This mincemeat has been in my family for a century, and is my great-grandmother Lilly’s recipe. I love making it a year before Christmas and not only using it in my pies but also swirling it through creamy vanilla ice cream or packing it into Granny Smith apples and baking them in the oven.
Makes 18 small pies
400 g (2 1/4 cups) raisins
400 g (2 1/4 cups) dried muscatels
200 g (1 1/2 cups) dried apricots
100 g (2/3 cup) candied orange rind
100 g (1/2 cup) candied ginger
4 Granny Smith apples
1 teaspoon ground cloves
200 g (1 1/3 cups) dried cranberries (craisins)
500 g (2 1/2 cups firmly packed) soft brown sugar
100 g (2/3 cup) chopped almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
100 ml orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau
125 ml (1/2 cup) brandy
Finely chop the raisins, muscatels, dried apricots, candied orange rind, candied ginger and the unpeeled apples. Combine all the ingredients except the alcohol. Transfer to a greased large baking dish, cover and set aside for a few hours.
Cover with baking paper and bake in the oven at 100ºC for 3–4 hours. Cool, stirring regularly. Once cool, stir in the alcohol and spoon the mixture into sterilised jars. Seal, label and store in a cool, dark place. Allow to mature for 6–12 months before using.
To make the pastry
225g cold butter, diced
350g plain flour
100g raw caster sugar
1 small egg
icing sugar, to dust
Rub 225g cold, grated butter into the flour, then mix in the sugar and a pinch of salt. Combine the pastry into a large ball and knead it briefly, don’t over knead. The dough will be fairly firm, like shortbread dough. You can use the dough immediately, or chill for later.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 18 holes of two 12-hole muffin tins, by pressing small walnut-sized balls of pastry lining each hole . Spoon a large heaped tablespoon mincemeat into each pie.
Take slightly smaller balls of pastry than before and pat them out between your hands to make round lids, big enough to cover the pies.You can cut out shapes such as stars instead if you like or use thin slices to make lattice. Top the pies with their lids, pressing the edges gently together to seal – you don’t need to seal them with milk or egg as they will stick on their own.
Beat the egg and brush the tops of the pies. Bake for 20 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Once cool, lightly dust with icing sugar. They will keep for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container. Serve warm with cream, ice cream or brandy custard.