If you ask any British person what the quintessential Christmas food was, they probably wouldn’t say turkey. They’d probably say Mince Pies. These little fruity, boozy treats are so synonymous with Christmas in the UK that it’s insane to think of the holidays without them, and if you find out that someone doesn’t like them, you quickly rethink your friendship with such a heathen. They ARE Christmas.
You can imagine my despair, then, when I found out that the vast majority of Americans don’t embrace these little tarts of delight – and, in fact, most of them have never even HEARD of a Mince Pie. I couldn’t speak; I could barely breathe.
So, for my American audience, let me first quell your fears that these treats are made with meat. They’re not. Neither are they made with mince, although they were back in the Medieval days when no one had tastebuds and the go-to method of improving a meal was to douse it liberally in animal fat. Mince Pies actually date back to the 13th Century – the Middle Ages -, although they’re a lot smaller, sweeter and I’ll bet more delicious than they were back then.
Although the mince is long gone from most Mince Pies these days, they often aren’t vegan due to the butter in the crust, and because the fat most often used to make the mincemeat is a beef suet. You can buy commercial mincemeats that are vegan, but me being me, I decided to make my own this year. And you know what? I won’t be going back!
It’s easy, cheap and fun to make your own mincemeat, mostly because it only involves chopping, waiting, then making your whole house smell like Christmas as you cook the ingredients together in a pan. Delia (that paragon of British cooking) will tell you that you need to bake mincemeat for 3 hours, but I simply cooked the mincemeat over a medium heat for about 15 minutes, and when it cooled, it was perfect.
Once you’ve made your own mincemeat, you’ll never go back.
(Makes 2 of the Kilner jars shown above)
5 apples, chopped finely
2 cups of mixed raisins, currants and sultanas
3/4 cup candied peel, or dessicated coconut if you’re going for something a little different (I was)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup almonds, chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 fresh freshly-grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons mixed spice (a mix of cloves, ginger and cayenne pepper)
1.5 cups coconut oil (you can also use vegan suet if you have it)
zest and juice of one lemon
zest and juice of one orange
1/4 cup brandy (or rum, if you’re feeling adventurous)
In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the brandy
Stir well, then cover and leave overnight to allow the flavours to mix
After a good long resting period, tip everything into a large pan and set to a medium heat
Add in the brandy, and cook over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced and your whole house smells good enough to eat
Take off the heat and allow to cool
Store in sterilized glass containers, or use immediately in Mince Pies (recipe to come tomorrow!)
I know what you’re thinking; that’s incredibly easy. You’re right. And it’s delicious.
In this recipe, we’ve used coconut oil to replace the suet, as coconut oil also hardens at room temperature (or, rather, room temperature in a cold country!) and its a damn sight healthier than suet! However, if coconut oil is difficult to get or super expensive where you live, you can use any solid vegan fat alternative (such as Copha). Use whatever works for you!
If you have any mincemeat left over from your Mince Pies, pop it into a Kilner jar and give as a gift! Homemade foods are the best gifts at Christmas, I think.
Although I “tropicalised” this recipe with the rum, coconut and coconut oil, my friend James, on first tasting, said “Oh my god….that tastes exactly right”. You will not believe how perfect this recipe is!