As promised, my mince pies recipe, as perfected over the last four weeks....
To make the mincemeat
(from River Cottage Handbook No 2 - Preserves, by Pam Corbin)
1 kg apples
500g firm pears
500g mixed dried fruits (eg raisins, sultanas, currants, etc. I suppose to be extra-Christmassy, you could use cranberries and I may try that next year!)
100g crystallised stem ginger
Finely grated zest and juice of 3 oranges
100g orange marmalade
250g demerara sugar
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 nutmeg, grated
50ml ginger wine or cordial (optional, NB I added 50ml syrup from a jar of stem ginger in syrup)
100g chopped walnuts
50ml brandy or sloe gin (NB I added about 80ml....)
Wash the apples, core and dice, then put into a saucepan with the orange juice. Cook gently until tender, about 15 mins. Blend to a puree in a liquidiser if you're sensible or push through a sieve if you've absolutely no common sense and arms of steel. You should end up with about 700 ml of apple puree.
Put the puree into a large bowl and add all the other ingredients, minus the brandy. Mix thoroughly, cover and leave to stand for 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 130c/gas mark 1/2. Put the mincemeat in a large baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 2-2/1/2 hours. Stir in the brandy or gin then spoon into warm, sterilised jars (see how to sterilise jars here). Seal and store in a dry, dark, cool place until Christmas. Use within 12 months.
So, my mincemeat has been maturing nicely since mid-September and this recipe gave me three 380ml jars of filling.
Now for making the mince pies
(from The Christmas Book, ed., Sherherazade Goldsmith)
225g plain flour
125g chilled unsalted butter, diced
A large pinch of salt
1 large egg yolk
about 100ml hot water
2 tbsp milk
icing sugar to decorate
Mix the flour, butter and salt in a bowl and rub the butter into the flour until it forms consistent crumbs.
Add the egg and a couple of spoonfuls of water. Mix with a knife, making sure you are incorporating all of the flour mixture. Add a little more water as needed until you can squash the mixture together and it sticks. Don't use too much tho! Add a little at a time.
Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it becomes smooth and slightly elastic. Chill for 10 minutes in the fridge, then roll out to 2mm thick and cut 24 discs with a round pastry cutter.
Preheat the oven to 190c/gas 5. Press each disc into the individual bases of a pie tray. Fill each pastry case with a teaspoon of the mincemeat. Don't be tempted to overfill, even if a spoonful doesn't look enough - it will be!
Top the pies with pretty shapes cut from the remaining pastry. Brush each with a little milk and bake for around 20 minutes, until just starting to colour.
Allow to cool on a wire rack, then sift over with icing sugar.