
    OMG I want one of these right now!! I missed out on mince pies for the longest time, because here people call them mince meat pie. I always thought they had meat in them, so avoided them haha. Maybe 10 years ago, someone told me it was minced fruit and not meat. My life has changed forever, because these are SO GOOD!

  12. Gabriela Herrera says:

    5 stars
    The black currants here just elevate the dessert so much. I feel like black currants in the states don’t get the credit they deserve. I make a homemade black current vegan ice cream and its to die for. Great recipe and such an inspiration.

  13. Lindsay Ash says:

    5 stars
    I always love reading your stories – almost as much as your recipes! These sound wonderfun!

  14. Ashley says:

    Thank you! I was telling a friend that I have never had a mince pie and would love to have one. Even an actual mince pie. Lol but I’ll do any version.

  15. Brian says:

    Great idea. Nice pictures. Will give it a go with my wife.

  16. Jenny says:

    5 stars
    I had no clue of the history of mince meat pie and had no interest for the same reason as you, meat pie? But, your recipe sounds delicious. And they are so pretty. I’m gonna try it.

  17. Dane Asmone says:

    5 stars
    Looks delicious !
    Thanks for sharing

  18. Natascha says:

    Ohhh!! This looks so delicious! Cant wait to try this recipe during the holidays! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  19. Leah says:

    I had no idea that mince pies could look so pretty! All the flavors sound like they compliment each other well in this dish, yum!

  20. Emily Flint says:

    5 stars
    These sound so awesome, I can’t wait to make my first mince pie this year!

  21. 5 stars
    I love this recipe! I’ve been dying to make mince, but I haven’t attempted it yet! I hope to try this out and make it a new tradition at my US Christmas celebrations. Thank you for sharing!

  22. 5 stars
    Looks amazing! Love mince pies and I definitely will make your recipe.
    Love the story.

  23. Kira says:

    5 stars
    i absolutely love the interesting history that comes with some little mince pies

  24. Sue says:

    5 stars
    This filling of boozy fruit sounds irresistible!

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