Mincemeat From The Medieval Period
Technically these are not mince pies, these are the forerunners, Chewettes. Also called Chewet, Chewit and Chawettys etc. These were small, spiced meat and fruit filled pies. However the connections between chewettes and mince pies were there, right from the beginning: even in 1688 R. Holme, in his work ‘Acad. Armory III’, explains medieval Chewettes as, “Chewit, or small pie; minced or otherwise”; and the medieval recipe I use below gives an instruction with the meat to “mynce hem smal“.
The recipe below is taken from ‘Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery Books’, Harleian MS 279, written about 1430 AD. You can see how this recipe can easily be recognised as a ‘mincemeat’ recipe for mince pies. In terms of storage, as with the recipe for mincemeat from 1624 (although this one adds wine) I would recommend making this up only a few days before you need to use it and store it in the fridge to mellow and mature. I would not put this in to long term storage, unless I added 250ml brandy. Note: when making the mince pies I would make the pastry for the case plain; a delicate hot-water pastry, and not a sugary, short-crust one.
Medieval Mincemeat Recipe From 1430
Take buttys of Vele, & mynce hem smal, or Porke, & put on a potte; take Wyne, & caste Þer-to pouder of Gyngere, Pepir, & Safroun, & Salt, & a lytel verÞous, & do hem in a cofyn with yolks of Eyroun, and kutte Datys & Roysonys of Coraunce, Clowys, Maces, & Þen ceuere Þin cofyn, & lat it bake tyl it be y-now.
- 300g minced pork
- 150g dates (chopped small)
- 150g currants
- 150ml red wine
- 6 egg yolks (beaten)
- 5 threads saffron (soaked in 1 tbsp warm water)
- 1 tbsp verjuice or white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp mace
This method is pretty simple. Chop up half the dates small (minced) and then thoroughly mix everything in a large, non-metallic mixing bowl, (add the spices in last) so no one ingredient is clumping together. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in a fridge for the flavours to develop over three days – stir once a day. Use within three days of making.
[The full recipes for mincemeat, used in mince pies, are found in the following pages of this article]