Saturday, 24 December 2011

Recipe XXXIX - Mince Pies and Mincemeat Vodka

Christmas wouldn't be complete without several essential items: a decorated tree, a few presents, some strong, unctuous alcohol and Bing Crosby. But there's one item which has become so vital to my perfect Christmas, that I fear I wouldn't feel right without it: the mince pie.

Mincemeat: Mincemeat is called mincemeat, because back in the 16th century, there was minced lamb or beef in the recipe. Fortunately, today there isn't such a combination, but the name lives on. This recipe makes approximately 20 to 24 mince pies.

With the remaining mincemeat, don't chuck it away - get a merry drinke out of it!

Ingredients for the mincemeat:
250g dark brown sugar
1 kg chopped apples (some unpeeled for flavour)
A teaspoon of allspice
A teaspoon of cinnamon
180g-200g raisins, sultanas & currants according to taste
75g glacé cherries
6 to 10 chopped dried apricots (optional)
2 or 3 pieces of chopped candied peel (optional)
70g-90g blanched or ordinary almonds, finely chopped
Grated rind of half a lemon + its juice
3 shot glasses of rum or brandy, but put more or less in depending on your taste
Some sterilised pots to contain them (if storing for a later time)

Instructions for the mincemeat:
Put the chopped apples in a bowl, add the lemon rind and juice to stop the apples going brown, then add the sugar and spices, followed by the dried fruits. Mix them together well. Add your alcohol. Mix further.
Put them in the sterilised pots and remove when needed. If immediately, go straight on to the instructions below. Normally you should make the mincemeat at least a month before Christmas, but as it's Christmas Eve, just go straight onto the next part!

Ingredients for the dough:
250g flour
60g cold butter - the butter must be cold or the dough will go gooey
60g shortening (optional)
The juice of one orange
1 pinch of salt

Instructions for the pies:
Put the salt, flour, shortening and butter into a bowl and turn into a fine crumble dough (below)

Add the orange juice and knead it into a moist, putty-like consistency similar to biscuit dough. This should take no longer than ten minutes. At this point you can break it into two or three parts, wrap it in a sheet of thin plastic and put it in the fridge for 15 to 30 minutes to get stiffer. But if you don't have time, move on. Roll it out as thinly as possible. I did this in two parts, as it saved space on the work surface. Turn your oven on to 200°C.

Take your Yorkshire pudding or muffin tray, grease it with butter (essential) and with the aid of a glass or a round cutter, cut out the base crust for the mince pies.

Take a spoon and place a dollop of mincemeat in each one. With some other shapes, put a pastry roof on top, sprinkle with sugar or glaze with an egg, and slide it into the oven for about 10 minutes.

With a knife, carefully remove from the tray and get the next batch ready. Repeat this process until as much of the dough as possible is used up.

Put them on the cake rack or in a tin and hide from all gluttonous people.

Mincemeat vodka:
With the leftover mincemeat, don't throw it away - put the mincemeat into a jar, get a cheapish bottle of vodka and pour it over the top. Add a little cinnamon and whatever else you feel like (brown sugar, allspice, more raisins, etc...) and serve to the neighbours when they spring over. Stir every day.

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