The Christmas Pie – A Maine Tradition of the Past

Have you ever heard of mincemeat?  Have you ever eaten mincemeat? If you answered yes to these questions, you probably grew up in a home in Maine or New England where it was a tradition in years past.  Read on to learn about mincemeat and its history!

Mincemeat was developed as a way of preserving meat without having to salt it or smoke it some 500 years ago in England.  mince1This pie is partly from a medieval tradition of spiced meat dishes, especially minced mutton.  These pies became know as “Christmas Pies.”

Today mincemeat pie is served as a dessert with more fruit than meat.  When spices becamemince8 more plentiful in the 17th century, the spices in mincemeat increased.

The Christmas Pie started when the Crusaders returned from the Holy Land with an assortment of oriental spices.   It was important to add three spices, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, to represent the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi.  It was considered very lucky to eat a mince pie on each of mince4the twelve days of Christmas,

In 1413, King Henry V of England was served mince pie at his coronation.  In 1545, a recipe for mince pie was in a book on Tudor cookery and feasts.  In 1588, “Mynst Pie” was in “Good Hous-Wives Treasurie” by Edward Allde.

From 1649 to 1658 Oliver Cromwell saw Christmas as a pagan holiday and he abolished it on December 22, 1657. The traditional mincemeat pie was banned and not restored until 1666 when King Charles !! rose to the throne.mince6

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries mince pies were made in exotic shapes.  In 1659 the Puritan influence reached the American British Colonies.  Boston banned mince pies from 1659-1681.  Those caught celebrating with a pie were fined.

If you did not grow up with mincemeat, chances are you do not know what it is.  From the name you might assume that meat was the main ingredient, but this is not the case.  It is mostly fruit and spices.  Brandy is often added, but the suet has been replaced by butter.mince5

Mincemeat was brought to New England by English settlers in the 17th century.  It was originally a “Christmas Pie”, but the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas.  the pie began to appear as a Thanksgiving tradition.

In the “old days” Mincemeat Pie was traditionally served in Maine on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Today it has lost its popularity except with some of us “old timers!”  I happen to love it,mince3 but the younger generations have little or no interest in trying it.  As a child growing up in Maine we had venison mincemeat pies for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Mincemeat is readily available in the grocery stores and can be used pies, tarts, cookies, bars, ice cream, ice cream sauce, cake, muffins, scones and crumble.  In my opinion, it is delicious in any form!mince7

Try it – you may like it!