Monday, January 7, 2008

Traditional Irish Cooking: Mince Pie

This is one of my favorite desserts. We make sure we always have some fresh mince pie on hand during the holidays and cold winter months. If you enjoy this recipe, you should take a look at The Best of Irish Festive Cooking by Biddy White Lennon!

Mincemeat Filling Ingredients

1/2 lb. finely chopped fresh beef suet
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
4 cups raisins, seedless
2 cup currants, dried
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup candied citron, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup figs, dried and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup candied orange peel, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup candied lemon peel, coarsely chopped
2 cups peeled and cored cooking apples, coarsely chopped
1 cup of pale dry sherry
2-1/2 cups cups of brandy

Preparing the Mincemeat

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except for the brandy and sherry and stir well. Pour in brandy and sherry. Using a wooden spoon, mix together all ingredients until well moistened. Next, cover the container of mincemeat and store in a cool place for 3 weeks (do not store in the refrigerator). Once a week, check on the mincemeat. The fruit will absorb the liquid. Using about 1/2 cup at a time of brandy and sherry, replenish the liquid. When kept covered in a cool location without refrigeration, Mincemeat can be kept indefinitely. If preferred, after about a month you can refrigerate the mincemeat. Make 1 1/2 qts.

Recipe makes 8 (2-1/2-inch) pies and requires the following pastry plus 8 teaspoons softened butter and 1-1/2 cups mincemeat.
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into bits
1-1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoons ice water

Preparing and Baking the Crust

Preheat oven to 375° F. With a pastry brush, coat bottom and sides of 8 (2-1/2-inch) tart tins with the softened butter, allowing 1 teaspoon for each tin. Combine butter, flour, salt, sugar, either in bowl or food processor. Add enough water to make the mixture just adhere together, so it is not crumbly. Form into ball, wrap in waxed paper and chill for at least one hour.

Roll out onto floured pastry cloth and with a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, cut 16 (3-inch) rounds of pastry. Gently press 8 rounds into tins, one at a time, then spoon about 3 Tablespoons of the mincemeat into each pastry shell. With a pastry brush dipped in cold water, lightly moisten the outside edges of the pastry shells and carefully fit the remaining 8 rounds over them. Crimp the edges with a fork. Trim excess pastry from around rims with a sharp knife, and cut two parallel slits, about 1/2-inch long and 1/4-inch apart in the top of each pie.

Arrange pies on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° F. and continue baking for 20 minutes more, or until crust is golden brown. Run the blade of a knife around the inside edges of the pies to loosen them slightly, and set them aside to cool in the pans.

Then turn out the pies with a narrow spatula and serve. Enjoy with a cup of tea!

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