Mince pies are filled with mincemeat, a mix of dried fruits and spices, soaked in a liquor like brandy.
Go back far enough in history, and you will find mince pies made with meats, with fillings using lamb and veal, tongue, tripe. However, by the end of the Victorian era, mince pies were sweet and fruit-filled.
Mince mixtures can be purchased in stores, however, it is just as easy to make your own and can be made and stored months in advance.
Suet is still used in the mince filling- however vegetable shortening has become a common replacement for home cooks.
Today we’re most likely to find mince pies served at Christmas time. However a batch could be found in Bilbo’s pantry when the dwarves unexpectedly visit.
Make them in advance
The mince filling should be made several weeks in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to use.
Once baked, homemade mince pies can be made in advance, however, should be stored in an airtight container. While mince pies can be stored for up to a week, make 2-3 days in advance of your Hobbit party to serve fresh mince pies, not stale. If there are any leftovers from your party, they’ll have another few days to nibble the rest.
1/2 tsp mixed spice [ all spice, ginger and nutmeg]
1 1/2 cup (8oz) flour
1/4 tsp salt
115g (4oz) of cold butter
Mix together the mince mixture in a glass bowl, cover and let sit on the counter overnight. Give a good stir the next morning, recover and place in the fridge for several weeks, stirring once a week.
Sift together flour and salt, before cutting cold butter into the flour.
Mix the flour and butter together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add cold water, drop by drop, and mix until a dry dough is formed.
If you make it too wet, add more flour.
Roll out the dough thinly and use to line pie shells.
Leave ¼ of the dough to roll out and cut out circles as pie covers.
Spoon in mince mixture, do not overfill.
Lay pie cover over and pinch edges.
Using a skewer, punch 3 or 4 holes into the top to let steam escape. Whisk some egg white and water together, then brush on the top of the pastry, before sprinkling with white sugar.
Bake at 150C or 300F for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden.
Use Brambury apples if in the UK, Granny Smith if in US, Canada or Australia
Cognac can be used as an alternative to the brandy and rum in the mince mixture.
If short on time, mince mixture can also be purchased in the baking section.
This mince mixture recipe makes 3-4 batches of 12 so is a good recipe to mix up and keep in the fridge for the Christmas holidays.
Mince recipe adapted from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, Florence White’s Good Things in England, and a family recipe for mince. Short Pastry Recipe adapted from Woman’s Own Cookbook, 1964