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Mince pie making

As we’re sure you know, here at Neptune we’re big fans of traditions – new and old. And that’s particularly so at Christmas time. One of our most-cherished Christmas traditions though is making mince pies. Not just one batch either. From the advent of December right the way through to Christmas Eve, we’ll steal an evening here and a weekend afternoon there to fill our kitchens with flour, pastry cutters big and small, and the most delicious scent of orange peel and nutmeg. 

A humble history

The mince pie didn’t always look as it does today. More than that, neither did it taste quite the same nor did it have the same name. It’s had quite the overhaul. So far as food historians can see, it all began in the 13th century when European crusaders returned from the Middle East with recipes of meat, fruit and spices all combined into one dish, often referred to as a mutton pie. The Tudors took the idea of mutton pie and used rabbit or shredded beef, instead calling it a Shred pie. We can begin to see where the term ‘mincemeat’ for the filling might have stemmed from. The Tudors also played with the shape of the pie, favouring large, rectangular forms, and in the 17th and 18th century the size shrunk somewhat and the pastry was cut into an array of shapes from stars to circles. The taste started to become sweeter too. And by the 19th century the more modern notion of the mince pie was established, although meat is still sometimes used in savoury versions as an ode to times gone by. How the mince pie became so intrinsically linked to Christmas is unclear. Some say the three chief spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and clove) are a reference to the gifts of the Three Kings. Others say it’s a mere coincidence. But what we do know is that somehow, it doesn’t feel quite like Christmas without them.

Not just for eating

We touched on this in our earlier journal post, Neptune’s Christmas spirit, but we love to use mince pies as part of our home’s Christmas decoration display. Our Creative Director, Emma, always makes several spare mince pies with each batch so that she can use them in decorative glass jars with a little tag that says ‘help yourself’. She’ll then create a display of jars, some with twinkling fairy lights inside (try our battery-powered Grosvenor), some with pine cones (like our frosted Luca cones or plain and simple Ludo), and some with a few sticks of cinnamon. They’re a charming yet simple way to reference Christmas throughout the home.

Let’s bake

There are dozens and dozens of recipes out there from classic combinations to new-fangled ideas (we recently came across a recipe by the winner of the first series of The Great British Bake Off, Edd Kimber, for his rum-custard topped mince pies, and thought they sounded rather scrummy). But if you have a safely-guarded family recipe then we suggest sticking to that, because you’ll enjoy them even more that way knowing it’s the same recipe baked by your great-great-great grandparents. Or use it as your base recipe and adapt it ever so slightly so you’re creating your very own new classic. The combination of mincemeat and heavy spices can sometimes be a bit too much for little people so consider doing a lighter alternative with clementine and vanilla that’s much more delicate.

Trust us, mince pie making on the morning of Christmas Eve is one of the loveliest things you can possibly do.
It’s precisely what we’ll be doing.

Merry Christmas x 

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