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Mince pies (also known as "mince tarts") are a traditional British sweet pastry eaten during the Christmas period.
The tradition dates back to the eleventh century when crusaders returning from the Holy Land brought back a variety of oriental spices and made pies with three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) to symbolize the three gifts given to the infant Jesus by the Magi. Originally the pies were rectangular with a place for the Christ Child to be placed on top: the baby was removed and the pie eaten in celebration.
Mince pies are usually 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters) in diameter and made using sweet shortcrust or puff pastry. There is also an American version of mince pies, which is often larger (up to 10 inches - 25 centimeters) and can be used to serve several people.
In Victorian times, the pies generally were spiced meat pies with some dried fruit. In modern times however, the filling is made from fruit mincemeat (typically containing raisins, currants, cherries, apricot, candied peel, spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, and nuts such as walnuts and almonds, all in suet, and with brandy or rum).
Mince pies can be served hot or cold. If eaten hot, many people enjoy eating them with brandy butter.
There are many traditions associated with mince pies, although of course not everybody subscribes to all these traditions.
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