Monday, December 12

'Tis the Season for ...

Everyone has their own traditions when it comes to the holiday season. It differs from family to family as much as it does from country to country. We're quite a young family and so are still working out which traditions will become part of our Christmas. The more we move around the world, the more we expect our traditions will evolve too which is quite exciting!

During our first December here in the States we soon realised that Mince Pies weren't the usual Christmas treat that they are back in the UK. Both Mark and I really like them and I figured that as they're not here and they're not going to be in a lot of places that we will live, I needed to find a good recipe. 

It seems that making them from scratch has already become one of our family Christmas traditions ... one that Abigail has enjoyed helping with and I'm sure Naomi will too in time! Below is the yummy recipe we use (the mincemeat and pastry are made separately) but first for those who aren't so familiar with mince pies, here is a short history too! 

The tradition of spiced mince pies goes back centuries but the name ‘mincemeat’ refers to the filling, which up until the Victorian era would have contained actual meat along with the spices and fruit. The only remnants of the meat in today’s mince pies is the inclusion of suet in the filling. Folklore tells us that mince pies are Father Christmas’ favourite nibble and that one or two should be left next to the chimney along with a glass of sherry – and a carrot for Rudolf, or course!

Quick mincemeat recipe …

Makes 1.125kg (enough for 3 x 375g jars) – make this a month or so in advance so that it develops a good depth of flavour.

In a bowl, mix together 110g sultanas, 170g each raisins and currants, 170g grated bramley apples, 100g suet, 200g soft brown sugar, 100g finely chopped mixed peel, 65g blanched and chopped almonds, ½ Tbsp mixed spice, the zest and juice of 1 orange, and a large splash of brandy.

Wash some clean jars in warm soapy water, rinse and dry in a low oven. Spoon the mincemeat into the sterilised jars and seal – they’ll keep for 12 months.

Master recipe for rich shortcrust pastry …

Makes 315g (enough for 12 mince pies)

Sift 170g plain flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Rub in 100g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes, with your fingers until you have a crumble-like mixture. Stir in 1Tbsp caster sugar, then add 1 large free-range egg yolk and mix quickly with a palette knife. Add 1-2 Tbsp cold water, mixing with the knife until the mixture is drawn together into a dough. Press into a ball, then wrap in cling film and chill for at least 10 minutes. Roll out on a floured surface, then cut out 12 of each, circles for the bottom and whatever shape you want on top. Put together with a teaspoon or two of mincemeat filling and voila!

Cook on 180c/fan160c/350f/Gas 4 for 20-25 minutes until golden and piping hot. If you want to freeze them … make them up and then freeze uncooked until you want to eat them!

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