It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! At the ihampers house, this means one thing… mince pies! (We’re rather partial to the Barfield Bakery variety, which features in many of our hampers.) These delicious sweet treats fuel us as we busily take all your festive hamper orders – we simply love that scrumptious combination of sweet fruit, peppered with warming spice… especially when it’s accompanied with a good cup of tea.
But where does our seasonal snack of choice herald from? Let us take you back to the 13th century…
The origin of mince pies
European crusaders returned from the Holy Land with newly-found knowledge about Middle-Eastern methods of cooking, featuring fruit, meat and spices, and pies soon became a popular way to contain both sweet and savoury combinations. Thus, the mince pie was born… yes, a pie filled with spiced fruit and actual minced meat!
Fast forward to Tudor England, and this sweet, savoury, meaty dish became popularly known as a ‘shrid pie’. Filled with shredded meat, suet, and dried fruit the Tudors created a touch of eastern flavour by adding spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. These early pies were also a lot bigger than our modern-day equivalent… and oblong-shaped. (Which lead to their crusts to be known as a ‘coffins’.)
Meat-free mince pies
By the 19th century, the mince pie had (almost) developed its modern-day taste. We say almost because cooks had replaced meat with beef suet to enhance the flavour of the spiced fruit filling. But not all Victorian cooks were in favour of this meaty addition – it appears we have Mrs. Beeton to thank for our current vegetarian version: with her 1861 ‘Household Management’ cookbook featuring a recipe called “excellent mincemeat” which was totally fruity and completely meat-free. Whether you love them or hate them (if it’s the latter, please do send your unwanted pies to us!)
With love ihampers x