Thursday, 6 November 2014

Christmas Mince Pies

The other day I received an email from someone, now living overseas and without her (or her mother's) old cookbooks, who was looking for Alison's recipes for Christmas Mince Pies. At first I was a little startled, but then it dawned on me that Christmas actually isn't that far away anymore....

If you want to 'get a jump' on your preparations, making your fruit mince now is a great place to start. Once you've made the fruit mince, put it in an airtight jar and store it in the fridge - the flavours will only improve over the next 6-8 weeks.

Christmas Mince Pies

To some people, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a mince pie! While there are some good bought ones out there, they’re seldom as good as your own homemade version.

We think the difference is usually in the filling. This recipe has been handed down the through our family for at least three generations, and if you have a food processor it’s really very easy as well as delicious.

Margaret’s Easy Mincemeat

For 3-4 cups:
rind of 1 lemon
rind of 1 orange
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large Granny Smith apples
juice of 1 lemon
2 cups sultanas
2 cups mixed fruit
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup orange juice

Peel the coloured rind from the lemon and orange with a potato peeler. Place it in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade, add the white sugar and process until the rind is very finely chopped. Add the brown sugar, the unpeeled apples cut into chunks, lemon juice, half the sultanas and half the mixed fruit. Process until the apple is finely chopped. Add the remaining fruit and the flavourings, and process briefly.

You can use this immediately or transfer it to clean airtight containers and refrigerate until required (2-3 weeks). Freeze for longer storage.

Mince Pies

Alison still likes to make her own sweet short pastry, while if feeling virtuous having made fruit mince, Simon is happy to bought frozen pastry. Either way, roll the pastry until it’s about 3mm thick. Mini-muffin pans make lovely little pies, for these you’ll need to cut 6cm rounds (use a fluted cutter, a round cutter or a glass) and press them gently into non-stick sprayed mini muffin tins. Drop a heaped teaspoon of fruit mince into each one, then finish by placing a star, or other shape, of pastry on top (ball up and roll out the trimmings for these) before baking at 180°C for 10-12 minutes or until the pastry begins to brown. If you want to make slightly larger pies in patty pans, you’ll need an 8-9cm cutter, but the rest of the process is the same.

And if you want a pastry recipe:

Sweet Short Pastry

This pastry is easy to work with, although it takes some time to shape. If you are organised and are working in advance, it makes pies that freeze (and reheat) well.

100g butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour

Turn the oven to 170-180°C. Soften but do not melt the butter; beat in the sugar and egg until well combined. Stir in the unsifted flours and mix well to form a dough. If too dry, add a little milk. If too soft to work with, refrigerate rather than adding more flour.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured board. Using a glass, round lid, or fluted cutter, cut out circles for the bottom of the pies (the size will depend on the tart or muffin pans in which the pies will be baked.) Cut circles for the tops with a smaller cutter, or small biscuit cutters that form hearts, stars, diamonds, etc.

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