There are some very good jars of mincemeat in the shops these days, but none will taste half as good as your own and this is the easiest recipe I’ve ever tried. The only cooking you’ll have to do to make it is to sterilize the jars and pulp the apple, and the whole job takes less than an hour – and even that is stretched out over two days.
Mincemeat should ideally be made a few weeks before using as it allows to flavour to develop. Traditionally, mincemeat it is made on stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before advent.
On the other hand, shop-bought pastry is so good now that I’ve just about given up bothering, but if you want to make your own – and shortcrust is the traditional choice for a mince pie - it’s very easy.
The lids on the pies can be as simple or as fancy as you like but a star-shaped one works beautifully and shows off your homemade mincemeat to perfection.
For the mincemeat
1. Sterilize 6 clean, empty 1lb jars by placing on a baking sheet or roasting tin in a hot oven (130°C OR 275°F). After twenty minutes, take them out of the oven and leave to cool.
2. Put the apples in a covered saucepan with a tablespoon of water. Simmer gently over a low heat for about ten minutes until they have cooked down into a soft pulp.
3. When the apples have cooled, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. They need to be very well mixed, so don’t skimp!
4. Pack the mincemeat tightly into the cool jars and cover with a circle of greaseproof paper before putting the metal lid on tightly.
5. The jars will keep for up to a year in a cool, dark place. While it can be eaten immediately, it’s better if you can let it sit for a couple of weeks to let the flavour develop fully.
For the shortcrust pastry
1. Cut the butter into small chunks.
2. Rub into the flour with your fingertips in a large mixing bowl until it looks like breadcrumbs.
3. Add the egg yolk and a few drops of water. Mix well until you have a soft dough. Be careful to add the water drop by drop because you are unlikely to need more than a tablespoon in total.
4. Roll the dough out thinly and cut small rounds to line your 12-hole tartlet or cake tin.
5. Fill each pastry case with mincemeat and top with a pastry shape of your choice, sealing the edges well. Brush with beaten egg.
6. Cook in a 200°C (400°F) oven for 10-12 minutes until golden.
7. Leave to cool slightly for five minutes before turning out. Serve with a dollop of brandy butter.
For the brandy butter
Just mash 125g of soft butter with 125g of icing sugar. Add 2-3 tablespoons of brandy to taste and mix well. I use a small food processor to beat it, which gives a lovely whipped texture, but you can do it by hand.
It will keep for a couple of weeks or more in the fridge as long as it is in a sealed container.
The best way to serve homemade mince pies is to make a batch and serve them fresh from the oven while they are still warm.
However, they also keep very well in a tightly sealed tin for up to a week. Just pop them back in a hot oven for five minutes or so when your guests arrive and no one will ever know you’ve cheated!
For more festive food ideas, see our Christmas recipe collection.