To Make Minced Tongue Pie
Last, but not least, the third receipt is minced tongue pie. Minced pie is a medieval combination of meat, fruit, sugar and spices. Over the years it has changed from a first course to a dessert, often doused in liquor and served at Christmas.
The Puritans banned minced pie as it had become synonymous with Christmas, which they appalled. Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan influence reached as far as the colonies, and for 22 years in Massachusetts there was no Christmas. According to Linda Stradley, of the blog “What’s Cooking America,” “The pie’s sullied reputation stuck, and even in 1733 a writer still lamented that Puritans “inveigh[ed] against Christmas Pye, as an Invention of the Scarlet Whore of Babylon . . . the Devil and all his Works.” Strong words for a pie.
So I started looking at tongue and minced pie receipts, and went as far back as 1658 and up to 1785. The receipts were both sweet and savory with the sweet leading the pack. With the exception of the tongue, there was no one ingredient that was used in all the 16 receipts I examined. The next most-used ingredient was Sack or some type of wine followed by sugar, mace, nutmeg, cloves, suet, cinnamon, lemon, orange and citron, next apples, and last, raisins, in that order. I found some interesting ingredients too, butter, orange and rose water, chestnuts, bacon, artichokes, eggs, anchovies, grapes, bread crumbs and cream. There did not seem to be any indication that any one year used more ingredients than another, it was sporadic. The majority did not mention what type of crust they used, but puff paste, coffin and high paste were mentioned. For the most part, they were making one pie, yet in the early receipts they mention making small hand pies also. The name of the pie did change over the course of the years; we start with, To Make Tongue Pye, and end with, To Make Minced Pie of Tongue. Several of the later receipts called for previously made minced to which you added the tongue.
Modern day mince meat pies contain no meat, and sometimes no alcohol, yet they do have every other ingredient under the sun in them. Most minced pies today are made with bottled minced meat, which has no meat, no tongue. The meat is the fruit that has been chopped to tiny bits.
For the “Minced Pie of Tongue,” Kathleen took the lead. Being a great pastry maker as well as a superior hearth cook, I knew that, under her guidance, the pie would be made to perfection.
Kathleen was joined by Linda and John. While the ladies peeled lemons and oranges, and cut in the butter for the pastry, John chopped the tongue and suet. Here he has cut the large tongue to human size. This workshop was not all work and no play.
With the pie done it was placed in the bake kettle on the hearth, and coals placed below and on top. The kettle was turned a time or two until it was deemed ready, Kathleen and Linda carefully take it out of the hot kettle.
The minced tongue pie team gathers for a final photo with their warm pie ready to be served. The crust had a wonderful buttery taste while the suet mixed with the tongue; apples, spices, raisin and other ingredients gave everything a luscious texture. The brandy also added bit of a kick.
This ALHFAM workshop was wonderful to present as the participants were all so eager to cook on the hearth. Some had only hearth-cooked a time or two, others were real pros. This provided a great combination as many shared tips and experiences they have had along their journey cooking on the open hearth.
With the workshop coming to a close, and the cleanup complete, we headed out the door. I hope that everyone took something new away with them. I know I did. Thank you all for participating.