Can you believe it’s Day 15 already? Today’s guest is my friend and critique partner, Nina Croft. Nina lives in Spain, but I think I made her a little nostalgic for England recently when I told her about my visit to her hometown in northern England. She’s sharing a post about English Christmas traditions, and a recipe for one of her favorites. Comment below on your favorite Christmas food for a chance to win a copy of Nina’s latest release, Flying Through Fire.
What’s in a Mince Pie?
I’m English, and although I tend to write aimed at the American market, my characters are usually English and my stories tend to be set in England. But the story I’m currently writing is set in Washington, D.C. and I’ve been inundating my crit partners with questions about all things American.
I’ve already had to become aware of the differences between American English and what we speak back home. It’s not just spelling, like realised and realized, but also actual words. We have lifts, Americans have elevators, we have pavements they have sidewalks. Jumpers are sweaters, cafes are diners, and boots are trunks.
And it goes deeper, to the food we eat and the way we celebrate certain festivals. So it’s no surprise to discover that there are also big differences between English and American Christmas traditions.
Which takes me to mince pies.
Mince pies are a huge Christmas tradition in England. But after a bit of research I find that—it’s true—Americans do not eat mince pies at Christmas. In fact, it seems many Americans don’t even know what a mince pie is.
When I was growing up, we would always leave a mince pie and a glass of sherry out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve (and don’t forget the carrot for the reindeer), as a thank you for delivering the presents.
Another custom is that if you eat a mince pie every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night you will have happiness for the next twelve months. The perfect excuse for indulging.
If you’d like to try and make your own mincemeat, here’s a simple recipe:
zest of 1 lemon, juice of ½
300g shredded suet*
250g dark brown sugar
85g chopped mixed peel
½ small nutmeg, grated
1 large Bramley* apple, peeled and grated
Soak the raisins and currants in the brandy and lemon juice for 1 hour, then drain and set the brandy aside. Mix all the ingredients together, then pour in the brandy when everything else is well mixed. Spoon and press into sterilised jars, to exclude any air. Cover and leave for at least a fortnight. Then make your pies!
(*An aside from Marin: just to illustrate the UK-US differences Nina mentioned, it’s hard to find food grade suet in the US–it’s not the same as the suet we use in bird feeders! Use lard, shortening, or butter if you can’t find it. I don’t think we have Bramley apples in the US–at least, I’ve never seen one. Granny Smiths would be a good substitute. And if you’re looking for a recipe for the pie pastry, try this one from the BBC.)
Leave a comment and let me know your favorite Christmas food from your part of the world and get a chance to win a free ecopy of my latest release, Flying Through Fire.
Thanks, Nina! My mouth is watering now. 🙂 To find out more about Nina or to subscribe to her great newsletter, visit her website at www.ninacroft.com/.