I love reading old recipes – or receipts as they were once called – so here’s a seasonal one to celebrate Day Four of the Advent Bookfest. It’s from The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened, which was published in the 17th century and also includes wonderful instructions for making alcoholic drinks like metheglin, 'sider' and cherry-wine.
"Another Way of Making Excellent Minced Pyes of my Lady Portlands
Parboil Neats-tongues. Then Peel and hash them with as much as they weigh of Beef-suet, and stoned Raisins and picked Currants. Chop all exceeding small, that it be like Pap. Employ therein at least an hour more, then ordinarily is used. Then mingle a very little Sugar with them, and a little wine, and thrust in up and down some thin slices of green Candyed Citron-peel. And put this into coffins of fine light well reared crust. Half an hour baking will be enough. If you strew a few Carvi comfits on the top, it will not be amiss."
I think Carvi comfits were sugared caraway seeds and, in case you’re wondering, neats’ tongues were calves tongues, and all I can say is that progress is a wonderful thing and modern mince pies, with their filling of dried fruits and alcohol, sound far tastier than this!
Sir Kenelm Digby was the son of Everard Digby, who was executed for his part in the Gunpowder Plot. Kenelm, a scientist and philosopher, seems to have been a very colourful character, who moved in royal circles and knew the great and the good of his day. This particular book is thought to have been produced in 1669, after his death, by a servant, and it comes to you courtesy of Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16441/16441-h/16441-h.htm#Page_111).