Mince pies and why I hate Christmas

Mincemeat TartIt’s a few days to Christmas. Unusually for me, the festive atmosphere is beginning to raise my spirits. My mood is good. I decide to nip into Dublin city to arrange gifts and presents for the ones I love.

It’s cold as I make my way down the ramp in the car park. My progress is stalled by a crunching sound, followed by a stream of expletives from a respectable looking woman. She has scraped her car against a pillar. I can offer no solace. I put my head down and manfully walk on.

Grafton Street at Christmas

The Christmas shopping herd is moving with no central plan. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Leaving the car park, I am confronted by a (I need to be careful how I phrase this) woman of eastern European origin. She blocks my path and wishes me “May Baby Jesus bless you.” as she pushes her outstretched hand into my face. A neat sidestep gets me safely away. I round a corner to be confronted by a chugger (male this time) who greets me like I am his separated-at-birth twin. I thank him for his interest and move on. I walk towards Grafton Street and am impeded by more people waving buckets in my face, clipboard wielding (large percentage earning) charity workers and sundry inebriated members of the general population. My humour darkens. A crack across the shin from somebody else’s Christmas parcel extracts an expletive from me and no apology from the inflictor.

The Christmas music blaring from shops competes with the amateur (very so) carol singers. A motorist blasts his horn at a delivery van and attracts both ire and a foul-mouthed outburst from the driver. This played out to the soundtrack of “I wish it could be Christmas every day” leeching from nearby shops.

My good mood is destroyed. The desire to seek out gifts for my loved ones has evaporated. To hell with all of this. I hobble back to the car and home.

Not that I am bereft of Christmas cheer. I drive home to peace and quiet. Home to recharge my batteries, to rethink my strategy. Home to prepare Mince Pie to go with a glass of mulled wine. I will restore myself and hit the town tomorrow.

Minced pies depend upon two things. The pastry and the filling. The Wife worked on the former while, over 2 days, I looked after the latter.

Mincemeat Ingredients

You have to love the angled shot of the ingredients. Inspired by a Christmas re-run of Batman.

My list of ingredients goes as follows:

  • 180g large raisins
  • 90g golden raisins
  • 120g sultanas
  • 280g currants
  • 100g mixed peel
  • 200g shredded suet
  • 280g soft, dark brown sugar
  • ½ a freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of 5 spice powder
  • 2 tsp of mixed spice
  • Zest and juice of an orange
  • Zest and juice of a lemon
  • 100g of fresh cranberries, reduced in a tiny amount of water and sugar until soft.
  • 1 large cooking apple, peeled and chopped small.
  • 6 tbsp of brandy

My recipe differs from most that I see online in the addition of the cranberries and the five spice powder. The measurements of the stuff does not need to be accurate. Whack it all (except the brandy) into a mixing bowl and stir it together adding the peel and orange juice at the end. This is purely to allow an action shot…

Action shot one. Zest and juice of an orange and a lemon are needed.

Action shot one. Zest and juice of an orange and a lemon are needed.

Mincemeat

My own addition to the festive mix. Cranberries seem to make sense as so much of Christmas originates in America.

Mincemeat action shot number two. The nutmeg being grated.

Mincemeat action shot number two. The nutmeg being grated.

Mincemeat

Mincemeat mixed and ready to rest for 24 hours. Just like I had to after my trip into the city

Don’t, add the brandy for at this stage. Cover with a cloth and leave to stand for 24 hours.

Mincemeat

Not festive in any real sense but they do have a bit of Christmas about them. Moose tea towel from Norway.

Remove the cloth, particularly if it is as nice as my moose cloth. Cover the bowl with tin foil. Then pop it into the oven at 110 centigrade for two and a half hours. Remove and let cool, stirring occasionally as the suet begins to set. You want even distribution of the stuff that will clog your arteries. When it has cooled, add the brandy and stir again.

Mincemeat

Taking photos and pouring brandy are incompatible activities. My tart might be over the limit (as the actor said to the bishop).

Get your better half to make some short crust pastry and construct either small mince pies to leave out for Santa or a decent sized pie like mine for slicing and serving to the world-weary shopper.

Pastry making

The Wife gets stuck in. Those ordinary looking hands are in fact awesome pastry making machines.

Pastry making

She has real pastry talent (I want her to make more for Christmas day.).

Mincemeat

Mincemeat added. Starting to come together. Difficult to resist eating the mincemeat with a spoon.

