An in­te­gral part of Christ­mas

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD -

Afriend of mine who works in a five- star ho­tel has just fin­ished pre­par­ing 1,000 mince pies for its forth­com­ing an­nual Christ­mas fair. They are an in­te­gral piece of Christ­mas. My grandma made them ev­ery year and while she al­ways made her own pas­try by hand, she al­ways bought a jar of mince­meat for the fill­ing.

My mince pie mak­ing tra­di­tion be­gan as a new­ly­wed. My ini­ti­a­tion into the fold was com­plete when I was as­signed the task of mak­ing mince pies for Christ­mas by my in- laws. Now, I start to bake mince pies from the first week in De­cem­ber. While my kids love the taste of them, they love mak­ing them even more.

You may be sur­prised by how quick and easy it is to make your own mince­meat from scratch with­out slav­ing away for hours. I use a sim­ple recipe and I find us­ing “mixed spice” ( a blend of cin­na­mon, nut­meg, cloves and mace) avoids hav­ing to buy lots of in­di­vid­ual spice jars. Go­ing into scaled pro­duc­tion at this time of year will yield a steady sup­ply of de­li­cious mince pies for vis­i­tors. Keep a tray in the freezer un­cooked and bake them when you need them.

When made small and dainty, they make gor­geous presents, wrapped and tied with a fes­tive rib­bon. I find my muf­fin tins have the per­fect size hol­lows for fill­ing deep mince pies. If you have a shal­low tin, don’t over­fill them to the brim as the mince­meat fill­ing will bub­ble up over the edges. For a touch of lux­ury, a dash of Coin­treau, ex­tra orange zest or adding chopped toasted al­monds all give you the li­cense to cre­ate a sig­na­ture mince­meat ex­actly to your taste. For a lit­tle added tang, ap­ple juice or lemon juice will pro­vide a sub­tle hint of sharp­ness.

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