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History of Mincemeat

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Go to:   Main History Index Page  |  History of World Cuisines   |   Origins of Ingredients  | Christmas Main Page


Mince Pies have become a firm tradition at Christmas for many of us, and with vegetarian varieties of mincemeat now available, they can be enjoyed by everyone, as can the numerous other recipes using this old ingredient.





Traditionally mince pies contained meat. In the 11th Century, Crusaders returning from the Holy Land brought with them various spices including cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. These were added to minced meat and other ingredients to symbolise the three gifts given to Jesus by the three kings (the magi). To further celebrate the birth of Christ, the pies were originally made in large oblong shapes which represented his cradle.

Over the years, the pies grew smaller, the shape of the pie was gradually changed from oblong to round possibly to disguise their significance due to the edicts of Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector of England from 1649 until 1658). Being a puritan, he disapproved of the Christmas celebrations of the time seeing them as a pagan holiday which encouraged drunkenness and gluttony. He actually banned Christmas celebrations and the cooking of Christmas foods including mince pies. Thankfully for us, King Charles II restored Christmas celebrations to their former glory when he ascended the throne in 1660.

Over the years the meat content became smaller and smaller until the pies were eventually made with a filling of dried fruit, nuts, spices and suet.

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About Suet


Suet is the dense fat which surrounds beef kidneys.  Unprocessed suet is now difficult to obtain, as many butchers no longer get the kidneys in tact but shredded suet is easily purchased in packets and this is the type of suet most recipes call for. It's now even possible to purchase vegetarian suet. Suet is a traditional ingredient used for both sweet and savoury steamed puddings and is used in the making of mincemeat. It is also sometimes used to feed birds! You can read more about suet and its properties and uses here.


Mincemeat recipes & recipes using mincemeat


Below are some traditional and alternative ideas for making and using mincemeat.


Filo Parcels and Mince Pies

Traditional Mincemeat Recipe


Golden Apple Mincemeat recipe

A vegetarian alternative



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Christmas Mince Pies
This is a recipe for basic mince pies but you can make them even more festive by cutting the top pastry crusts into shapes such as Christmas trees, reindeers and snowmen. Donít worry about the filling drying outÖ.it wonít.


Filo Mincemeat Parcels
If youíre fed up with the usual shortcrust pastry used for mince pies, use this recipe instead. Very chic and especially nice for parties. Make them even more Ďadultí by sprinkling a few drops of Brandy or other alcohol before you seal them up.


Vegan Mincemeat Muffins

These are equally as good using ordinary mincemeat for a non-vegan/vegetarian version


Apple and Mincemeat Tart
Donít like Christmas Pudding? Well this is an equally festive substitute. Itís also a lot lighter on the stomach providing you stick to one portion !

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