Baking is a fantastic Christmas activity, and every year I like to bake something Christmassy for my husband to take into the oven. Miniature mince pies are my favourites, as they are surprisingly easy to make and can be customised in charming ways by using cookie-cutters to shape the lids like stars, Christmas trees and other topical items. But making your own mincemeat remains a bit of a daunting task to many people. It no longer needs to – this simple recipe will make short work of making your own mincemeat! You can use a ready-made short-crust or make a sweetened short-crust of your own. Alternatively, there are many other ways to use mincemeat which go largely unexplored; look for unusual recipes online!
The ingredients you will need are:
– 250 grams soft dark brown sugar,
– 250 ml cider,
– 250 grams dried apricots,
– 250 grams raisins,
– 100 grams glace cherries,
– The zest and juice of a lemon,
– 1 kilo of Bramley apples, peeled and sliced,
– A scant teaspoon of mixed spice,
– A scant teaspoon of cinnamon,
– A handful of pine nuts,
– A handful of roughly chopped cashews.
Dissolve the sugar into the cider over a gentle heat before adding the other ingredients. Get it up to a simmer and leave it there for around half an hour, but base your opinion mostly on the texture of the mincemeat; it should be quite mushy by the time it’s done. Store it in jars until you’re ready to use it.
Obviously you can make a sweetened short-crust pastry quite easily yourself. However, some other ways to use mincemeat include wrapping up small parcels of the lovely stuff in filo pastry and rolling out a sweet bread dough before spreading it with mincemeat, rolling it up, and slicing off mincemeat-covered spirals which are then baked according to the bread dough’s directions. I’d recommend that quite heartily for anyone seeking a new way to use mincemeat in the Christmas kitchen, but if you’re like me you may have to contend with people who are exceedingly hung up on tradition. In that case, nothing but a short-crust pie will do. Use a regular muffin tin to make mini mince pies; it works quite well.
Rolling out the short-crust pastry after filling in the bases and spooning in a generous (but not too generous; you don’t want overflowing pies) of mincemeat, you can then use seasonal cookie cutters to cut out shapes which go on top of your pie. I enjoy a big star shape, which touches the edge of the pie on all five sides and gives the whole some cohesion, but ultimately there’s nothing wrong with a mince pie whose top never touches the sides, either. Be ready to experiment; this is an ideal time to bring in your children and get their creative stamp on your mince pie adventure, too!
And of course, above all, don’t forget to set one out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve – he would be very disappointed indeed if he didn’t get to taste what you put together!