So I was drooling over the holiday recipes that every one has coming out and had wanted to do a mincemeat pie for ages. Well along comes a recipe I could not wait to try out going “Hey! This looks close to period!”. I was soooooo wrong. The period recipe goes like this…
A Minced Pie
Take a leg of mutton, and cut the best of the flesh from the bone, and parboil it well: then put to it three pound of the best mutton suet, and shred it very small: then spread it abroad, and season it with pepper and salt, cloves and mace; then put in good store of currants, great raisons, and prunes clean washed and picked, a few dates sliced, and some orange peels sliced: then being all well mixed together, put it into a coffin, or into divers coffins, and so bake them: and when they are served up open the lids, and strew store of sugar on the top of the meat, and upon the lid. And in this sort you may also bake beef or veal; on the beef would not be parboiled, and the beef will ask a double quantity of suet.
1 lb Beef
½ lb Suet
½ C raisons
Peel from 1 orange
1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground mace
2 Tbs sugar
Pepper and salt to taste
Now my redaction is mostly spot on. I had to make one (1) change to the recipe. I had NO currents. My favorite shop for odd or not common items was totally out for once, so I had to substitute an apple. Apples are a) period and b) can be found in other recipes, so I’m thinking it’s a “close enough” type of thing. Due try to use currents though if give the chance!
I gathered up all my dry ingredients.
Chop the dates, raisins, and prunes very well.
Here I have the apple shown chopped. It’s not finely chopped. I wanted some texture but not huge mouth filling pieces.
Cook the beef and chop fine if it isn’t already.
This is regular hamburger meat, in small bits. The meat used is a bit lean actually. The recipe was not specific on cut of meat or fat content just that the meat be chopped fine.
Chop the suet very fine and put with the beef.
Now this is a little on the hard part to find, unless you have beef fat laying around, which I did. I trimmed up a brisket a while back and froze the fat. Here the fat is thawed and finely chopped. You want this pretty small as the fat does melt a bit but not completely. It’s not butter.
Add the spices EXCEPT the sugar to the meat and suet mixture. The sugar is for another step waaaay down the line.
Let me show the orange peels here.
Chop the rind up very fine.
My thoughts on why orange juice is not called for or “the juice of an orange”; is that period oranges were mostly very bitter. The skin though, with the proper application of sugar and spices, is tasty. So period orange juice = bitter while a modest application of modern orange juice, cuts down on the amount of orange peel needed for that orange taste,helping the taste along.
Once the peel has been chopped fine. Add this to the rest of the cooking ingredients. Cook everything till the meat and lard are well done and everything has a chance to blend a bit.
Make the dough.
Here is where a bit of research is needed. Meat pies with red meats were suggested to be in heavy duty rye pastry shells, which were probably never meant to be eaten but used as a cooking vessel that could handle the heavy meat inside and being heated and served more then once. No recipe was given, a person just knew this when cooking, which makes the modern attempt an iffy prospect. So a little experimenting had to be done. I did a 1/3 rye/ 2/3 flour approach. 1 Cup of rye flour and 2 cups of regular white flour with butter water and salt. Period wise this may not have been eaten but I like my crusts tasty!
Roll out the dough.
If a large “coffin” was to be made then this would be forming a rectangle. However there is some debate on if the pies were square or round. I have seen wooden forming “pins” fairly wide and deep used to form pies however as this is food there are no left over’s to examine. This I think is an either/or thing. Either way may be right.
Form into a “coffin”.
Instead of a round forming pin I am using a ceramic ramekin. Be sure to oil or butter up the outsides! It gets messy other wise.
Next add a lid but do NOT seal the lid to the pastry cup. The lids need to be detachable to add sugar in a later step.
I added a bit of decoration to the edges so they did not look so rough, by pressing the tines of a fork around the edges. The three cuts in the middle are to help escaping steam not bulge out the dough and possibly make things expand to much out of shape.
Cook the un-sugared pies at 350 for 20 minutes or until the top turns golden brown. When the pies have been removed from the oven, lift the lid and sprinkle with the sugar.
Replace the lid.
This is not a modern day mincemeat pie. There is no juice to add or sugar at the start. Period wise this is a meat pie with a few rare treats (dates oranges and sugar) to add to the festive occasion. Any juice was produced by the meat and lard as a broth to be soaked into the pastry.
As for the pastry, well, I wasn’t very thrilled with it. The pastry did the job of holding every thing in and cooking very well but it was not very tasty. Next time I will make this with a flour pastry and add egg to the crust as that is suppose to make the period pastry edible per the period manuscripts. We shall see!