Mincemeat Tart

Don’t judge me by my poor lattice working. I was tired and really could not be bothered with detailed interlacing.

Mincemeat Tart

Ready for the oven. Like I said, don’t diss my lattice.

Mincemeat Tart

Mincemeat tart cooling. Just like my mood. Getting ready to dine and hit the shops again!

Mincemeat Tart

Served with fresh cream. Whipped by hand. You get better cream when hand whipped. Hand whipping works on children too!

Serve with cream and, if you have been out shopping for your loved ones, a generous glass of mulled wine. There will be plenty on mince to store away or to make more for New Year’s Eve.

Happy Christmas and stay safe out there.

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Latest comments
  • Looks lovely! And I know what you mean about the goodwill evaporating as the other side of Christmas wears you down. We are pulling up the drawbridge with firewood, dreadful old films, loved ones, and enough wine and food to provision a siege army very shortly.

    • That’s the right way to go Luffy. Have an excellent one.

  • Wow that looks really impressive! Your lattice would get Mary Berry’s approval!

    • They were slagging my lattice work here. We are remaking for Christmas day with the left over mince and I am determined to get it perfectly interlaced.

  • Beautiful.

  • I love mince pies and yours sounds extra special. To avoid the holiday crowds, my husband goes just when the shops open their doors…he thinks people are in a better mood early in the day.

    • I hope your husband is right Karen. I did make it back in and got what I needed, just about.

      • You can’t keep a good man down.

  • I love mincemeat pie. It’s not Christmas without a mince pie. Love the recipe and the final product is a work of art.

    • Too kind Richard. The 5 spice powder added a nice note. The lattice is bothering me…

  • That’s an excellent mince pie.
    I went in to 3 different shops yesterday and got bombarded with Slade each time – you were lucky to get Wizard 😉

    • Slade melt my brain with their Merry Christmas Everybody too. Even Bing does not do anything for me. Comfort eating, that’s what it is.

      • I cracked, I just made some mince pies – everything is better now 🙂

        • Excellent. Mull some wine and get into the festive spirit early.

      • I might need something stiffer than that!

  • Beautiful lattice work! Just make your friends and family mince pies for gifts and I am sure it will be loved and the best gift ever.

    • Bam, you are too kind. I have work to do!

  • Years ago when I was a University student, I took a room in a house where the landlady cooked as well … In preparation for Christmas, one day, she was making mincemeat tarts using much the same ingredients as yourself, but also announced she was lucky to be able to use deer meat instead of substituting that year… I was aghast; I had never heard of such a thing and asked if she was actually using meat in them… she looked at me ike I was crazy and said ‘Ofcourse …why the hell do you think they call them minced *meat*?”

    I guess that must have been how the name actually came about … they were good.

    • I love it. Originally, they would have had all sorts of meat bits and seasoning and I am sure that they differed greatly from house to house and from village to village.

  • Very nice, Conor. And might I add, as usual. 🙂

    • Thanks Sanjiv, I enjoyed this post more than most. The bonus is we have mince left for another big pie for Christmas day.

  • Mail order, man.

    • Adam, I can’t emphasise how different this is from the shop bought mince. If shop bought mince were a house, it would be a bungalow. This is the Empire State. So, sorry, none going anywhere.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Looks great, Conor! I never realised that mincemeat doesn’t have any actual meat. Can the suet be subbed with butter?

    • It can but it tends to not bind so well. In my very limited experience of the butter based ones, they fall apart when warmed too. This recipe is excellent, if you will forgive the boastfulness.

      • I was asking about the butter because the only beef suet I know around here is the type used for deep frying, which has been treated to be suitable for that purpose. It seems wrong to add to a pie somehow?

        I’m sure your recipe is excellent 🙂 Although you don’t actually provide a recipe 😉

        • True, there is not much to it. Mix it, warm it, stir it and get the wife to do the hard work. My kind of recipe!

          The deep frying suet would not do. Could you get some direct from a butcher? It would need to be pulled off a carcass and cut up by hand. No problem to you.

          • I don’t have a wife, not to mention the pastry making kind 😉
            Is beef suet the fat around the kidneys? I’ll have to ask the butcher.

          • You will meet the Wife early in the new year.

            On the kidney thing, I think it is, but ask and let me know please.

          • Looking forward to that 🙂

            The butcher told me that the beef suet he sold to me is not from around the kidneys, but can be used the same way. The important thing is that it is solid at room temperature.

