Mince pies are wonderful in November. We often start making and eating them then as the weeks around Christmas are overloaded with other traditional (and substantial) food.
This year Christmas has started really early with lights in people’s gardens, prolific online present buying and other jolly activities which are all part of cheering things up in the middle of the second English lockdown. It is not clear that we will be doing much with family and friends over Christmas as travel restrictions are in place at present. No-one knows if it will be wise (even if it is allowed) to hob nob with all and sundry. Forecasts of another peak after Christmas make a nonsense of anything that allows us to share germs more easily, although people who believe they are immune wouldn’t agree.
Back to mince pies….
The ingredients are so simple – mincemeat from a jar and shortcrust pastry. I make the pastry using these proportions. Fat (butter or marg) 2 : caster sugar 1 : self-raising flour 3. Stir flour and sugar together; rub fat into the dry mix until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix with small amounts of cold water until it forms a firm ball. Then dust a flat surface with flour and roll out quite thinly. Stamp out large circles of pastry to line the bottom of the pie containers.
This is the first time I have used paper cases – it solves the problem of getting the mince pies out of the tin (especially if they have boiled over slightly and stuck). Each pie needs a decent dollop of mincemeat. The jar I used had ‘booted up’ written on the outside which means I had added more dried fruit and some brandy a while back, to upgrade it.
I normally stamp out slightly smaller circles for the lids. In theory they should be sealed by damping the rim of each lid. I just plonked them onto the mincemeat and gently pressed down round the rim of each mince pie to seal.
They go into a fairly hot oven. You can see the dimples round the edge of each pie where I had sealed it.
While they were cooking I did the washing up! This included the mincemeat jam jar and its lid – I have a huge collection of them waiting for the next lot of home-made jam, jelly or marmalade.
After 15 minutes or so the pies were getting slightly beige/brown on top which means they are done.
The pastry cools quickly but the sticky mincemeat stays very hot for quite a long time – warning for anyone who wants to tuck into one straight out of the oven!
Once I could handle the tins I put the mince pies on a wire rack to cool properly.
At this stage it’s a good idea to give them a dusting of sieved icing sugar, especially if they are going out on a plate to offer to friends and family. Ours were destined to go into a tin ready for us to eat over the next week or so, and icing sugar loses its good looks then.
We both tried them with a cup of tea in front of the fire. The paper cases are doubly convenient – ‘look no plate’!
Mince pies make a good seasonal pudding too. Patrick and I both like them warmed and served with brandy butter (there’s a new batch in the fridge which we have already tasted).