25 November 2012

Stir up, we beseech Thee

Stir-up Sunday.

Another year gone.  Advent starts next week, and with it, the Liturgical Year.

And it is time again to make the mincemeat for my Christmas pies using the usual recipe, which I posted here (along with old receipts for plum pudding and plum pottage).

Always on the lookout for early recipes, I offer these from the turn of the century – the turn of the 18th into the 19th century, that is.

For those who must have the flaming cannonball, or Christmas won’t be Christmas, Sussannah Carter’s Frugal Housewife of 1803 offers this receipt for ‘Plumb Pudding’:

A cake suitable for Christmas Tea is a little more involved:

But I prefer Mincemeat.  This receipt is from American Cookery (1798) by Amelia Simmons (An American Orphan):

This is the third recipe for minced meat given by Ms. Simmons (the other two using neat’s foot and neat’s tongue as the meat) and as is her wont, the first recipe has directions, the others have only ingredients.  By following the directions in the first recipe, the 1798 cook would do thusly:
“To every four pound minced salted meat, add one pound of beef suet and four pound raw apple, chop all together very fine, add one quart of wine or rich sweet cider, one ounce of cinnamon, one ounce of mace, one nutmeg, two pounds stoned raisins, and sweeten to your taste.  Make use of paste No. 3 – bake three quarters of an hour.”

(The No. 3 Paste [pastry] is: “To any quantity of flour, rub in three fourths of its weight of butter, (12 eggs to a peck) rub in one third or half, and roll in the rest.”)

As to oven temperature: “All meat pies require a hotter and brisker oven than fruit pies” – so if you know how hot the oven needs to be for a fruit pie, you can adjust up accordingly.

The author also advises that “… in good cookeries, all raisins should be stoned.”

Well, mine have been marinating in brandy overnight, so they are well snookered.  Does that count?

(Yes, children, the Widow is aware that stoned raisins means that the seeds have been removed from them.  Fortunately, we have seedless raisins.)

The Frugal Housewife is definitely more frugal in the amount of meat and wine used:

Now, once you have baked all your pies, Ms. Simmons says you should carefully store them for later use, and during the winter you can produce a mince pie for any dinner according to the tastes of your guests by reheating the contents and adding more spices:

In other words, bake all your pies, and then, in the weeks to come, when you have guests who prefer a little more cinnamon or brandy in their pie, carefully raise the top crust, scoop out the mincemeat, warm the (emptied) crust before the fire, reheat the mincemeat with the required additions, put it all back together again, and serve it up.

As tempting as several-weeks-old pie must be, I will just put all my mincemeat in jars and make my pies on the days they are to be enjoyed, which is every day of the Twelve Days of Christmas… and any long, dark, cold winter day thereafter.

Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of Thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.