          • Excellent. We are both learning…

          • I’ve been able to find the beef suet and have decided that I will make your mince pie for Christmas as dessert 🙂
            There are however two ingredients that I am wondering about. What are “mixed peel” and “mixed spice”?

          • Mixed peel is sugared orange and lemon peel mixed together. It is sold in the baking aisle in our supermarkets. Mixed spice is (according to the BBC Good Food website:
            1 Tbs ground allspice
            1 Tbs ground cinnamon
            1 Tbs ground nutmeg
            2 tsp ground mace
            1 tsp ground cloves
            1 tsp ground coriander
            1 tsp ground Ginger
            That is also sold here premixed (spice section).
            I am looking forward to hearing how it turns out.

          • Thanks. Mixed spice seems very similar to “speculaas” spices, except for the allspice. Mixed peel is probably what I know as candied peel. Looking forward to trying this. Not sure if I’ll tell my folks there is beef suet in this. Perhaps after they’ve eaten it 😉

          • Sly but worth doing. Mince pies are in every shop over here from November to Christmas. Nothing compares to the home made mince.

        • It turned out great! My parents and Kees loved it, too. Post to follow 🙂

  • Connor, I can smell the Christmas in the air!! This is going to be a definite over Christmas, I just fear there will be none left for me!! I honestly hope that I can do your recipe justice it looks fantastic! Great to see you today and get back into the shops, they’re only getting busier!!! Have a really wonderful wonderful Christmas

    • Hi Sarah, excellent to meet with you yesterday and great to see another Irish business success in the digital space. Let me know how they turn out. Have a great Christmas.

  • I truly don’t believe myself to be such a very modern gal, but – I yet have to experience a bad buy on line: worldwide endless choice, wonderful prices, no crowds or unwelcome meetings, no Mommy kissing Santa Claus at every corner – just sitting with a cup of freshly made coffee [OK, OK, tea!] or a vino, in my library with my kind of music in the background! Now, am not the hugest Xmas follower, but feel totally relaxed at the end . . . oh, sorry about the mince pies – look very elegant . . . just happen to be 110% savoury 😀 !

    • Hi Eha, our household does most of the Christmas (and other) purchasing online. However, it requires organisation. That is where I fall down at this time of the year. Have a great one.

      • Uhuh! Decades in the business world makes one disgustingly organized 🙁 ! Sorry! A contented Yule worth of everything that really counts to you and yours, a happy, healthy year to follow and thanks for having put up with my ‘peculiar’ sense of humour: as I just told Chicago John, I’ll try to behave better next year 😉 !

        • Eha, please don’t. I enjoy your left field approach. I too have decades in business under my belt. I have been running our company for just under 20 of those years. Sadly, Christmas organisation always falls by the wayside. I’ll have to try harder next year!

  • That is a gorgeous looking pie! Although I always thought mince meat pie has some sort of meat in it. I guess it has evolved…

    • Like myself Anne, the mincemeat recipe evolves and matures over time. Have a great Christmas.

      • Well said…. happy holidays to you too Conor! 🙂

  • There should be a ‘love’ not ‘like’ button for your posts!
    Happy christmas!!!
    g.

    • Ha! You are too kind Grainne. I enjoy the conversations and friendships that have sprung up over the last months. I am looking forward to some fun posts for next year. Have a great Christmas.

    • Grainnep -a very Christmas to you. I so agree with you, for blogger friends like Conor there should be a “I love this” button. His lovely sense of Irish humor brightens up anyone’s day. Ciao, Carina

  • Oh Comor, I never thought you were a hard mean man to our blogger friends. No care parcel to us poor souls who can not get he items to make a decent minced pie. I am running around Bangkok to find some decent (German) Christmasstollen -no luck so far. Even m.p. I can not find, none at the local Tesco either. Btw – your lattice work looks just fine! Have a wonderful Christmas with your family. Ciao Carina

    • Thanks Carina, a bit thoughtless of me (and this the festive season of giving). Have a great Christmas.
      Conor

  • What a great scene you’ve depicted, with your shopping trip gone horribly wrong. Is it weird that I’m picturing it in a Dickensian type of way? Steam rising from the sewers, everyone shuffling around in dark cloaks, you in a top hat and cane. And I mean that in all the best ways possible. Really. ALSO, this mince meat pie looks amazing. I would have a hard time resisting to eat the filling with a spoon, too. The lattice is perfect.

    • Too kind Tommy. In truth, the lattice does not last too long anyway. I’m beginning to get over it!
      Happy Christmas,
      Conor

      • Thanks for humoring a silly American guy, Conor. Merry Christmas to you, too!

