As with many things, there was a shortage of dried fruit during the First World War which had an impact on the usual Christmas recipes! The dried fruit that people did have at home had to be used carefully as it was also used as a sweetener in place of sugar, which was rationed. Mince pies, puddings and cakes all had to be done a little differently. This recipe, called ‘Mince pies for patriotic people’, comes from the ‘Ladies Column’ of The Abroath Herald, dated Friday 23rd November 1917. The main difference I have noticed is a lack of brandy!
- 1 1/4 Ib Apples
- 6 oz Suet (grated)
- 4 oz Currants and/or raisins
- 4 oz Moist sugar or syrup
- 4 oz Candied peel (optional)
- 1 oz Ground ginger
- 1 oz Mixed spice
- 1 Lemon or orange (or both!)
- 4 oz Ordinary flour
- 2 oz Maize, barley or corn flour
- A pinch of salt
- 4 oz Lard, dripping or margarine
- 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
- Enough water to mix
For the mincemeat:
1. Peel and chop the apples
2. Chop the dates, figs and prunes and candied peel
3. Clean currants and raisins
4. Mix all together.
For the pastry:
1. Mix the flour, salt, and soda, and rub fat into flour.
2. Mix to a stiff paste with water. Roll out.
An excellent pie-crust can also be made by using ½ lb flour and ½ lb mealy potatoes, previously cooked and passed through a fine sieve. Other ingredients the same.
There were a few things to think about with this recipe! One change was that I used vegetarian suet which I am not sure was available. I also didn’t know what moist sugar meant – it turns out it means unrefined sugar – but in the spirit of things I just used what was in the house! I only used a teaspoon each of mixed spice and ground ginger as a whole 1 oz of each seemed crazy to me – it tasted nice and spicy enough.
There are no instructions on what to do with the lemon and orange so I added both the zest and the juice. There were also no instructions on how long or on what heat to cook the pies so I just guessed. This generally seems to be the case with First World War recipes but I guess that ovens were less regular and everyone knew their own. My own is temperamental and I generally have to guess anyway.
I had a go at both kinds of pastry. I couldn’t get maize flour so just used a plain flour and corn flour mix; it was very short. The potato pastry took quite a long time but actually tasted pretty good so was worth the effort! It puffs up nicely, is slightly chewy but has a nice taste. These are the pies in the photograph. I also found that the pastry was very stretchy and kind of bouncy to roll out so it made 24 rather than 12 pies!
I found the newspaper through the British Newspaper Archive.