Mince pies

Mince pies

I’ve always wondered why the filling of these sweet little tarts was called “Mincemeat” and it needed me a very little search to discover that Mince Pies were originally stuffed with…meat! Most often it was mutton, but also beef, rabbit, pork or game, mixed with dried fruit and spices, which was a good way of preserving meat without salting, curing, smoking or drying it. 

Stirring the mincemeat at Christmas was quite a family event and it should be done clockwise only, or the whole family would have faced bad luck and poor fortune during the next 12 months. To equally spread the joy, it was tradition that each member of the family gave the mixture a stir while making a wish.

Mince pies are a Christmas British tradition that has been around for centuries, though the modern version has very few similarities with the original one: current mince pies are actually sweet buttery pastries filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices. It seems they originally had a lot of Biblical references: their old oval shape represented Jesus crib in the manger, while their top symbolized the swaddling clothes. According to another version, the three spices used (nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon) represented the gifts given to the Baby Jesus by the Three Wise Men. Nowadays it’s still a tradition for kids to leave mince pies for Father Christmas by the fireplace.

Mince pies

December 13, 2018
: makes 24-28 mini pies (about 4cm)
: Easy
  • For the pie crust:
  • 350 gr flour
  • 150 gr cold unsalted butter cubed
  • 50 gr granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • a pinch of salt
  • zest of an orange finely grated
  • For the filling:
  • 200 gr dried figs roughly chopped
  • 200 gr mixed dried fruits
  • 50 gr blanched almonds roughly chopped
  • half apple finely chopped
  • 50 gr unsalted butter cubed
  • 100 gr light muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 100 ml rum
  • Step 1 For the mincemeat, put all the ingredients but the rum into a large pan and place on medium heath
  • Step 2 Allow the butter to melt and stir occasionally for about 10min or until it gets a preserve consistency
  • Step 3 When completely cool add the rum (otherwise it would evaporate). Store the mincemeat into sterilised jam jars and seal tightly. You can make the mincemeat up to six months in advance
  • Step 4
  • Step 5 For the pastry, put the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse just until you have a mixture similar to fine breadcrumbs
  • Step 6 Place the mixture in a large bowl, add sugar, salt, orange zest and eggs. Mix with your finger until the ingredients come together as a dough. Don’t overwork
  • Step 7 Flatten the dough into a disk and refrigerate for 30min-1hr
  • Step 8 When ready, lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough into a thin layer. Cut some circles and line the bottom of mini pie tins (I’ve used fluted ones) making sure to have some overhang. This will ensure to better seal bottom and top layer together
  • Step 9 Fill in each pie with a teaspoon of mincemeat. Cover the pie with a top layer or with the decoration of your choice
  • Step 10 Preheat the oven at 190ºC and bake for about 15min or until golden brown
  • Step 11 Allow to cool and dust with powder sugar
  • Step 12 Serve warm with some vanilla ice cream or as it is


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