  • That’s done it; I’m going to make the Mrs learn how to make pastry. I can’t do it and she needs a hobby. Thanks for the inspiration. As for Christmas chuggers, they’ll burn in hell so I just smile at them. And as for John Lewis, they’ll be providing the fuel.

  • I mostly hate Christmas, and am skipping it entirely this year. I also usually hate mincemeat. But I am starting to reconsider after looking at this…

    • You have to try it Michelle. Very tasty.

  • Americans (I speak in sweeping terms of course) tend to hate mincemeat. I personally think it is lovely! Wish I could get me a slice. Otherwise, if I made one, I would be forced to eat the whole damn thing 🙂

    Happy holidays!!

  • great pie…
    and I totally agree with your take on Christmas cheer.
    the over crowded stores- how can someone poke a fellow shopper to get the 50% off sweater is just beyond me, but we do what we can in the name of holiday cheer.
    😛

    • All done now. Taking it easy for a few days. Then we have the January sales to look forward to….

      • Yeah the light at the end of the tunnel, sale week in Jan
        😛

  • Hi Conor,

    Was so nice of you to stop by once again 🙂 I enjoyed reading this post (love the pics) and reliving memories of past Christmases we spent in Dublin. Here in France (at least the region we’re in at the moment), there’s no Christmas season overdose, no festive music, no special cookery shows. It seems as though the French couldn’t be bothered although I’m sure in a city like Paris, the story’s different. But it all comes as a welcome relief although we miss it at times, it’s funny.

    Anyway, have a great Christmas and a fabulous New Year!

    -Sujatha

    • Hi Sujatha, yes, it would be a bit wierd if I did not have it to grumble about. Have a great Christmas.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Now that’s a pie Conor. Better luck with the shopping next time out 🙂 Sheila

    • Morning Sheila, making my last foray out this am. Then feet up and nothing but another mince pie and some mulled wine in mind until Christmas Day.
      Have a great one,
      Conor

  • Conor, I love Christmas since I am a self-proclaimed Christmas fanatic, but I would be in a grumpy mood as well after your shopping experience. I try to do it all online to avoid the craziness, which to me, isn’t Christmas at all.

    I have never had mince pie, but when I do, can I just drop by and grab a slice of yours — it looks so flavorful and captures the holiday spirit. All the best this Christmas to you and your family!

    Cheers!

  • Now this was totally fun to read!! I’ve felt like this on more than one occasion.. I’ve very narrowly missed getting smashed to bits by a car driven by a crazed woman on a shopping mission.. I, too, find my solace in the kitchen. I wish I had such able hands to take care of the pastry for me. Your lattice reference could have been omitted.. until I looked closely I thought it was perfect:D Where do you find suet?? Have a wonderful Christmas!!! xx

    • Suet can be got from the butcher, if it is not available in the supermarket. Atrixo is the brand over here.
      Happy Christmas Barbara,
      Conor

  • A latticed mince pie! Am I the only one that thinks it’s such an ingenious idea? Just me? I’m sorry if I come across as patronising but you and your wife are amazing for this, it’s nice to see a change from the individual mince pie cases.

    I wish I was actively blogging around Christmas time because my family would’ve loved this on Christmas Day. It’s never too late to make one though I suppose.

    • Thanks for the kind comments Aisha. It was really flavoursome and fun to do. It’s on the list for this year too.

  • It’s one of my favorite british Christmas dishes. The filling is delicious and yours has a nice thick filling. I have to try it this year… 😉

    • It was pretty tasty indeed. Though, 100% Irish in this case. I am looking forward to doing some more Christmas specials this year.
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Conor

  • This looks incredible, and I can’t wait to make it! Unfortunately, I don’t have a metal bowl that will go in the oven.

    What else would you recommend? I have a large pyrex dish, or a cast iron casserole pot which could sort of, maybe, probably not do the same job?

    • Hi Ciaran,
      Either sound like they will do the business. The oven is not very hot so it should be fine. Let me know how it works out.
      Best,
      Conor

  • Hi Conor,
    I have a friend who shops online for all Christmas presents – often having the gift sent direct to the recipient already gift-wrapped. I see much advantage in this. This year, I shopped early, wrapped & tucked everything away in labelled bags, then sat back smugly as everyone else dived into the shopping war. The beach, parks and restaurants were quiet because the other humans were shopping. Smug, very smug.

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