Love For Mince Pies


I do feel somewhat compelled to adhere to food etiquette, on occasion. After Eight mints after 8pm (…ish), nought but raisins in my scones and mince pies only at Christmas. The latter being of interest for today. I absolutely adore mince pies, so much. I’m not sure whether it’s because I know I can only have them, by conscience, in December, or whether they’re actually just that amazing. I love that many very talented chefs have reinvented this old classic, whether it’s to adapt for people with certain food intolerances, or because they grew up on badly made mince pies or whatever their reason may be. However, I have no major food intolerances, I grew up on awesome mince pies and I am set in my ways, so I still love them. I was perusing the BBC Good Food website and found only three recipes, that weren’t mince pie slices, cakes, muffins or other general paraphenalia. It might not sound so slanderous, but if you take into account the vastness of the website and the recipes it holds, it is. 

I know they’re everywhere at Christmas, but I don’t really know anyone who makes them at home anymore, I think it’s a bit of a shame. They’re not difficult, they don’t take up much of time, even if you buy ready made pastry they’re still cheaper to make then they are to buy, and they taste better. So when we reach December, I will be able to re-test out my recipe and post it on here, so you guys don’t have to use experimental recipes and such like. Such dedication to my etiquette.

 

Around this time of year is a good time to be making your mincemeat (if you plan to make your own mince pies that is). Obviously it depends entirely on personal taste as to what sort of mincemeat you can make, if you want a real traditional style mincemeat you can use suet. This is obviously bad news for vegetarians (and vegans) and people who care about their waistline, so you don’t have to put it in, as there’s plenty of fat in the pastry you make. Personally, i’m not a purist in this region so I leave out the suet. There’s some things that you unfortunately just cant leave out of mincemeat, such as raisins, sultanas and currants. There is a difference between raisins, sultanas and currants too, and they do differ in taste, so find one you like and stick a load of it in your recipe. You don’t necessarily have to use all the types of dried grape, but you’ve gotta use one, it’s just not the same! Personally I use half raisin (dried red grapes) and half sultanas (dried green grapes) in mine, currants are dried Black Corinth grapes and they are too shriveled and hard, no matter how long you soak them. 

A little note to those who aren’t fans of sultanas or currants:If you want to use all raisins, you need to lessen the amount of sugar you put into your mixture. Red grapes are naturally sweeter than green so when the sweetness is intensified by the drying process it’ll end up far too sweet when you add even more sugar during the cooking process! 

Because I know all are not the same i’m providing you with two differing recipes, huzzah! One is for the traditionalists, and one for more modern taste buds. They are both from the legendary Constance Spry cookery book, and I’ve used them both for many a Christmas. The measurements are converted from pounds and ounces into grams so it’s all rough. But it’s all fine, that’s the wonder of mincemeat it doesn’t really have to be perfect. You can also leave bits out too, if you don’t want to use (or can’t find) Brandy, use a different liqueur or orange juice if you fancy.


Traditional Constance Spry Mincemeat
Makes enough for 20-30 good sized mince pies.
500g raisins
400g sultanas
350g chopped apple (any variety works well, cooking Bramleys are good for thickening the mixture, and Golden Delicious is good to add lightness and sweetness)
350g brown sugar
225g beef suet
250g mixed peel
120g almonds, chopped finely
Grated rind and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
Tblsp mixed spice
2 medium glasses of brandy.

– Shred the suet as finely as you can and mix all of the ingredients together. If you’re worried about it being too boozy you can add the brandy bit by bit until it’s just moistened.
– Keep for a few weeks in the fridge before using to let all of the flavours intermingle!This one is lovely and filling, because of the suet used, but if the thought of having beef fat in your mincemeat makes you cringe you can leave it out and it’ll still taste awesome (and stay away from supermarket bought mincemeat too!).

Modern Mincemeat: Take 2
Makes enough for 40-50 mince pies, or to last you through a big family Christmas.
900g chopped apples
1.5kg chopped raisins
1.5kg sultanas
700g grapes (seedless to make your life easier)
Rind and juice of 3 or 4 unwaxed lemons
400g almonds
250g mixed peel
900g brown sugar
1 gill of Brandy or Rum (about 150ml)– Pulse the peel, almonds and apples in a blender to help your along, otherwise chop them as finely as your hands can carry you! Mix everything together and stir it every now and again.
The second one is a lot fresher, so keep it in the fridge and stir it quite regularly and it’ll be golden! By the time it gets to mid December it’ll be beautiful and ready to use. A little project to keep you occupied for the cold winters drawing in perhaps?Peace
JR

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