This morning a friend and I finished up the last of the mince pies I was given at Christmas. Here’s a picture of the very same prior to their consumption with a rather nice cup of instant coffee.
Mince pies are shortcrust or puff pastry filled with a minced mixture of dried fruits, sugar, spices and brandy. Although, this rich and sticky mixture of fruit contains no meat it is called mince meat – and jars of ready-made mince pie filling sold in shop is labelled mincemeat. Mince pies have been eaten as part of a traditional Christmas in Great Britain and Ireland since the 16th century.
Here’s a link to a delicious, easy to make recipe, if you’d like to try making your own mince pies. I though recommend you serve them hot with cream rather than the brandy butter described.
Christmas crackers are an important part of Christmas celebrations in many English-speaking countries, especially in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in coloured paper with a gift, a crown-like paper hat, and a motto or joke on a small piece of paper inside the central chamber. One person pulling one end of the cracker, another person the other end. When the cracker splits a snapping sound, similar to the sound produced by a cap gun, can be heard. This is due to the presence of a card strip impregnated with a special chemical inside the cracker. Christmas crackers are commonly pulled at the Christmas dinner table. The joke or riddle is told and the hat worn during the meal. The tradition of pulling crackers at Christmas dates back to at least the mid 19th century.
Here’s a question sent in by a recent visitor to the site: “who was the first king of England?”. The answer to this question is, however, not as simple as it might appear. Some historians will say it was King Alfred, others Cnut the Great, and still others Henry II. Here’s my answer.
Athelstan (c.894 – 939 AD), the son of Edward the Elder and grandson of Alfred the Great, was the first king to rule all of England. It was Athelstan who first united the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria with his kingdom Wessex to create a united English kingdom. During his lifetime Athelstan was usually referred to as ‘King of the English’ (rex Anglorum), and on occasion as ‘King of all Britain’ (rex totius Britanniae). Althelstan reigned from 925 to his death at the age of 45 in 939.
However, to muddy the waters, it should be noted that Athelstan’s grandfather, Alfred the Great, was the first to be crowned ‘King of the English’, but, his kingdom did not include all of present-day England.
We’ll look at the equally contentious answer to the question ‘who was the first Queen of England?’ at a later date!
Today’s culture spot is dedicated to that most tasty of cheeses, Cheddar Cheese!
Some things you may not know about Cheddar Cheese:
– Cheddar cheese is named after the village of the same name in England where this most delicious of cheeses has been produced since at least the 12th century.
– Traditionally the cheese was matured in the many caves to be found in the village of Cheddar in Somerset, south-west England.
– A good quality strong Cheddar needs to be matured for at least 12 months.
– It is the most popular type of cheese in the UK, Australia, and Canada; and is the second-most-popular cheese in the US, behind Mozzarella.