Seven years have elapsed since I saw a minced pie – and time and distance had not diminished my regret for those absent friends to “a merry Christmas and a happy new year” – both of which I augur for you and your family, although the congratulation of the former is somewhat of the latest..
In January 1823 as the poet was living in the ‘Arctic region of Genoa and recovering from the torment of ‘chilblains’; he was also tucking into a minced pie or two that had been left for him as a gift from Mr Ingram a sometime acquaintance and fellow member of the Ravenna ‘dilettanti’.
I have made a sumptuous meal on your minced pies – which are worthy of the donor and of his table. I congratulate you on your Cook…
Now for those of you who know me even moderately well; you will recall that I am rather partial to a mince pie at this time of year and if I were to ever venture into a life-size kitchen and rummage among the pots and pans in order to whittle up my own batch of these delightful pastry treats; I certainly wouldn’t be holding my breath in anticipation of any congratulatory message!
It is fortuitous as I reside near a local emporium that makes the most delightful cornucopia of mince pies that my attention has been more appropriately served (no pun intended!) within the dark confines of the basement kitchen of 13 Piccadilly Terrace supervising the creation of a minced pie worthy of his Lordship’s table…
And with a well-eared copy of Margaretta Acworth’s ‘book of receipts’ to hand; I will share the ‘fruits of my labour’ with you and her recipe for ‘Mince Pyes’ that her ‘Dear Mamma Always Made & Was Generally Admired’ as adapted by Alice and Frank Prochaska.
8 small eggs, weighing 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) uncooked
5 oz (140 g, 2½ cups) each of fresh breadcrumbs and shredded suet (kidney fat)
1 large cooking apple, weighing 10 oz (280 g) unpeeled
12 oz (340 g, 3 cups) currants
8 oz (225 g, 2 cups) raisins
10 oz (280 g, 1¾ cups) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon each of ground nutmeg and mace
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 oz (60 g, ½ cup) chop mixed candied peel.
Boil the eggs hard, cool them and shred them using a food processor or cheese grater. Mix them with the breadcrumbs and suet. Peel, quarter and core the apple and shred it too. Mix in the breadcrumbs and suet, then add all the remaining ingredients.
Stir well and put into sterilized jars. Seal well and keep in a cool, dark cupboard…
Puff pastry was what Mrs Acworth normally used for tarts and for those puddings that required pastry. Cheesecakes and mince pies would also have been made with puff pastry..
I shall bid you a fond ‘Adieu’ as I return to the ‘roleing’ of this ‘Puff Past’ and will allow Lord B a final word about the humble mince pie for this most festive of days…
“I wish you much merriment and minced pye – it is Xmas day…”
Now, I don’t mind if I do!
Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 4 (1814-1815) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)
Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 10 (1822-1823) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1980)
Margaretta Acworth’s Georgian Cookery Book Ed: Alice and Frank Prochaska (London: Pavilion Books Limited 1987)