Christmas pies with minced meat – tradition for centuries

Friends, who are studying English here in London, we would like to resume the tradition of our blog to introduce you to interesting facts and stories about the English culture, habits, and everyday life. For our beginner learners we will provide texts in Bulgarian, and for our advanced students we will have the same texts in English. It may be useful for you to compare the two texts. Read the blog of Training Centre Raya London regularly!

Minced meat pies, which are traditionally served on the English table, as if were created to amaze. Called “meat pies”, they no longer contain meat. The main stuffing that is prepared for their filling is from dried fruit soaked in brandy (or other alcohol), beef suet (this seems to be the only preserved animal ingredient, although nowadays it is often replaced by vegetable oils), and a variety of well-known and strongly aromatic spices. We also add chopped almonds, citrus peels and juice, as well as sugar. Everything is wrapped in crispy and delicious dough and it is eaten not only on Christmas in England but also on Thanksgiving day in the northeastern parts of North America. People who stick to the tradition can use real minced beef or venison. And if the name of the specialty is not so binding for some, they use apples, raisins, prunes, or figs

Once minced pies were an appetizer, not a dessert, and they had a completely different form associated with Christianity. They were not round but rectangular and depicted the manger in which baby Jesus was born. A baby made of dough was formed on the upper crust covering the filling. The delicacy was made from exactly 13 ingredients, suggesting the number of the Savior’s disciples and himself. Lamb or beef for stuffing has been associated with shepherds who learned the good news of Christmas. And the spices — usually cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg were assosiated with the Eastern wisemen who followed the Star of Bethlehem, and worshiped the newborn Son of God.

Minced meat pies or similar recipes are present in the traditional cooking of many countries: you will find them in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. You can also find them in Northern Europe, Ireland, South Africa …

The first detailed recipes of these delicious pies date back to the 16th century, evolved in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and further developed their content to our days. The name Minced meat pie was first used in a recipe from 1624. Mixing meat with jam, such as honey or dried fruit, is a little strange to some people today, but it was perfectly acceptable in the Middle Ages.

In the 16th century, the meat for the pies had to ferment in wine and vinegar. By the 18th century, distillation replaced this ingredient with brandy. And while the lamb was used in the beginning, the tongue and even the belly were later included in the recipe. By the 19th century, the meat that was traditionally used was beef. It was not until the early 20th century that the meat in the recipe gave way to fruits such as finely chopped apples. The dough, on the other hand, was made almost exclusively of flour and water and it was served more as a decoration of the dish. Today it contains butter, sugar, and eggs.

By simply searching the Internet, you can find both modern and really old recipes for minced pies. Challenge yourself and try to cook it! Invite your English friends and see how they will react! Enjoy your meal!

Dear friends, we from Training Centre Raya London are here for you to provide quality English language training for both beginner and advanced learners. It will help you adapt to the life in England and communicate easily with local people. Contact us to continue your English language training. Share it with your friends! Thank you!

Author: Iveta Radeva

Training Centre Raya London is a new and fastly developing English Language School specialized in teaching English as a second language. Founded in 2015 we are small enough to provide a personal service, but large enough to have very good facilities and resources for the students to learn English in UK.