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Pilgrim Christmas Recipe-Idolatry In A Crust

December 18th, 2008 by admin

Mincemeat, part II

Mincemeat, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, was in fact, minced
meat. Usually beef, sometime mutton, occasionally veal. But meat alone
isn’t mincemeat. It also had copious amounts of raisins (a/k/a ‘raisins of
the sunne’) and currents and sometimes dates and prunes, as well as generous
amounts of spices and sugar. The weight of the dried fruit might equal or
exceed the weight of the meat, and in the 1620 the raisins were much more
expensive per ounce then the meat was.

Suet isn’t something we cook much with any more, but fat is another
component of the mince pie. The fat is what makes it rich. During the 1700′s
butter starts to come in as the fat of choice, and by the 20th century seems
to be more common.

If I were making this mincemeat at home (and I have) I would take three
pounds of beef, one to one and a half pounds of butter, three pounds of
dried fruit, all cut small and well mixed (and be grateful that I don’t have
to pick stems off the raisins and stones out of them) with some orange peel
(two or three oranges worth). Salt, pepper, cloves (this can be strong – not
too much) and mace (or nutmeg if you have that – they have a very similar
flavor profile). Put it into pastry – you can use pie pans if you want,
sprinkle more sugar on top and bake them in your oven.

If you want to risk idolatry, make little rectangle pies and have them
symbolize the manger where the Christ child was born. If you don’t want to
fall into idolatry, make little rectangle pies just because they’re fun. You
could even use frozen puff pastry and ‘let your soul delight in fatness’.
And if you want to be thoroughly superstitious, go out on each of the Twelve
Days of Christmas to a different house and eat a mince pie in each to have
good luck for each of the twelve months in the year ahead. Either way, enjoy
Christmas and the twelve days after!

Kathleen M. Wall
Colonial Foodways Manager

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4 Responses to “Pilgrim Christmas Recipe-Idolatry In A Crust”

  1. Justin says:

    Mmmmmm, mince pie, thanks Kathleen!

    You know, Twelfth Night is on the way and I need to bake a traditional King Cake where we can hide a bean and pea to choose our Lord and Lady of Misrule. Can I ask you, Kathleen, to give us your favorite 17th century cake recipe? I’m hoping for something suitable for even Mr. Samuel Pepys, who writes on January 6th, 1659/60, “…we had a brave cake brought us, and in the choosing, Pall was Queen and Mr. Stradwick was King.” Do you take foodways requests? Thanks, and it looks like the Solstice singing and candles worked, today was longer than yesterday, and I think it’s going to stay that way ’til June!


  2. Joe Fling says:

    Have to try this…

    One question, orange peels. Did you use the entire peel, including the pith, or just the zest?

    Happy Holidays!


  3. KMW says:

    Joe – as for orange peel, I used the zest. But I once had a small supply of candied orange peel, and that was nice too. It’s all a matter of balancing out the flavors, the rich, the spicey and the sweet. Enjoy! KMW

  4. KMW says:

    I had just put my First Folio Shakespeare (facsimile edition, natch)out to read Twelfth Night for some seasonal inspiration. Do great minds think alike or what? I totally take requests and will include a cake recipe this week – maybe Gervase Markham’s Spice Cake or maybe…there are several possiblities… You will of course have to remember to include a bean and a pea – both dried – so that the King of the Bean and his Queen can be chosen. KMW

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