These little Mincemeat pies are a traditional Yuletide treat here. My husband tells me lots of people in the USA know these little pies too, but I promised Tamara I’d post on how to make them the way we do. Before the recipe a bit about them for those who may not know this snip of history.
Mincemeat pies in the UK date back to very early medieval times, as far as I know, though the idea of them could possibley be older. Originally they were made with minced, or finely ground up meat, baked in an oblong shaped pastry crust said to represent the manger the Christ child was laid in. They were a seasonal treat enjoyed by everyone who could afford to make them. The addition of costly spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and saffron improved the flavour of the meat.
A little later fruit was added to the mix, perhaps in the reign of Richard II. I think the idea was a kind of sweet and sour notion. I don’t know who first thought of putting currants in the pies but the idea caught on. Along with the currants cooks created showy tops with cut out patterns in pastry to increase the decorative nature of the pies.
The first moves toward a sweet pie came with the Tudors who had a passion for all things sweet. Honey and sugar were added in small quantities and the fruit content bumped up. The shape of the pies changed too, from oblong to round. There is some suggestion this was a deliberate attempt to disguise the link to the Nativity. In the early 17th century when Oliver Cromwell governed England Christmas was banned. All things linked to it suffered under Puritan disapproval, to the point it that one year Londoners who had dared to cook a Christmas meal were deprived of it by government soldiers. But who could object to a little plain fruit pie? Mince pies survived and continued in their popularity, just as they do today.
By the late 17th century Mr Pepyes was recording a his wife being up half the night to make these culinary delights.
By the early 18th century cooks often presented both meat based and fruit based Mincemeat pies.
The popularity of the succulent fruit pies won out and they became the first choice for most people. So, if you wish to make some here is a recipe for fruit based Mincemeat such as my Gran taught me to make.
You can make your Mincemeat several weeks before Christmas if you store it in sterilised jars and keep them in a fridge or very cold pantry. These quantities will make about four pounds of Mincemeat. You can a good dozen pies with one jam jar full of Mincemeat.
1 pound of apples
Half an ounce of butter
8 ounce of currants
8 ounce of raisins
8 ounce of sultanas
4 ounce of candid peel
4 ounce of small chopped dates
8 ounce of soft brown sugar
6 ounce of grated suet. Pre packed suet works fine.
The rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
A quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg
4 hearty tablespoons of rum
1 Peel, core and finely chop the apples
2 Melt the butter in a skillet and gently fry the apples until they are softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
3 Put the cool apple and all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well together.
4 Leave everything in the bowl with a cover, a tea towel will do. Keep it somewhere cool. Mix occasionally over the next 24 hours.
5 After 24 hours put the mix into cold but sterile jars. Don’t fill quite to the top. Cover with waxed paper discs and jam pot covers.
6 Store in a cool, dry place.
A special tip for those of you who enjoy a tipple. If you have stored Mincemeat, unseal the jar about three days before you intend to make you mince pies, and each day add a tot of brandy to the mix. It will soak in nicely and give your Mincemeat a fabulous flavour. You can do this with shop bought Mincemeat too.
To make the pies.
Use plain shortcrust pastry. I make mine with lard not butter. The result is fabulous.
8 ounce of flour. I’ve used both plain and self raising they both work.
4 ounce of lard cut up into small chunks.
A pinch of salt.
Rub ingredients together until they resemble breadcrumbs.
Add two tablespoons of cold water and gently mix until you have a firmish pastry ball. Don’t over handle. You can let the pastry rest for 15 minutes or so, just long enough for a cup of coffee.
Roll out the pastry. Use a cutter to cut circular bases and tops. You can use a glass if you don’t have a cutter. Use a slightly smaller one for the tops.
Put the bases into your pie tray.
A good dollop of Mincemeat goes in each.
Then seal a top on the pie using a little cold water on your fingers to make the seal.
You can decorate with star shapes if you wish, or you can use a star shaped cutter to make the tops if you want.
Place your pie tray in a preheated oven at 220C and cook till golden.
Take the pies out and cool on a wire rack. Do be careful because the Mincemeat gets really hot sticky. Sometimes it breaks the seals and it can cause blisters if you get it on your hands. I know because I’ve done it.
Serve sprinkled with a little castor sugar.
You can enjoy these Yule time classics warm or cold and they are truly delicious with some whipped cream, or ice cream or even brandy butter.
If you do make some Mince pies do let me know if the recipe worked for you.
Mince Pies Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_chris_elwell'>chris_elwell / 123RF Stock Photo</a>