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Regency Mince Pies

"Immediately surrounding Mrs. Musgrave were the little Harvilles, whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were trestles and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard in spite of the noise of the others."

Persuasion (Chapter 14) Jane Austen


One of the must-have Christmas foods, present on nearly every Regency holiday table, are the mince pies. This recipe dates from 1805. Note that 'suet' is more commonly known these days as shortening, or butter. Margarine works just as well.

Mincemeat Ingredients: Makes 3 quarts (3 litres or 12 cups)

3 lbs (1.4kg) shin of beef (a chuck roast can also be used)

2 cups (1 lb or 450g) suet or shortening

1 cup dried currants

½ cup raisins

½ cup sultanas

½ cup candied orange peel, chopped coarsely

1 lb (450g) apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

juice and zest of 1 lemon

juice and zest of 1 orange

½ tsp ground ginger

2 cups sugar

1 tsp mace (or substitute another 1/2 tsp nutmeg)

1 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp nutmeg

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

½ cup apple cider

½ cup brandy

½ cup red wine

To make your mincemeat:

1. Cover the shin of beef with water in a pot, cover with the lid, and bring to boil.

2. Reduce the heat and simmer for two hours or until the meat falls off the bone. When the meat is finished, take it out of the pot to cool.

3. When it is cooled off enough to handle, remove all of the meat from the bone, discarding the fat and gristle.

4. Shred the meat.

5. Mix the shredded meat with all of the other ingredients.


Ideally, you'd let the meat 'rest' for 2-3 weeks, in a cool place. I just left it in the fridge overnight and made my pastry the next day (not too Regency I know, but I don't like the idea of eating meat 'left out' for 2 weeks - especially in the hot, humid summer of Australia!) .

Pastry Ingredients: Makes enough for one 9-inch pie

4 cups all-purpose flour

¾ tsp salt

½ cup (1 stick) chilled butter

½ cup shortening

6-8 tbsp ice water To make your pastry:

1. Sift the flour and salt together, then rub in the butter and shortening until it resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Add enough cold water to the flour and butter mixture to bring the dough together (take care to add your water a little at a time, or your pastry won't have the right texture for working).

3. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for ½ an hour.

Putting it all together:

1. Preheat the oven to 230ºC (450ºF).

2. Divide the dough in half.

3. Roll out one half into a 12-inch circle and lay in the pie dish.

4. Fill the dish almost to the rim with the mincemeat mixture.

5. Roll out the second piece of dough to an approximately 12-inch circle

6. Cover your mincemeat, sealing and crimping the edges of the dough, and making four small slits in the centre for the steam.

7. Bake your pies for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180ºC (350ºF) and bake for another 20 minutes.


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