“It is lucky to eat as many pies as possible before Christmas, as says the dweller in London, or is the more elaborate custom found in Yorkshire more correct? The writer of this book, being a Yorkshire woman, is quite sure that it is not correct to eat mince pies before Christmas, but to eat one in a different house if possible on each of the twelve days of the season of Christmas. Anyone who does this ensures a happy year, as each mince pie so eaten is supposed to bring a happy month!”
From Old English Cookery, 1751-1931. Mildred P. Blakelock (1932)

All depends on how many friendly neighbours you’ve got, or the size of your personal property portfolio, I suppose.

In advance of the annual batch of mince pies, I spent a while this morning making my own mincemeat – it takes no time at all by the way – the upside of a home-mix being that the assembly can benefit from a reckless choice of alcohol. Whilst the fruit was mingling, with both brandy and Cointreau, I wandered off to search for the lineage of these delicious little Christmas treats. I’m sure you know that the early medieval pastries contained meat, but this frequently translated as offal it seems, with a surprising substitution of fish on fast days. This was all mixed with chopped eggs and root ginger, although I’m not sure that the neighbours would remain friendly if you sprung these concoctions on them mid eggnog on the eve of Christmas. The whole caboodle, then known as ‘chewettes’, was fried or baked. Later versions had dried fruit and sweet ingredients added and by the 16th century were known as ‘shredded’ or ‘minced’ pies. Meat left the party by the end of the 17th century and was replaced by suet, later to become a purely vegetable suet in the 19th century. All in all, I think I remain happy with the 21st century recipe.

If you’re free on one of the 12 nights, give me a shout, I could pop round if there are any still left. No offal, I promise.

Mincemeat. The recipe comes from way back, so I cannot credit its author I’m afraid.

225g vegetarian suet
225g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
125g candied peel
225g sultanas
225g currants
225g raisins
1 tsp mixed spice
175g demerara sugar
1 orange, zest and juice
60 ml brandy. (I used a mix as above and rum works well too)

Mix all ingredients together
Pack into sterilised jars and seal
Store in a cool dark place