Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Mince pies, sand and bobeches

So it turns out that mince pies and bobeches inter-are.

Do you have mince pies in America, in Australia? They are very important here in Great Britain. You cannot truly have Christmas in any gastronomic sense without mince pies.

In case you don’t have them, I should explain they are small pies of a size to hold in your hand and eat in a few bites. They are made with shortcrust pastry – er … the crumbly sort where you rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add cold water, knead, roll out. The filling, enclosed with a lid, is a spicy dried fruit mixture of about the texture of jam (US ‘jelly’), includes suet (whether vegetable or animal).

If you make them at home, they go in the regular bun tin (the baking tray with a dozen cup-shaped depressions to cook individual cakes or pastries. But if you buy them in the shop, as we usually do, they usually come cooked in little foil trays. We don’t throw these out, our Hebe saves them up because they are handy for the paint she uses for the calligraphy on coffin plates.

The main candle that illuminates my room is on a wall sconce, and the drip tray is not large. As my computer often sits beneath it, there is a risk of sticky beeswax dripping onto the keypad, which would be an unhappy occurrence. So I thought I should acquire a bigger bobeche to add to the drip tray it already has.

I looked at some on eBay, but they tend to be expensive and come in sets. Then I thought – oh, wait on! What about screwing the candle cup through one of the little foil trays we kept back after Christmas? That would work perfectly! And so it does. 

You don't need brass polish to clean the sconce, either. The sandpit is a very practical alternative.


Ganeida said...

Yes, we have mince pies in Australia. I do not like most dried fruit so never touch them! ☺

Paula said...

Here in Canada mince pie would be full pie size (9 inch usually). What you describe would be called a mince tart (like butter tarts). Mom loves when I make her mince tarts.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Ganeida - waving!

Hi Paula - I think in the UK a tart would imply an open pastry - pie-shaped but without a lid. Mince pies traditionally have lids. 9 inches! Gosh!

Rachel said...

In America mince pie is seldom served. Even at Christmas. Instead we have fruitcake. I prefer mince, actually. :(
Tarts are distinguished from pies by their size like in Canada. Tarts are usually 3 inches across.

Pen Wilcock said...

I would never have known that if we hadn't had this conversation! x

Rapunzel said...

If not for this post I would have gone right on thinking of mince pies as a main course thing because I've only ever read about them and only references in passing, not actual descriptions.
I recall someone in a kitchen measuring the suet for the mince pie, and also recall a lady in another story getting mince to make spaghetti sauce. Put these two together with a Brit friend explaining that mince meant what we in the US call ground beef and my imagination concocted some sort of hamburger pie. Why anyone would add more fat to ground beef did puzzle me.

This is a good place to learn unexpected things!

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes, it always intrigues me to discover that things so very traditional I kind of assume they are universal, are completely unknown elsewhere! x

Anonymous said...

No we don't eat mince pies in Minnesota, and most people just talk about how much they dislike fruitcake and don't really eat that either. Deserts at Christmas around here are usually plates of assorted kinds of Christmas cookies, with every family having their own favorites types, but usually this includes some cut out sugar cookies decorated with frosting (which some people call icing). We do use the word jam here, it is the stuff with lumps of fruit in it, while what we call jelly is instead clear; and the gelatin that I think you might call a jelly, is usually referred to by the brand name Jell-O here or more commonly jello. Fun and thrifty that you are reusing things. I have been saving the rectangular wooden side of a shoe rack that didn't work well to make into a frame to sort and store jewelry such as necklaces that often gets tangled from being too close together, or earrings that end up in a jumble. Of course I could minimize the jewelry and then not need to store it! PS: (Unrelated) I have been watching Foyle's War, and thinking of you as I enjoy the scenery on the locations.

Pen Wilcock said...

I love Foyle's War! x

Paula said...

I'm late to the conversation (miss your posts on FB!). In the U.S., you don't see mincemeat very often, but if you do, it is out of a jar. There is no meat in it that I can tell, just a bunch of over-spiced apples and raisins. It is not like a jelly; the liquids are just liquid. And, as everyone has said, a mince pie is PIE in the U.S., which means a 9" double-crust pie, and it is served in wedges like any other pie. Sometimes it is served with vanilla ice cream. I used to make apple-mince pie at Christmas, but one of my children found it so overwhelmingly rich that I stopped making them. I haven't made one in about 20 years now. I tend to associate mincemeat with New England.

Pen Wilcock said...