My daughter’s birthday is in early December. This year, we are hosting an elf workshop party to celebrate her turning five. The kids will decorate cookies, makes ornaments, play pin the nose on Rudolph, and inevitably have a strop or two whilst playing pass the parcel because let’s face it–there is always a child who is slightly unhappy about the sweetie or small toy they got. There will also be limbo and musical statues and a playlist that is not exclusively from Disney movies. Because I just couldn’t cope with that. Thank God, she loves T. Rex and Tim Tim and Grieg.
Most importantly, there will be mince pies.
Mince pies were not part of my life until I moved to London. For one thing, they don’t go with fish tacos and margaritas which is how my poolside Southern California Christmases were spent. For another, I hate cooked raisins. Or so I thought. Then one holiday party a few years back, my eyes were opened wide and I was forced to admit “I like green eggs and ham! I do! I like them, Sam-I-Am!”
From Elizabeth David to Delia Smith to Mary Berry, there is one commonality where mince pies are concerned–the best require homemade mincemeat. Some recipes call for suet. Others, use butter. Some are simmered stove top. Others are not. For the sake of experimentation, I have done both.
I’ll let you know in a few weeks which I prefer, but I have a feeling my answer will be ALL OF THEM. Until then I’ll be working on a gingerbread biscuit recipe whilst Helena continues to swan around in this amazing party dress my mother gave her.
Ingredients for mincemeat with suet and rum:
125 g raisins
100 g currants
75 g dried cherries
1 tart cooking apple (I use a Bramley), peeled, cored, and grated
40 g mixed peel
3 pieces of stem ginger, minced + 1 tsp of the ginger syrup
1/4 tsp freshly grated ginger
125 g dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
150 g shredded suet
the zest and juice of 1 lemon
the zest of 1 orange
75 ml rum (I used Pusser’s)
Method: Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl then pack into sterilized jars.
Ingredients for mincemeat with butter and Armagnac:
200 g raisins
150 g currants
100 g pitted dates, finely chopped
100 g dried cranberries
100 g slivered almonds
2 tart cooking apples, peeled, cored, and grated
the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
75 g pecans or chestnuts, finely chopped
50 g slivered almonds
2 pieces of stem ginger, minced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
125 g unsalted butter
220 g light brown sugar
140 ml Armagnac or brandy of your choice
Method: Combine all ingredients, except for the Armanac, in a large saucepan. Simmer and stir for about 10 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before stirring in the Armaganc. Seal in sterilized jars.