Mince pies have been a favourite of mine since the first time I clapped my lips around one. That slightly crunchy, crumbly pastry giving way to fragrant, sweet fruit is one of the genuine joys of the Christmas break. I have been obsessed with mince pies every year, although generally offended by the imbalance of the pastry to mincemeat ratio of the mince pie offerings available in the shops.
Could I use spelt flour? And goats butter? Would it matter that I didn’t (want to) use lard? I’ve always disliked it and especially since, as a curious child, I stuck a teaspoon into the strange white stuff that might taste like ice cream. After popping it into my mouth I discovered it was foul tasting, melted in seconds and coated my mouth despite spitting it out. Yuck!
Mincemeat was always made by Robinsons in our house. We even had the gollywog ornaments that you could collect by saving up vouchers from the labels of their jam and marmalade jars and sending them off to a PO Box with a postal order. Our gollywogs formed a band – each played a different musical instrument. Times have changed. Thankfully. You can’t order racist ornaments from the labels of Sainsburys’ mincemeat (suitable for vegetarians).
You can, however, use your little finger to tease the sticky stuff off a teaspoon, an inherited baking trick that encourages the filling to land squarely in the centre of the pie-to-be. After patting the lids down and sealing the edges with a finger dampened with water, all that’s left is to prick each one three times with a fork.
I popped them in the oven and waited for my nose to tell me when it was time to take them out. It was about twenty minutes. Grabbing my camera, I took photos of them as they sizzled in their cases. The sizzling evaporated and I moved them from the hot baking tray to the cooling wire rack and photographed them some more.
You can use spelt flour. You can use goats butter. You can forego the lard. And you can use your intuition to tell you how much, how long and when. Yum!