Mince pies

by Alison, 22/12/2013

Finally, I have finished work and I am free for the holidays :) It's been a nutty month, definitely silly season in work and the last week of storms provided plenty of entertainment. Trying to catch all the leaks and make it from the car to our gate without the sea spray soaking you has been a challenge some days. If you haven't seen them yet check out Ollie's last post for some crazy photos of our last week. Here's a couple that have also appeared on our instagram in the last week.

In between it all we've been getting in the festive spirit, decorating the tree, buying presents, catching up with friends and relaxing in front of our fire with cups of tea and mince pies.

Of all the traditional Christmas treats, mince pies are the one for me. I can take or leave Christmas pudding or Christmas cake but come December I love these little pies. Luckily  Ollie does too. So the past two weekends have seen me head to toe in flour and working away with the rolling pin. I made the mincemeat in two batches early on in December as the longer you leave it the better it tastes. Our first batch of pies this year were actually made with mince-meat we made from last year and it tasted lovely.

To give credit where credit is due the mincemeat recipe is my mum's. As it's a childhood favourite for me I don't really like to stray from tradition. She based her version on the Delia Smith recipe, which has a greater variety of ingredients within the filing but the overall mass of the recipes is the same. For the pastry I used Darina Allen's sweet shortcrust pastry (as for the previous pumpkin pie recipe).

Ingredients for the mincemeat
450g cooking apples (cored and chopped)
225g shredded suet (I used the meat suet for one version and the vegetarian for another, both taste nice. I just wouldn't use the light suet)
575g raisins
450g sultanas
350g soft brown sugar
grated zest and juice of two oranges
grates zest and juice of two lemons
4 teaspoons of mixed ground spice
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons of brandy

Ingredients for the pastry
175g plain white flour
75g butter
40g castor sugar
1 large egg, whisked

Extras needed:
Glass jars with lids. (Something that you can sterilise and seal to store the mince-meat in. I used a mixture of old jam jars and kilner jars)
Parchment paper
A small amount of water and a small amount of milk

Method for the mincemeat

Weigh out all the dry ingredients and place in the tray you will be baking the mincemeat in.
Next grate the oranges and lemons over the mixture and pour the orange and lemon juice over the mixture.
Stir all the ingredients well, making sure they are thoroughly mixed together.
Cover the mixture with a clean cloth and leave in a cool place for 12hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 110˚C.
Remove the cloth, give the mixture another stir and cover loosely with tinfoil.
Place in the oven for 3hours.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Remember to stir the mixture occasionally as it cools.
When it is cold, pour in the brandy, cover with a clean cloth and leave for another 12hours.
When ready, pack in sterilised jars, cover the top with a circle of parchment paper and close the lid tightly. If you don't know how to sterilise jars click on this link where I have explained it before

Method for the pies

To make the pies you will need to make pastry. I tend to make a double batch of the mixture above. This will make about 36 pies dependent on the size of your trays.
You can make the pastry the same day or earlier. This pastry should last a week in the fridge or I have kept it for up to a month in the freezer.

Dice the butter and leave to soften at room temperature (about 30minutes).
Sift the flour onto a work surface and rub in the butter. Rub in the sugar.
Make a well in the centre of the mixture and break the egg into the centre. Now rub the egg into the mixture, pulling in flour from the outside. When ready, knead with the heel of your hand. If making a single batch the ball should be smooth after about 3 turns (I find it takes a little longer if you double the mixture).
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C and grease your mince pie trays.
Roll out half the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out as thinly as you can. Cut out the bottoms of the pies and place them on the greased trays.
Gather and re-roll the pastry, rolling out the other half when necessary.

Depending on the depth of your trays the tops and bottoms may need to be different sizes.
Fill each round with mincemeat until it is level with the edge of the pastry.
Cut out the tops. Dampen the edges of the tops with water (use the small amount of water and rub a wet finger around the edges of the pastry top). Press them lightly over the mincemeat.

Prick some holes in the tops with a fork and brush each one with a little milk.
Bake in the oven until light golden brown (20-30mins depending on your oven).

Cool on a wire tray and store in an airtight container.

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