Mince pies are probably my favourite traditional Christmas food. Considering I have vegetarian lasagne for Christmas dinner I don’t have a lot of ‘traditional’ foods to choose from, but that doesn’t detract from the awesomeness of mince pies.
The best thing about homemade mince meat is that you can tweak your recipe to suit almost anyone’s taste, or just cram it full of your own favourites as I did. As long as you keep the basic ratios of fat, fruit, and spice you can tweak away to your hearts content. The second best thing is that you can guarantee your mince meat is vegetarian.
Butter -v- Vegetarian Suet: Last time I made my own mince meat I used butter instead of suet. Although it turned out a little oilier/more liquidy that I was hoping for I was still happy with it. While doing my research this year I came across this helpful article from the Times Colonist which notes ‘[suet] has a higher melting point than butter. They say if you try to substitute butter for suet, during cooking that butter will melt before the pudding has a chance to set. That, in turn, could result in an end product that is heavy and greasy’. Given my relative success with butter and the complication of sourcing vegetarian suet I was all set to use butter anyway using Mary Berry’s recipe as a reference. However I was lucky enough to randomly stumble across some Atora (see above) vegetarian suet while doing my ingredients shopping and I decided I’d give it a go, nice one SuperValu!
Pastry: When the time comes for making pastry I will definitely be taking note of Joy the Baker’s ‘Five Tips For The Best All-Butter Pie Crust From Scratch’. Last year I made Delia’s shortcrust pastry using self-raising flour instead of plain. This made the pastry a little thicker while keeping it light. It was pretty good but this year I’m going to try the American way, they are the ultimate pie masters. On that note; muffin tins are key. Don’t even think about making your mince pies in a cupcake tin, the more mince that fits, the better!
Before diving into your mince meat prep remember this: mince meat deserves time and patience. Take time to add your ingredients and make sure they are mixed through fully. This will ensure you get the best flavour. Like the ceremonial stirring of a Christmas pudding, these kind of recipes need lots of methodical mixing, maybe you can make your own tradition out of it 🙂
85g Mixed Peel – Finely diced
1 Bramley Apple – Peeled, cored, and finely diced
Zest & Juice of 1 Orange
Zest & Juice of 1 Lemon
200g Vegetable Suet
150g Light Brown Muscovado Sugar
100g Dark Brown Muscovado Sugar
1 and a half tsp Mixed Spice
Half tsp Cinnamon
Half tsp Grated Nutmeg or Half Fresh Nutmeg Grated
3 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Star Anise
1. Put dried fruit, apple, mixed peel, zest, and suet in a large mixing bowl and mix well.
2. Add sugar and mixed spice, cinnamon, and nutmeg to mixing bowl and mix well.
3. Add vanilla extract to squeezed orange and lemon juice and pour over mixture. Mix well.
4. Cut two leftover pieces of orange skin and insert 3 cloves each. Make sure the cloves are secure in the orange skin, we will be removing the skin and cloves from the mix later.
5. Place orange skin with cloves and star anise at the bottom of a large, flat-bottomed, oven-friendly dish.
6. Pour mince meat mixture into casserole dish.
7. Cover with cloth and leave in a cool place for at least 12 hours.
8. After the mixture has rested for at least 12 hours heat the oven to 110˚C/230˚F, remove the cloth and cover the dish loosely with foil, and place in the oven for 3 hours.
9. After 3 hours remove the dish from the oven and remove foil, stir, cover with a cloth and allow to cool stirring occasionally.
10. When the mixture is completely cool add the brandy and stir well.
11. Transfer to sterilised jars and seal tightly.
12. Now don’t touch for at least two weeks 😛
I tend to get over excited while cooking and make mistakes so I’m going to flag the mistakes I made now so hopefully you won’t make them too.
Don’t get over-eager about adding the brandy and accidentally add it before the mixture has been in the oven 😐 The brandy goes in after the mixture has been cooked. If you make this mistake add a few more tablespoons of brandy when the mixture has cooled.
Don’t forget to check if you actually have suitable jars before making your mince meat. In my case this actually came up trumps, I found a pretty sweet mason jar in Dunnes Stores (see the green-lidded jar above) to house my mince meat. Pretty 😀
So that’s it! Enjoy your mince meat and get in touch if you try this recipe at home, I’d love to hear how it goes 🙂 x