Munchie Monday: Mince Pies

This Christmas why not add a new tradition of homemade mince pies to your family’s holiday table.  Louisa Macculloch’s handwritten book of 19th century recipes includes a mince pie recipe containing beef, which is not a common ingredient in store-bought mince pies or fillings today.

The connection between mince pies and Christmas is believed to date back to the 13th century during the time of the Crusades. The spices used in a mince pie, also called a Christmas pie, are cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and are thought to represent the gifts of the Magi or the Three Wise Men—gold, frankincense and myrrh. Originally, mince pies were also larger and oval-shaped believed to represent the manger.

Mincemeat would typically be prepared in advance, even up to a year before, and stored until used in recipes. The layer of fat, formed by suet, would seal off the mincemeat from the air and protect it from spoiling. Earlier versions of mince pie contained meat and were a savory treat but today, mince pies and mincemeat purchased in stores are a meat-less sweet dessert part of a long-loved Christmas tradition.


Original Recipe—Mince Pies

4 lbs. of Roast Beef

3 lbs. of raisins

8 lbs. of chopped apples

6 lbs. of sugar

2 lbs. of citron

1 ounce of cinnamon

¼ ounce of cloves

¼ ounce of mace

¼ ounce of allspice

4 nutmegs

2 quarts of Maderia wine


Adapted Recipe—Mince Pies

**Mincemeat should be prepared at least three days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until used.  Mince pies can be made with either homemade or store bought pie crust.

1 pound of finely chopped beef (rump roast)

1 ¼ cup raisins

1 ¼ cup currants

2 cups finely chopped apples

7 ounces shredded Crisco or beef suet

2 cups brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg (can add additional nutmeg to taste)

¼ teaspoon of ground clove

¼ teaspoon of ground mace

¼ teaspoon of group allspice

4 tablespoons of Maderia

In a medium-sized pot combine all the ingredients including 2 tablespoons of Maderia (reserve 2 additional tablespoons to use at end). Bring to a boil and then lower heat to low and simmer uncovered for two hours. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add 2 tablespoons of Maderia. If you need to add additional liquid near the end of the cooking process, you can also add a little apple juice.

Pour the hot mincemeat into a sterilized 1-quart jar. Let the jar cool before placing in refrigerator. Mincemeat can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks prior to using or it can be used immediately.

Preheat oven 400 degrees. Grease the muffin pan or tart pan. Cut circles out of dough and place into greased tins. Scoop mincemeat into each small pie tin. Do not overfill. Cover with another round dough circle. Use egg wash to seal individual pies. Poke slits in top of pies for ventilation. Alternatively, use a star-shape or lattice strips to cover pies, which will allow for ventilation. Bake pies for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool in pan on rack.

For more information about mince pies, visit

A small mince pie with hatch top sits on a decorative plate.

Topic: Munchie Monday
Age / Level: Primary, Elementary, Middle, High School