Mince Pies with Homemade Mincemeat are Fabulous
When you taste a mince pie made with homemade mincemeat, you are in for a taste sensation. The flavour is so superior to those you buy in the supermarket. The texture of the mincemeat filling is chunkier, the pastry more buttery and thin. I challenge you. You will become a fan. Transform your Christmas table, with home made mince pies.
Mincemeat is really easy to make. As you need to leave it to mature for a few weeks, now is the perfect time to make it.
If you have a willing helper (a child is ideal) the task of picking through the dried fruit will pass quickly. Don’t be tempted to miss that step, who wants to chomp on stalks that you’ll find in any pack of raisins, sultanas and currants? Of course, you can buy the dried fruit from the supermarket, but it is worth seeking out other suppliers too – I am a big fan of Real Foods in Edinburgh. Some dried fruit is coated in vegetable oil so avoid that. For the peel, used mixed or pieces of orange or lemon peel chopped small.
Traditionally suet is made with beef fat. More recently vegetable versions have become available and work really well. Do watch out if you’re baking for someone following a gluten free diet, as most are dusted in wheat flour. It is possible to source gluten free vegetable suet eg Suma and use gluten free flour for the pastry.
Recently, I was so excited to find some local Gloucestershire apples, Taynton Codlins, that are known as the “Mincemeat Apple”. This beautiful apple doesn’t brown when grated. Helen from Day’s Cottage showed me the juice that is made from the apple, it is as pale as white wine. If you are lucky enough to have windfalls, use those. If not, use cooking apples such as Bramleys. We’ve even bought a Tayntons apple tree, they are so delicious!
If at all possible, look for organic unwaxed lemons available from many supermarkets so that you are not grating in anything added to keep the lemons fresh.
Granulated or caster sugar are both fine. Brown sugar is too dominant a flavour.
The amount of spice may seem small. All that’s needed is a subtle hint. If you don’t have one of those mentioned, use more of another.
The mincemeat needs to be kept in a well sealed container in a cool spot. It lasts for ages – a least a year!
The brandy used does not need to be anything special. I use the cheapest on offer. The brandy helps preserve the mincemeat, so it is an important ingredient.
Allow 2-3 weeks (if possible) for all the flavours to meld together before using.
Pastry, tins and cutters
When making the tarts, roll out the pastry as thin as possible. Cut out large rounds (fluted or smooth shaped) for the bottoms (I use my muffin tin). I then cut smaller shapes for the top to reduce the amount of pastry (use whatever cutters you have – starts, hearts, snowflakes …). When adding the filling, press down lightly. I like to egg wash the top so they are golden when baked.
It’s not just for mince pies
Try baking apples with a few spoonfuls of mincemeat or try Mary Berry’s Mincemeat Loaf
Traditional Mincemeat for Mince Pies
- Grater or grating disk for a food processor
- Lemon squeezer
- Large bowl
- Storage jars or plastic boxes
- 250 grams vegetable suet
- 250 grams currants
- 250 grams raisins
- 50 grams mixed peel chopped
- 250 grams apple grated use a cooking apple for preference
- 250 grams sugar caster or granulated
- 1 lemon, zest grated preferably untreated
- 50 millilitres brandy
- 5 grams nutmeg, mace and allspice total amount
Prepare the fruit
- Measure out and pick over all the dried fruit (except the peel) and remove any stalks. This is time consuming but worth it.
- Zest the lemons with a zesting tool. Squeeze the juice into a medium bowl
- Place the dried fruit, peel, zest, suet and spice in a large bowl and mix to combine.
- Peel, core and grate the apples. A food processor is ideal for this. Place the apples in the bowl with the lemon juice and mix well. This will stop the apples going brown too quickly.
- Add the apples to the fruit, suet and spice mixture and mix well. Add the brandy. Mix well and leave a few hours or overnight. Mix again, then put in jars.
- Leave for 2-3 weeks before using.
Mince Pie Pastry
Use your favourite shortcrust pastry for your mince pies. This is my favourite recipe, based on one by Ottolenghi. There is no water in the recipe, just egg. However, if you are using gluten free flour you might need to add a little water
Pastry for Mince Pies
- Food processor (optional)
- Rolling pin
- Pastry Brush
- Pastry cutters (you might like to add stars or snowflakes to the top of your pies)
- Muffin tin or similar
- Cake release spray (optional)
- 160 grams plain flour
- 90 grams butter
- 1 egg medium
- pinch salt
For brushing the pastry
- Put the flour, butter and salt into the food processor bowl and process until the texture looks like breadcrumbs
- Add the egg and mix until it forms a ball. Chill for 10 to 15 minutes before using.
- Put the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the texture looks like breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg and mix until there is no flour left and it forms a ball. Chill for 10 to 15 minutes before using.
Making Mince Pies
- Roll out the pastry thinly and cut an even number of tops and bottoms.
- Grease the tin liberally with butter or cake release spray
- Place the bottoms in the tin and fill with mincemeat
- Top with the tops and brush with egg
- Bake at 180°C for approximately 15 minutes or until golden.