#203: Mince: The Real American Pie
A history of what was once known as the Real American Pie plus two recipes for mince filling for Stir Up Sunday.
Last month I mentioned that November 26 is “Stir Up Sunday,” the traditional day that mince fillings are made. In a comment, I was asked if I might have a recipe for mince filling. (Thanks for asking, Mel.🙂) I have several and today I am sharing two with you. As you may need a bit of time to gather all the ingredients, I thought it might be a good idea to post this well in advance of Stir Up Sunday.
Now follow me down the Mince Pie rabbit hole!
‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded..."
—Common Book of Prayer
You may never have made a Mince Pie as you may have thought…
too many ingredients to find
too labor intensive
too much time for curing
Monroe Boston Strauss (1900-1981), who was known as The Pie King, writes in Pie Marches On, (a fabulous book if you can get your hands on it by the way) that mince pie "is a direct descendant of the huge 'pasty' of medieval times, made of venison, peacocks, swans, boar meat or any other combination of ingredients which the lord of the manor fancied, or which the cook found available."
Modern day historical pie guru, Ivan Day, who I would love to study with, says that there is a lot of nonsense about the history of mince pies having any connection to Christ's crib or spices that the Magi would have carried. In the 16th century mince pies were known as ‘shred pies’ and made with tongue, offal or veal mixed with suet, dried fruits and sugar. Day says, “In Cumbria these sweet pies were partially eaten on Christmas morning and then saved until Candlemas morning on February 2." Perhaps they were only partially eaten and hidden away as eating mince pies on Christmas Day during Oliver Cromwell's rule in the 1650s was technically illegal. What a poop!
"Mince pie, like Masonry, arouses curiosity from the mystery attaching to it. Its popularity shall never wane until faith is lost in sight."
---Montpelier Argus and Patriot for March 10, 1880
Film critic and writer Cliff Doerksen (1963-2010) traced the history of what he called “the Real American Pie” and shared that mince pie was once “inextricable from our American identity,” and that during the Prohibition era it was a popular way to camouflage alcohol. "In 1919 the Chicago Tribune reported that the average alcohol content of canned mince samples on display at a trade show for the hotel business had spiked to 14.12 percent, offering a far more efficient buzz than legal near beer, with its measly .5 percent. 'I love pie,' declared one attendee. 'Here's how!' leered his companion, and they clinked their plates together like cocktail glasses."
If you look, you’ll find lots of recipes for mince pie. My reproduction copy of the 1742 The Williamsburg Art of Cookery by William Bullock has two recipes for mincemeat and three recipes for the pie. Janet Clarkson, the author of Pie has a number of references and recipes on her now retired website, and The Farm Journal Complete Pie Cookbook (1965) has no less than 20 mince and mince pie recipes. It is obvious that this pie has had a lot of interest for centuries.
Here are two recipes for you.
CATHERINE RICHARDSON’S MINCE PIE
TRADITIONAL BRITISH MINCE PIE