Nutmeg, ginger, and clove. Warm apples, figs and raisins. Golden-brown crust, fresh from the oven. Nothing conjures up holiday memories faster than the sweet scents of mince pie.
Sometimes referred to as minced pie, mincemeat pie, mutton pie or Christmas pie, the roots of this popular spiced pie trace back to Great Britain and then later to Scotland and Ireland, where this special treat became a household holiday staple.
When I was young, I thought everyone had mince pie for the holidays. My grandmother made heaps of it and my father had a knack for slicing pieces so big, they made my little eyes smile, and my tummy nearly burst from the savory, rich goodness.
We always hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas at our home, and I was well into my teens before I discovered that no one outside my paternal family celebrated the holidays with a heap of mincemeat pie! Imagine my surprise.
In fact, I often got funny looks from people when I even brought up this delectable dessert. Most had zero-to-no-idea what on earth I was raving about. It was at this point, I realized, I was definitely and distinctly a member of an old world Irish clan.
Appreciation of heritage was something I lacked understanding of in my youth. Now, as an adult, I cherish the Irish family traditions that shaped my childhood experiences, filling our celebrations with warmth, love, joy, and rituals that enriched our lives. I treasure the act of setting up a mince pie and a bottle of Guinness on Christmas Eve for Santa Claus; it’s unmistakably expressive of my culture. I have come to understand that leaving our Christmas decorations up past the New Year is not a sign of laziness—it’s one of good fortune!
From placing a candle in the window to opening advent calendars, I try to keep all the traditions from my heritage alive in our home during the holidays. My hope is that my children, at a minimum, will carry forward our two best traditions of spending time with family and enjoying holiday feasts filled with Irish treats. The four pillars of holiday goodies that you’ll find in our Irish holiday home are:
- Mince Pies
- Fruit Cakes
- Sweets (chocolates and hard candies)
- Guinness and Irish Cream
Making homemade Irish goodies and finding the brands from my childhood was often daunting, but World Market has been a great helper in keeping my Irish holiday traditions alive! At holiday time (and throughout the year,) I love that I can always find a bit of home in the aisles with brands like Robertson’s, Walkers and Guinness readily available.
Of course, I love that I can also find plenty of home decor and entertaining essentials to enhance my baking and holiday experience: from serving trays to coffee mugs and tea holders that suit every style. As you may notice in my photos, I love good old-fashioned rustic holiday pieces and patterns (which also reminds me of my childhood!)
The one staple item that is a must-have is Robertson’s Classic Mincemeat which serves as the showpiece of my family-famous holiday mince pie. Though I have a great homemade recipe I pieced together through the years, Robertson’s truly captures the old world spirit in a fabulous ready-made form (which is a blessing when I find myself short on time to prep this delectable treat.)
My recipe calls for making your own pie crust (which I prefer), but if you are really pressed for time, a pre-made crust will do in a pinch.
You may also note that I add apples to the mix; this is a tribute to my grandmother who was always heavy-handed with the apples in her recipe. I’ve found over the years that every Irish household makes mince pie a little different, but the end result is always delicious.
Looking for an even faster way to put mince pies on your sweets table?
Every year, I find there’s always an impromptu party to attend or unexpected guests in our home to entertain. In these situation, there’s little time to prep a baked minced pie. As Robertson’s Classic Mincemeat is ready-serve, I spoon the filling into Clearbrook Farms Shortbread Tart Shells and top with a Walker Mini Shortbread Christmas Tree Cookie. This quick and easy treat always gets a favorable reaction and looks like I spent hours prepping!
I also love to stock up on Walkers Spiced Orange and Cranberry Mince Pie, Walkers Luxury Mincemeat Tarts and Walkers Luxury Mini Mincemeat Tarts. They are perfect for serving in a pinch and gifting during the holidays.
Additional sweets for your Irish feast:
When you totally have the mince pie taken care of, a few complimentary treat are in order.
1. Fruit Cakes
Fruit Cakes like Burts Port and Brandy Fruitcake or Forchy Mixed Fruitcake (my favorite) will make you re-think the possibilities of fruitcake. This rich, delightful treat sometimes gets a bad rap.
As a child, I loved the fruitcake my uncle sent us each year to enjoy during the holidays (it was a lot like Forty’s), but I’ve had plenty of fruitcakes that were dry or didn’t quite hit the delicious note I was looking for. It’s a whole new world of fruitcake at World Market and one I’m always glad to re-discover during the holidays. I also love enjoying leftover fruitcake with a cup of tea or coffee after the holidays; it’s a wonderful mid-morning indulgence.
2. Irish Beers and Irish Cream
Irish Beers and Irish Cream are traditional beverages served in our home each year. They are the perfect after-dinner complements to our sweets table, and of course, chock full of flavor from the Isle! They are make a great pairing with each other (as you may know if you’ve ever had a Guinness with a combo shot of Irish Whiskey and Irish Cream tossed in). I have relatives that like to take a small taste of Omara’s Irish Cream right before drinking a glass of Guinness, which they tout as a “luxury” way to enjoy these spirits.
Ireland offers a host of wonderful beers beyond Guinness. I was happy to find other selections in store, like Smithwick’s Irish Ale and Murphy’s Stout available among the huge selection of beers from around the world.
Whatever you choose to bring to your holiday table this year, I hope you are inspired to enjoy a bit of Ireland in your celebrations!
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Serving Size = one 9-inch pie, feeds 8-12