Mince pies are a Christmas staple here in the UK. For anyone who's not familiar with this delicacy, they are individual sweet pies containing a mixture of dried fruits, sugar and spice called mincemeat, which despite its name doesn't contain any meat (unless you count the suet, although these days many British cooks use vegetable suet rather than the traditional beef suet). Over here, we can buy ready-made mincemeat in pretty much all supermarkets (well, at least we can around Christmas-time) but honestly it's so simple to make at home that I'm surprised that more people don't. Mincemeat can be made a good few weeks before you intend to use it; in fact, it should be made in advance to allow the flavours to mingle and mature. So apologies for my tardy posting of this recipe - it's admittedly somewhat late for Christmas 2016!
In our household, we leave out mince pies and real ale for Santa, and a carrot for Rudolph. Today, my 5-year-old insisted that we picked the biggest carrot we had so that the other reindeer could have a bite too!
If you plan to keep the mincemeat for a while before using it, it's important to sterilise the jars. I find that the easiest way to do this is to wash them in hot, soapy water, then rinse well, place on a baking tray and transfer to an oven preheated to 140°C for at least 20 minutes. Leave to cool down a little before adding the mincemeat because (1) you don't want the glass to shatter when adding the cold mincemeat to a hot jar, and (2) this will prevent the suet from melting.
I like to use a recipe for a sweetened orange-flavoured pastry that I found in Good Food magazine a few years ago when making my mince pies. I use a round fluted cutter for the bases and top with pastry stars.
Makes 3 x 450g-jars
150g each sultanas, raisins and currants
70g chopped mixed peel
120g peeled and grated Bramley (baking) apple
juice and grated zest of 1 large orange
juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
150g dark muscovado sugar
½ tsp ground mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
70g vegetarian suet
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and give them a good stir (yes, that's it!) Cover and leave to soak in the bowl overnight before transferring to sterilised jars. I give the jars a shake every couple of days as the liquid tends to sink to the bottom. The mincemeat should be fine to keep in a cool, dark place for a few months but store the jar in the fridge once opened.