It’s that time of year again! Mince pie season is officially upon us, and we’ve got some great ones for you courtesy of the legendary bakers from the Scottish Highlands, Walkers.
Best known for their world-famous shortbread, Walkers also know a thing or two about mince pies. The all-butter pastry in these perfectly baked sweet mincemeat tarts is made using the same ingredients as their shortbread.
What are mince pies?
Mince pies, a quintessential treat during the festive season, hold a cherished place in British and Irish holiday traditions. Some of our customers are absolutely fanatical about them – people started asking when they would arrive as early as September!
Don’t be misled by the name – mince pies don’t actually contain minced meat. No, it’s mincemeat! Confused? No wonder.
The tradition of mince pies dates back to medieval times when the combination of sweet and savoury elements was a common culinary practice. In Middle English, as spoken at that time, the word “meat” simply meant “food”, not “animal flesh” as it has come to mean today. This wider meaning has almost completely died out, but still lingers in one or two corners of the language, such as mincemeat, as found in mince pies.
Over the centuries, the recipe evolved, and by the Victorian era, mince pies had firmly established themselves as a Christmas staple, very similar to those still enjoyed today. Their small, hand-sized format made them ideal for sharing and gifting during the festive season.
How are mince pies made?
Crafting these delightful pastries requires both skill and patience. To make a truly delicious mincemeat takes time, not only to prepare it, but also let it rest, mature, and develop its flavour.
First, the mincemeat must be prepared. This is a mixture of chopped dried fruits, suet (animal fat), apples, spices, and sometimes nuts, all stewed together to create a rich, fragrant filling. The ingredients are simmered together slowly and gently until they meld into a fragrant, spiced mixture.
This sweet, sticky, spicy concoction is then encased in a buttery pastry shell, creating a harmonious balance of flavors. The pastry, typically made with flour, butter, and a touch of sugar, is rolled out and cut into circles. These circles are then filled with the mince mixture, sealed, and baked until golden brown. The result is a bite-sized pastry with a perfect balance of sweetness and warmth.
What do mince pies taste like?
If you’ve never tried them before, the taste of a well-made mince pie is a revelation. The buttery, flaky crust provides a satisfying crunch, giving way to the complex flavours of the fruity, spicy filling. The sweetness from the dried fruits and the warmth of the spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, create a symphony of flavours. As a finishing touch, add a dusting of powdered sugar on top, and a dollop of brandy butter on the side if you really want to spoil yourself.
Over the years, mince pies have found their way into popular culture, making appearances in literature, films, and television shows. Charles Dickens, a literary giant synonymous with Victorian Christmas traditions, featured mince pies in his classic “A Christmas Carol,” solidifying their association with festive celebrations.