Yesterday we considered the Yorkshire Christmas Pie which would most certainly have been among the cold pies weighing down Mrs Musgrove’s festive trestle tables at Uppercross:
On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels 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 all the noise of the others.
(Persuasion ,Chapter 14)
Today we are going to consider the other pies that would have made up the number on those groaning tables, Mince Pies,(see above ), familiar to all in the UK for they are still eaten today at Christmas.
However today they are rarely made with real meat: this was most definitely an option in Jane Austen’s day.
Here are some recipes from Mrs Rundell’s New System of Domestic Cookery (1819) which I have written about before:
And some from Duncan MacDonald’s book, The New London Family Cook Book (1809).
MacDonald is of interest to Austen devotees, for he was a tavern cook in London and, moreover, the cook to the Bedford Tavern in Covent Garden the haunt of John Thorpe and General Tilney in Northanger Abbey:
“Know him! There are few people much about town that I do not know. I have met him forever at the Bedford; and I knew his face again today the moment he came into the billiard–room. One of the best players we have, by the by; and we had a little touch together, though I was almost afraid of him at first: the odds were five to four against me; and, if I had not made one of the cleanest strokes that perhaps ever was made in this world — I took his ball exactly — but I could not make you understand it without a table; however, I did beat him. A very fine fellow; as rich as a Jew. I should like to dine with him; I dare say he gives famous dinners. But what do you think we have been talking of? You. Yes, by heavens! And the general thinks you the finest girl in Bath.”
(Northanger Abbey, Chapter 12)
Beef or Neats tongue(Ox tongue) were the favoured meats in this pie,which had its origins in the 15th century.
But, there were other ways of preparing them, both meat free : with lemon mincemeat, or mincemeat made without meat Macdonald and Mrs Rundell give recipes for this type of mincemeat. Below are MacDonald’s:
Mince pies were eaten throughout the 12 days of Christmas,and the cook would be busy in the days before the season began making them in advance.
As you can see from the recipes given here, they were normally made with a casing of shortcrust pastry. But in Yorkshire they used puff pastry,as we can see here in Mary Ellen Best’s illustration:
So, Frank Churchill living with his grand relatives in Yorkshire would have been used to eating these at Christmas and not the short crust kind more likely to be found in Mrs Musgrove’s great hall.