Christmas Time, Mincepies and Mulled Wine...

If you were to gather your friends in a mock Family Fortunes style event and ask them to name the foods they most associate with Christmas, mince pies would definitely be up there. Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without Santa Claus's favourite post-chimney snack.

Apparently mince pies have been around since the days of yore and yes they did used to contain real meat. Nowadays the pie filling is made up of spiced fruits with a little alcohol although some tricksters do like to try and make unwitting foreigners believe otherwise (namely the naughty Housemate with her Greek friend).

Last Christmas we had a big Mince Pie Party at our flat, complete with mulled wine and gingerbread. For me, it was an opportunity to have all our friends drop in for a pie and a glass of festive cheer in a glamorous 50s house-wife cocktail party type style. Unfortunately the Housemate and the Bedmate saw it more as an opportunity to get drunk on mulled wine (they thought I didn't see them sucking the alcohol out of the orange segment dregs) so it wasn't quite as sophisticated as I had hoped. Drunken helpers aside, it was a great party.

This year we were getting ready to launch MPPII, but unfortunately we just couldn't find a suitable date. Well, that's the official line, truth is that the thought of spending the whole weekend making, serving and cleaning up pies for 50 was too much for some people (no names, Mr Bedmate) to cope with. Instead, I made a few trays of pies for us and a couple of friends to enjoy.

I love the fact that mince pies are something that people who don't typically bake will make at Christmas. I just wish that more people would take the logical step of making their own mincemeat to go in the little things. If you're going to go through the rigmarole of making your own pastry (surely the hardest step in the process?) it seems such a shame to waste that effort with sub-standard mincemeat. So many beautiful pies are ruined by acidic, preservative-filled fillings. Is it just me or does your average jar of supermarket mincemeat look like paste?

Making your own mincemeat is ridiculously easy. I mean, it's just stirring. In fact, if you are looking for homemade gifts but you can't face the prospect of getting your rolling pin out, a jar of mincemeat would be an excellent idea. This mincemeat recipe does come with one warning though. I finally convinced my Dad to make his own filing for his lovely mince pies last year. The day after making (and eating most of) the mixture he had a doctor's appointment where he was diagnosed with diabetes. Poor Dad. He still blames this news on the mincemeat. I have to say that the preceding 56 years of sweet treats are more likely to be the culprit.

If you're struggling to feel festive, gather the ingredients for these little pies, put your favourite Christmas CD on in the kitchen and get pie-making. These are excellent gifts (they freeze really well) and even if you don't want to give them away, they are perfect for an afternoon on the sofa watching a Christmas film with your favourite people. I should also say that these little fellas are also perfect specimens for Karyn's and Ann's Mini Pie Revolution.

Homemade Mincemeat

You can make this in advance and store in clean jars until you are ready to use it (or give it as a gift). Alternatively, you can make it the night before you need it and leave it covered in the fridge.This recipe yields 2kg so you will have plenty of filling left. The pastry should make about 24 pies.

450g apples (I used braeburns) grated or chopped finely
225g currants
225g raisins
225g sultanas
125g candied peel
125g glace cherries
125g dates chopped small
225g soft brown sugar
175g grated suet
Grated rind and juice of one lemon
Chopped stem ginger to taste - I also use about 1 tbsp of the syrup from the ginger.
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
5 tbsp rum or any other alcohol you have in the house. I used a mixture of rum and port.

You can add nuts if you fancy them - sometimes I use flaked almonds. You could also use your other favourite dried fruits but you may need to add a little extra liquid; it's not an exact science.

500g plain flour
125g butter
125g lard/shortening
pinch of salt

1 egg to make an egg wash (optional)

  1. Put all the ingredients together in a bowl and stir thoroughly.

  2. Cover the mixture and leave it to mature for at least 24 hours. I kept mine in the fridge for a couple of days before I got round to making the pies. If you are saving some of the mincemeat for gifts or for next year, transfer into sterilized jars and top with a wax circle/lid. Store in a cool, dark place.

  3. When your mincemeat has matured you can make the pastry.

  4. Rub the fats into the flour and salt by hand or by using a food processor.

  5. Add a couple of tablespoons of very cold water and bring the pastry together into a ball.

  6. Chill for an hour or so in the fridge.

  7. Once the pastry is ready to use, roll it out and cut discs for the base of your pies.

  8. Fill the pies with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat and top with another disk (I used hearts and stars for prettiness sake).

  9. Add a little slit for steam to escape and brush with the beaten egg. I added some cinnamon to the egg wash for extra spice.

  10. Put into a preheated oven (220 degrees) for 20 minutes or until the pies are browned.

  11. Sift with icing-sugar.

  12. Enjoy with mulled wine.*

* The best recipe I've found for mulled wine is from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess.

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1 comment:

redactedrecipes said...

These look wonderful! Thanks for joining the Mini Pie Revolution! The round-up is up today...