It was just before Pie Camp (Nov 2014) when I wrote about Mince Pie and promised to fill you in on the demonstration that Paola Thomas, friend, foodie, and photographer, was to give us. And now 2014 has nearly come to an end and I have yet to fill you in on the wonderful session and how much we learned from her. So, with out further ado, here’s how we rolled!
First we gathered to learn about the history of mincemeat. I had no idea that in the Anglican church the last Sunday before Advent and about one month before Christmas is informally known as “Stir-Up Sunday”. Check out the words in the Common Book of Prayer that begin the day.
‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded…”
To some it is as a reminder that it’s about time to make the mincemeat. And once made it would have the appropriate time to set and season. Clever that!
As we learned about more of mincemeat’s history, I was gently reminded by Paola that the tiny pastries we were to make were known as pies and not tarts as I had been calling them. Mincemeat pies are best made in a special pan with a rounded bottom.
There are many steps to making the mincemeat so we all pitched in. A real honest mincemeat must have beef suet in it…
And lemon and oranges…
candied cherries, apples…
brown sugar, golden raisins, currants, almonds, and candied peel.
Then you stir it all up.
My favorite part is the tradition to put a wish into the bowl as you stir.
Then the mincemeat is liberally doused with brandy and steeps over night before going into jars. Once in the jars it needs to season and the longer the better. A month is a good amount of time for starters. Paola brought some mincemeat that she had previously made for us to use. Then she showed us how to make a dough. She says you can use your favorite pastry dough.
Next was rolling out the dough and filing each pie with the mincemeat. She topped each pie with a round of dough and pressed down lightly on the edges to seal it.
Then we baked them off. Our Pie Camp kitchen smelled wonderful. When they were done, we put a spoonful of sugar on top of each tiny pie.
And then as soon as they cooled so we could touch them, our delectable little pies were ready to eat.
Paola was kind enough to share this recipe with us.
TRADITIONAL BRITISH MINCEMEAT
- 1 lb/450g Bramley apples cored and chopped small without peeling (or use any tart, flavourful pie apples)
- 8 oz/225g shredded beef suet
- 12 oz/350g raisins
- 8 oz/225g sultanas golden raisins
- 8 oz/225g currants
- 4 oz 110g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
- 4 oz 110g glace cherries
- 12 oz/350g soft dark brown sugar you may want to use a little less if your apples are much sweeter than Bramleys
- Grated zest and juice of two oranges
- Grated zest and juice of two lemons
- 2 oz slivered almonds
- 4 tsps ground mixed spice*
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Grated nutmeg
- 6 tablespoons brandy
- Spend the best part of an hour weighing and measuring fruits and chopping apples or get your friends to help you.
- Stir all the ingredients, except the brandy, together in a large ceramic bowl.
- Cover with a cloth and leave overnight in a cool place so that the flavours get a chance to mingle.
- Then place everything in a very cool (225 degrees) oven for three hours. This melts the lard and coats the apples, thereby preventing fermentation.
- Stir in the brandy to preserve everything and pack in clean, sterilized jars.
- If properly made, mincemeat will last almost indefinitely and is supposed to sit for a few weeks before using so that the flavours can mature.
Mince pies are also incredibly good with a bit of rum butter but be forewarned it is absolutely addicting! I put a liberal dollop of it in my coffee the next morning. Paola uses Delia Smith’s recipe which I’ve linked you to here . If you like Frangipane Topping you want to leave off the pastry lid and top with that.
And don’t forget the tradition that Janet Clarkson shared in her charming little book “Pie”!
“…tradition says it is good luck to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas, to bring good luck for each of the succeeding twelve months.” —-Janet Clarkson.