Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pecan and Sour Cherry Mincemeat (and pies) - so good they ought to be banned !

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So delicious it ought to be banned!

More than a Ho Ho Ho! from a fat man in a red suit… more than a chorus of The Holly and The Ivy… Mince Pies shout “Hey everyone, Christmas is here. Par-ty!” I love them.

These little pies-with-personality have evolved a bit since they first arrived in England, brought back by returning Crusaders. Originally they contained meat, along with the dried fruits and spices we still use today.

The first written record appears in 1557 – the same year they became an endangered species. The puritan, Oliver Cromwell, decided at this point to put a damper on Christmas  - which he felt had become associated with drunkeness and gluttony. He abolished all fun and feasting associated with the event, outlawing (so legend has it) the mince pie. Christmas festivity was restored with return of the monarchy in 1660. Phew!

By Victorian times, meat had more or less vanished from the pie (although some still include beef suet to this day).

Santa is rather partial to a mince pie or two, and you are supposed to make a wish on biting into your first. Also, apparently it is bad luck to refuse the first offered to you – but I don’t think I’ve ever refused a (homemade) mince pie so that’s not something I need to fret about.

This year, the recipe is a little different to my usual one. I was in my mother’s house when a mince pie craving struck and there were a couple of interesting substitutions as she didn’t have all the ingredients. I think I like this mixture even better.

Add some zest...

For about 4 jars of Pecan and Sour Cherry mincemeat (1.5kg in total) you will need...

... to pre-heat the oven to 100°C

300g sultanas, raisins or currents (or a mixture of all 3)
300g ready-to-eat dried apricots, finely diced
100g dried sour cherries
220g honey
100g mixed peel
50g pecans, finely chopped
50g slivered almonds
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 whole cloves – crushed to a powder
200g apple, grated
125g butter, cut into cubes
grated peel and juice of 1 large orange
grated peel and juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons Metaxa (or Brandy, or Whiskey)

an additional 2 tablespoons of Metaxa (or whatever alcohol you choose), to stir in at the end

Measure. Mix. Mmmmm...

Mix all the ingredients together in a large oven proof dish (with a lid). Cover and place in the preheated oven and cook gently for 3 hours, stirring every half hour or so.

When the cooking time has elapsed, remove from the oven and allow to cool, stirring briefly every half hour until cold.

Finally, stir the remaining 2 tablespoons of Metaxa (or Brandy, or Whiskey) into the cold mixture before sealing in clean, dry jars.

I usually have a jar or so left over (for non-seasonal mince pie cravings). I find it keeps well for up to a year in a cool dark place or in the fridge (if my sisters don't discover it).

Merry Mincepies Everyone!

To make the pies, pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line a bun tin with shortcrust pastry. Fill with mincemeat. Cover with a pastry lid and seal the edges before punturing to allow steam to escape while cooking. My sister skips the top layer of pastry, preferring to bury the mincemeat in a layer of chopped almonds. Delicious!

(For filo pastry pies, cut into squares a little larger than the hollows of the bun tin. Brush with melted butter and add another layer, slightly off-set. Repeat with a third layer to form a rough star shape. Press into the hollows of the bun tin and fill with Christmas mincemeat. Leave the pies open or twist the edges together to make little purses.

For puff pastry pies, I cut squares, leaving enough overhang to draw the corners together in the middle before sealing the edges.)

Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before serving with a dusting of snowy icing sugar and a swirl of whipped cream. 


Wishing you a delicious Christmas and a tasty 2014 !

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  1. I've never tried a mince pie and I never knew that they didn't have meat! :D They sound like a really delicious Christmas treat. (I totally did not mean for those two sentences to rhyme). Hope you have a Merry Christmas and super Happy New Year!

  2. I had my first ever mince pie this year and I loved it. I'm not so sure what a bun tin is but I'm assuming it's a mini pie-type pan. :)

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Hi Hester. I just want to wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and the best of New Year!

  4. Homemade mincemeat is the way forward. I don't why, but regardless of what you make with it, it tastes so good.

    Merry Christmas Hester.

  5. Very Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Years my friend - best of luck for 2014 :D

    Happy Holidays!

  6. Hi Maureen, yes, it's like a muffin pan but slightly shallower.

  7. I've got some dried cranberries on hand- probably could substitute those for the sour cherries? Interesting history about the minced pies- they are not too common in the U.S.- preferring instead pumpkin pies.

  8. I love all the traditions that go with eating a mince pie! What a lovely holiday dessert. Hope you a most wonderful Christmas, Hester! And wishing you a marvelous and happy New Year!!! xo

  9. i guess this could be a best topping for my rolled oats porridge for breakfast boost supper....
    Merry christmas and happy holidays, God blessed you all the way!!!


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