Friday, November 15, 2019

Mincemeat and Mince Pies

It’s a week since I finished work, a week filled with domestic mishaps on a scale from vaguely annoying (smashed a plate, broke a cornishware jar, but at least the latter was fixable) deeply frustrating (it took 3 days to get all of one Yodel handled wine delivery, which was 3 mornings spent waiting for the driver to see if he would, or would not try and ring the doorbell*) and upsetting (upstairs neighbours have flooded the building again, I’m at pitchfork and burning torch levels of had enough of this.

On a more productive note I’ve made chutney, 3 Christmas cakes, started tidying things with a vengeance, and today I’m potting this years mincemeat - and to mark the occasion will be making some mince pies with the end of last years mincemeat.

If I went through all my cookbooks I’d probably find upwards of a dozen mince meat recipes, all a bit different but split between those that need to be cooked, and those that don’t. Last time I was more or less unemployed in 2009 I tried Elizabeth David’s version. I spent a small fortune, which I didn’t really have, on a mountain of ingredients (it was when the final experience that taught me to actually think about the quantities a recipe is asking for before I commit to making it). Mixed it up in a washing up bowl - which it still overflowed, and hated it. It was 4 years before I dumped the last possibly fermenting jar of the stuff.

The reason I’d gone for the David recipe was that it didn’t need cooking, just mixing. The Fiona Cairns recipe that I now use as a base (it’s evolved a little since I started making it in 2013) was a revelation by comparison and doesn’t need cooking either. 

I love making this each year, it smells lovely, and I like the pacing of it. You put everything together, give it a good stir, then stir again whenever you’re passing it for around 24 hours, before potting it. I don’t get tied to the oven, and it’s all very easy going.

Another reason I love making this is because of how I associate mince pies with my mother. She has an excellent pastry hand - which I do not - and has made the best mince pies in epic quantities for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the few things I can think of that has remained a constant tradition from childhood onwards. Mum now makes the same mincemeat recipe (home made behaves much better in the oven than shop bought) which adds to the feeling that this is one of ‘our’ things. 

Mostly though, I just really love a good mince pie - small enough to eat in a bite if you want, well filled, and pastry just the way you like it (not the dry sugary sort that crumbles over everything). The sort I can buy are almost always disappointing (Greggs used to do a surprisingly decent one) and making them is so satisfying.

*This is a big part of why I’m not a fan of ordering things online, but even so Yodel’s business model seems mad. It’s crazily inefficient.  


  1. I must admit that I usually buy my mincemeat these days, as there are usually only a very few of us to eat mince pies. These I do make myself, as like you I'm not very keen on the oversweet crumbly pastry of shop-bought ones. I have a Katie Stewart mincemeat recipe from her 1983 cookbook, which doesn't need cooking, only marinating overnight before potting. I could possibly halve the quantities which might make a manageable quantity.

  2. I’m not making these for a lot of people either - they’re a treat for me and available to any visitors. The recipe I have makes enough mincemeat to keep me happy, give a few jars away (I think it’s quite a nice present) and then I’m normally left with a couple of jars that come out now for before the new batch is ready - which feels about right. I love making it, but to be fair, if I found a shop bought one I liked enough I’d use it. The main thing I don’t like about the shop stuff is the way it bubbles over and sticks to everything (I think this is due to a higher sugar and wet fruit content).

    This is the recipe I’m using, which is a doubling of the original

    1. Thanks for the recipe. Interestingly, the Katie Stewart recipe I mentioned recommends dessert apples, as she claims that cooking apples may cause the mincemeat to ferment.

  3. It's a long, long time since I made mincemeat (or mince pies), but as I read this post I swear I could smell it!