If there is one sign that Christmas is well on the way, it has to be the arrival of Christmas Fruit Mince Pies. The wafting aroma of spiced fruit, encased in a crumbly, buttery pastry is one of the great treats of the season and will always get me in a festive mood.
Christmas Fruit Mince Pies have a long tradition, dating back to at least the 13th century. Historians believe that Christian crusaders returning from the east brought home recipes for spiced fruit and meat pastries.
These were then adopted by the church as symbols of the gifts of the three kings, and despite being briefly banned during the English civil war, they have stayed with us through the centuries as beloved treats.
While the supermarkets are always groaning with pies at this time of year, they are so easy to make at home and the flavour is vastly superior. There is something supremely satisfying about whipping up a batch of pies, filling the house with their enticing aroma and presenting them to the hungry crowds.
A lot of people are concerned about using or sourcing suet, a type of animal fat that is one of the traditional ingredients of fruit mince pies. I find that it can be easily substituted with lard, shortening or even butter with perfectly acceptable results.
Don’t let any unusual ingredients put you off – just work with what you have.
The filling of your fruit mince pies can also be varied to suit your taste. I have seen recipes call for raisins, sultanas and currants which seems like overkill to me. I like to use a mixture of sultanas and apricots with maybe a few dried figs or prunes thrown in for good measure. Experiment and see what you like.
The same goes for the addition of alcohol. I think that just about every Christmas dish is improved by a slosh of your favourite grog, but it can be replaced by orange or apple juice if you are cooking for children, or even red wine if you don’t keep spirits in the house. Mix and match to suit your tastes.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I prepare Christmas Fruit Mince Pies in advance?
Of course! They keep for several days when baked, or you can freeze them in the muffin tins before baking and get them out when you need them.
I don’t drink alcohol, can I omit it from the recipe?
Absolutely! Use orange or apple juice instead.
What is suet? And where can I get it?
Suet is a type of animal fat from beef or mutton and traditionally gives these pies some of their unique flavour and texture. If you can’t get it from your butcher, or would simply prefer to use something else, I have found that lard, shortening or even butter works perfectly well.
The aromas wafting from the kitchen when you cook these mince pies are so enticing and Christmassy! delicious!
Christmas Fruit Mince Pies Recipe
Christmas Fruit Mince Pies
for the pastry:
- 300 g plain flour
- 200 g unsalted butter
- 100 g sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- flour for dusting
for the fruit mince:
- 300 g dried fruit see note)
- 125 g dark brown, Muscovado sugar
- 100 g candied peel
- 1 apple, peeled and finely diced
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 75 g suet or lard
- 50 g slivered almonds
- small piece of ginger, finely grated
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 100 ml brandy or rum
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- icing / powdered sugar
- To make the pastry, combine the flour, butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment fitted. Pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then add the eggs. Run the mixer until the pastry begins to clump together, then turn out onto the benchtop.
- Knead the pastry very briefly until smooth, then form into a disc and wrap in cling film. Chill until ready to use.
- To make the fruit mince, combine all ingredients except the alcohol in a medium saucepan. Heat gently, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the suet has melted. Simmer very gently for 10 minutes, stirring regularly to make sure the mixture doesn’t catch.
- When the fruit mince has cooked, stir through the brandy or rum and set aside to cool for at least 30 minutes.
- To assemble the fruit mince pies, heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4. Grease a 12 hole muffin tin (see note) well with butter and line each hole with a strip of baking paper, leaving an overhang on each side.
- Roll out the pastry between two pieces of cling film or baking paper and use a 9cm round cutter or a glass to cut out 12 rounds. Press each round gently into the prepared holes of the muffin tin, then squeeze the pastry back together and re-roll.
- Use either a round cutter or a star-shaped cutter to cut 12 lids for the mince pies. Place a generous tablespoon of the mince mixture into each of the pastry cases then top with a star or round lid. Brush generously with the beaten egg, then bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then use the paper strips to lift the pies out to a cooling rack.
- Allow to cool, then dust generously with icing / powdered sugar before serving.
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