Originating in the medieval period when pies consisting of the savoury and sweet combination of meat, fruit, sugar and spice became the cornerstone of UK cuisine, the mince pie is now a luxurious Christmas treat whose appearance on shelves is eagerly awaited by millions of Brits as soon as the afternoon skies turn dark.
When Caribbean sugar imports in the eighteenth century saw sugar become increasingly cheap and plentiful in Britain, the meaty elements of the traditional mince pie shrank away, leaving the pastry case to be filled with flavourings including suet, currants, raisins, apples, plums, lemon peel, orange peel, Muscatine, nutmeg, mace, cloves, cinnamon, caraway seeds and rose water. The sense of luxury of the mince pies comes from the association with currents, spices and sugar, traditionally expensive imported goods and during Stuart and Georgian times, the mince pie was a status symbol at Christmas parties where the rich showed off their wealth through the various shapes and sizes of their mince pies.
Currently, there are currently 370 million mince pies sold in the UK over the Christmas period annually, with the average Brit eating 27 mince piece each. 20% of these 370 million pies are thrown out, 74 million mince pies contributing to the huge amount of food wasted across Britain each Christmas.
One of the most popular myths regarding mince pies dates back to the seventeenth century and Oliver Cromwell who, in a quest to end gluttony, banned the consumption of Christmas pudding and mince pies on Christmas day, which fell on a scheduled fast day. 1644 was the only Christmas day when it was illegal to eat mince pies; contrary to popular myth, one does not have to eat their mince pies in secret on the 25th December.
Below is a list of contentious facts regarding mince pies, some interesting, some just plain silly but all listed to add an extra mouthful of pleasure to your mince pie consumption this Christmas.
- The three spices cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, were included in mince pies as symbols of the gifts of the three kings
- A wish should be made whilst eating the first mince pie of the season
- Mince pies were originally made in an oval shape to represent Jesus's crib; the pastry on the top represented his swaddling clothes
- Mince pies should be eaten in silence
- When making mince pies, the mincemeat should only be stirred in a clockwise direction; stirring anti-clockwise will bring bad luck for the rest of the year
- It is good luck to eat 12 mince pies in 12 different houses on each of the 12 days of Christmas
- The most expensive mince pie was made by the London bar, Dion, and cost £100. It contain organic cranberries, stem ginger, orange blossom water, and Hennessy Cognac
- The fastest time to eat 3 mince pies is recorded as a Guinness World record at 46.56 seconds. There is a video on YouTube.
Serious about mince pies? Read the latest market research: UK Mince Pies Market
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