Returning to our New York editorial, the amused reader finds this eulogium upon mince pie:
"There goes much skill to the making of a mince pie. Within the fortunate inwards of the president of pies are strange dainties and spices, and Dr. Johnson's drink of heroes. The elements are so mixed in it that nature may stand up and say to all the world: 'This is a pie! A great mince pie is a masterpiece!' "
An anonymous writer upon the same subject says for the comfort of semi-dyspeptics:
"Mince-meat ought to be extremely wholesome for the same reasons that make it good to eat - its flavors of sweet and sour, of meat, apple and spice, which relieve each other, and its finely divided particles which allow the choicer blending of flavors and save the stomach much of the grinding work which reduces food to the pulp in which it enters the blood. What gives mince pie its ill repute as the very spawn of nightmare, are its overdressing with suet and butter, only fit for polar consumption, and its drugging with spices. Spice is the very food of the nerves, rightly used, growing more essential as circulation and sense dull with age. But it should be delicately, discerningly used not to lose its potency. The overdressing with fat is a relic of the old English barbarism which stewed its food in tallow, and, as the old play has it, 'took two fat wethers to baste one capon.'"
(A family recipe 150 years old.)
Boil two pounds of lean beef, and when cold, chop fine. Mince a pound of beef suet to a powder. Peel and chop five pounds of apples. Seed and halve two pounds of raisins. Wash, and pick over carefully two pounds of cleaned currants and one pound of sultana raisins. Cut into tiny bits three-quarters of a pound of citron. Mix these ingredients, adding, as you do so, two table-spoonfuls, each, of cinnamon and mace, a tablespoonful, each, of cloves and allspice, a teaspoonful of ground nutmeg, a tablespoonful of salt and two and a half pounds of brown sugar. When all is well mixed, stir in a quart of sherry and a pint of the best brandy. Mix thoroughly and pack down in a stone crock.
Mince-meat should be prepared several weeks before it is needed, that it may "ripen" and become mellow. Those whose temperance principles forbid the moistening of the mince-meat with brandy or sherry, may use cider in their place. In making mince pies have the best puff-paste. Line pie-plates with this, fill the crust shells with the mince-meat, and lay strips of pastry, lattice-wise, across the tops of the pies. Bake in a good oven, which should be as hot at the bottom as at the top. The pies may be kept for weeks, but must be reheated before serving.
Our New Orleans essayist upon the national pie, is cavalierly disdainful in throwing aside the third variety:
"The barred pie may be dismissed without discussion, being a mere compromise, a pabulum for colorless individuals who are the mugwumps of the dining-room."
In defiance of the slur, I commend my "barred" mince pie, with its latticed cover, as the pearl of the royal race. For a century and a half, the Old Virginia housewives, from whom I proudly claim descent, laid the dainty trellis across the heaving brown breast of the masterpiece, and six generations of epicures have set thereon the seal of their approval.