Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

My mum and I are mincemeat pie lovers. Just a thin slice is the perfect dessert, or breakfast, at Christmas time. You can buy mincemeat in the jar, but it’s not that difficult to make your own.

Traditional mincemeat pies are made with beef or venison and suet. Suet is the fat found around the kidneys and loins. I know, that doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it adds richness. Mincemeat pies were first created to preserve meat, or whatever came home from the day’s hunt.

Some day I would like to make it that way, probably following the recipe in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book, but I’ve been using this Modern Mince Pie recipe since I first saw it in Bon Appetit. The only change I’ve made is the addition of walnuts. Instead of using the pie dough recipe they suggest, I make my ‘old faithful’ recipe from Elinor Klivans. It’s very forgiving and you can easily make it in a food processor. You could make a decorative top, like the star top I made a few Christmases ago, or just a plain top. Either way, it will be delicious and make your kitchen smell like Christmas.

Mince Pie, Christmas 2007 | Grabbing the Gusto

Mince Pie, Christmas 2007 | Grabbing the Gusto

Mince Pie

  • 3 1/2 pounds small pippin apples (about 7), peeled, cored, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured (light) molasses
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum
  • 1 Tbsp grated orange peel
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 pie crust dough disks (recipe below)
  • Flour for dusting
  • Milk and sugar, optional

Combine all ingredients (up to the pie crust dough disks) in a heavy large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cook over low heat until apples are very tender and mixture is thick, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Cool filling completely. This can be prepared up to one week ahead if covered and refrigerated.

Meanwhile make your dough using the recipe below.

Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Lightly dust your counter and rolling pin with flour, put your disk on the floured surface, sprinkle the top of the disk with a little flour and roll it out to an 11 or 12 inch diameter round (about 1/8 inch thick). If it’s larger, no problem, you can use any scraps to repair thin areas.

Make sure the top of your dough is dusted with flour, then lightly fold it over in half and then again. Transfer this quarter wedge to a 9 inch diameter glass pie plate, positioning it in the center and then gently unfold and press it into place. Trim edges of crust, leaving 3/4 to 1 inch overhang. Patch any holes and supplement any crust edges where you don’t have quite 1 inch. Spoon filling into crust-lined pan, gently pressing flat.

Repeat the process for your second disk and roll it out to a slightly larger size, about a 12 or 13 inch round. You can either have a solid crust top or make a decorative top crust using a cookie cutter to create stars or whatever shape you’d like.

For a solid top: Fold the crust into quarters, as you did with the bottom crust, but this time make steam vents. With a knife make 3 or 4 angular cuts about ¾ inch long on each folded side. With your fingertips, spread a few drops of water on the rim of the dough in the pan. Place your folded top crust down, centered and gently unfold. Trim the dough all around so you have about 3/4 to 1 inch overhang. Now press the edges of the two crusts together and fold any part hanging over the rim of the pie plate underneath itself all around.

You’ll end up with a sealed ridge that you can decorate. Make a fluted edge by using thumb and first finger on one hand and first finger on other hand in between them to push crust in opposite directions. Hard to describe but you want to make a wavy edge. Or you can press the tines of a fork all around the edge to make little lines, like the photo above. If you’d like a golden top crust, spread or brush milk lightly all over the top and then sprinkle on sugar.

For a decorative crust: Cut out shapes using a cookie cutter. Brush bottom of each shape with milk. Place shape atop the mince, overlapping crust slightly and pressing to adhere to crust. Continue placing shapes atop pie in concentric circles, overlapping edges slightly until top of pie is covered.

Brush milk and sprinkle sugar on the shapes.

Bake until crust is golden brown and mince bubbles, about 40 minutes. Cool completely. Serve pie with ice cream (vanilla or rum raisin).

Original recipe: Modern Mince Pie, Bon Appetit, November 1991

Flaky Pie Crust

Makes only one 9-inch crust, so set aside enough ingredients to double this recipe, but make only one disk at a time in the food processor. Keep the butter, shortening and ice water in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make each disk, you want it as chilled as possible.

For each disk, you will need:

  • 1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces – I like using the shortening that’s sold in sticks, like butter
  • 3 Tbsp (or more) ice water

Mix flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter and shortening. Using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle 3 Tbsp ice water over mixture. Process just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. The amount of water varies because it depends on the moisture naturally present in the flour and shortening.

Gather dough into a ball, pressing it firmly together with both hands. It should hold together and be soft and velvety to the touch. If it doesn’t, add a few more drops of water where it’s dry and crumbly so you’ll be able to roll it out easily later, but only add just enough.

Flatten the dough into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until dough is firm enough to roll out, about 30 minutes. Repeat the recipe for the second disk.

Can be prepared two days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Original recipe: Flaky Pie Crust, Bon Appétit, November 2000

mince pie mincemeat Christmas baking recipe

Pere Noel by Morburre (wikimedia commons)

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