Earlier this month, I stepped into my kitchen and found one of my flatmates munching away on a tiny hand-held pie. The first thought to cross my mind was, "Handheld pie, awesome concept." It wasn't until I asked him what flavor it was, that I discovered yet another British treat that I, as an American, was completely unaware of prior to moving to Scotland. He was eating a mince pie.

My next question was, what is mince pie? Followed by, where can I get one? A typical mince pie consists of minced meat, suet, a range of fruits and spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. They're traditionally Christmas treats, but many people enjoy them year-round. You can normally pick them up at any supermarket in the UK from September onwards, and in any US grocery store in the international foods section. 

The Origins of Mince Pie

This sweet and spicy treat, like Christmas pudding, was originally filled with meat such as lamb, rather than the dried fruit mix that many are used to. They were originally made in the shape of an rectangle, which may have been to represent the manger that Jesus slept in as a baby. During the reign of the Stuarts and in Georgian times mince pies were a status symbol at Christmas, where the wealthy showed off their intricate pies in different shapes. 

Nowadays children leave mince pies out with a glass of brandy or another spirit for Father Christmas to snack on while delivering presents. Those in the UK view mince pies in the same way that Americans tend to view Christmas cookies, with a sense of nostalgia for childhood.

What Mince Pies Taste Like

A Mince pie is a sweet treat that has quite a rich flavor to it. The minced "meat" that was earlier referred to, is actually just a blend of dried fruits, normally raisins. The pastry is also just as important as the filling, as a crumbly and sweet pastry can pull the pie together leading to a spicy and sweet treat that will leave one feeling like Christmas.

As an American, I felt that I should try to integrate myself as far into British culture as I can, and a key component to their Christmas is a mince pie. The earthy flavors of the dried fruit are a nice change from the sweetness of Christmas cookies, so why not switch up your holiday dessert choices and try something new? 

For those of us who reside outside of the UK it may seem like a strange concept, but when you think about it mince pies are quite close to fruitcake, which we all hold close to our hearts. So start off your culinary exploration into Christmas treats from around the world with a mince pie, and maybe leave one out for Father Christmas this year as well.