If you’ve never experienced homemade mince pies (aka mincemeat pie) you don’t know what you’re missing! Leave the store-bought mince pie on the shelf and get ready to fall in love – nothing compares to homemade!
Mincemeat pie, also called mince pie, has occupied a prominent place on Britain’s holiday table for centuries and that tradition continues today. During the near 7 years that I lived in England I witnessed the mince pies being stocked in every store and served in nearly every home as soon as the Christmas season started.
Most people have either a love or hate relationship with mince pies. For some, Christmas just isn’t the same without them while for others the mince pie is the brunt of endless jokes. For my part, if my opinion were limited to store-bought mince pies I would pass in a heartbeat with a courteous “no thank you.”
Homemade mince pies on the other hand made with real traditional mincemeat….well, that’s a different story. And that’s what we’re talking about today. If like me you’ve always hated store-bought mince pies, I have a hunch these homemade ones will make you change your mind.
If you want the absolutely BEST mincemeat pie, you HAVE to make your own mincemeat. If you use store-bought mincemeat your mince pies won’t taste much better than the ones you buy in the grocery store and THAT’S what we’re trying to avoid.
The mincemeat of today is very different from the mincemeat our ancestors enjoyed through the centuries and by different I don’t mean improved. The real stuff is vastly superior and your taste buds will agree once they’ve tried it. To learn more about its history, its evolution, and how to make mincemeat that you will really enjoy, be sure to check out my post on how to make your own homemade traditional Mincemeat.
In Britain especially but also in several other countries around the world, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the New England region of the U.S., it’s hard for many people to imagine Christmas without mince pies.
Mince pies, originally called “Christmas pies, “crib cakes” or “shred pies”, can be traced back to the 13th century to the time of the Crusaders where they were fashioned as symbols of Christ’s birth. Featuring cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in token of the gifts of the three Magi, mince pies were originally larger and shaped into ovals to represent the manger. Often a pastry was made that was shaped in the form of the infant Jesus and was placed on top of the pie. The mince pie would then be eaten in celebration of the birth of Christ.
Over time mince pies got smaller and rounder and today they’re made in small tart tins as convenient “hand pies” that are consumed within a few bites.
Mince pies have literally gone down in history as an inseparable component of Christmas holiday tradition.
You can use prepared pie crust but for the best flavor and texture I recommend making your own and if at all possible replacing some of the butter with lard. Lard yields the very best pie crust texture imaginable. Be sure to use quality lard from pasture-raised pigs. Most of the lard you find in the stores is hydrogenated – avoid it. I usually render my own lard from fat that I get from a trusted local farmer (see my post on How To Render Lard), but for a store-bought option, this Leaf Lard from Fatworks is made from free-ranged, pasture-raised pigs.
You can use either a standard 12-muffin tin or you can use mini tart tins, which create a more typical pie shape. I prefer to use the traditional mini tart tins and these tins can be used for any number of mini tart recipes.
Mince Pies Recipe
Let’s get started!
Make the pastry crust:
Put the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor and pulse a few times. Add the butter and lard (or all butter if preferred) and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Gradually add in the ice cold water and pulse a few times after each addition. The texture should be such that when you take some of the mixture and pinch it between your fingers it should come together to form a dough. Test it for doneness after each addition of the ice water, being careful not to add too much water or your crust will be tough and it won’t be flaky.
Transfer the crumbly pastry dough to a lightly floured work surface and use floured hands to fold the dough into itself until
Form the dough into a ball, tightly wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the fridge for at least 3 hours before using, or for up to 5 days. This dough can also be frozen (flatten into one or two discs, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and put it in a ziplock freezer bag).
Time to make the mincemeat pies!
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease the mini tart tins or a standard 12-cup muffin tin.
Roll 2/3 of the pie crust out onto a floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut circles out of the pie crust to fit into the tins. Scoop some of the mincemeat into each pie crust.
IF MAKING A FULL SIZE PIE: Preheat to 375 F and bake it for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for another 30 minutes or so.
Roll out the remaining pie crust to the same thickness and cut out circles for lids, star shapes, or lattices (whichever you prefer).
If cutting out circles/lids to fully cover each pie cut a small slit on the top of each pie crust to let hot air escape.
Lightly brush the tops with milk or an egg wash. Bake the pies for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Carefully remove them from the muffin or tart tins, transfer them to a wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Mince pies are best served gently warmed. They can be eaten with your hands or with a spoon if served with cream or even ice cream if you like.
Another traditional topping is Hard Sauce, known as Brandy Butter outside the U.S. Spread or place a dollop of brandy butter over the hot mincemeat pie and let it melt.
Stored in an airtight container, the mincemeat pies will keep for up to 4 days.
Note: These pies freeze well. Freeze in an airtight container or ziplock bag; they will keep for up to 3 months.
Depending on the size of your tart or muffin tins, this will make about 18 mince pies.
One tradition says that if you eat a mince pie each day over the twelve days of Christmas it will bring you good luck in the new year! Another tradition says that the first mince pie of the season holds special powers, so be sure to make a wish with the first mince pie you eat!
Fun Fact: The first ever mince pie eating contest was held in 2006 and the winner consumed 46 pies in one sitting!
So from that perspective, 12 pies in 12 days isn’t so bad, is it?
For more delicious traditional British treats be sure to try our:
- Treacle Tart
- Sticky Toffee Pudding
- Eccles Cakes
- Christmas Pudding
- Yorkshire Parkin
- Spotted Dick
- Welsh Cakes
- Victoria Sponge Cake
Traditional Mince Pies
- Pie crust dough (enough for two crusts) or homemade crust as follows:
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter , diced in 1/2 inch cubes
- 5 ounces lard , lard will produce the flakiest crusts (you can substitute butter if you prefer)
- How to Make Your Own Lard (we strongly recommend making your own, it's super easy and cheaper than store-bought!)
- 2/3 cup ice water
- 1 batch BEST Traditional Mincemeat
- 2 tablespoons milk, for brushing
- powdered sugar for sprinkling
- Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter (or lard/tallow) and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut into the flour until you get pea-sized crumbs(alternatively use a food processor). Stir in the water gradually (or pulse with a food processor) until the dough holds together when you pinch it between your fingers. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin or mini tart tins.
- Roll 2/3 of the pie crust out onto a floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut circles out of the pie crust to fit into the tins. Roll out the remaining pie crust to the same thickness and cut out circles for lids, or star shapes, or lattices (whichever you prefer). If using circles/lids to fully cover the pies, cut a slit in each pastry lid to allow the hot air to escape. IF MAKING A FULL SIZE PIE: Preheat to 375 F and bake it for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for another 30 minutes or so.
- Carefully press the pie crusts into the tins and fill them with mincemeat then top with the pie crust lids, stars, or lattices and press the edges together to seal them. Lightly brush the tops with milk or an egg wash.Bake the pies for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully remove them from the muffin or tart tins, transfer them to a wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
- Mince pies are best served gently warmed. They can be eaten with your hands or with a spoon if served with cream or even ice cream if you like. Stored in in the fridge in an airtight container, they will keep for up to 4 days. If making them without meat they will keep in an airtight container at room temp for up to 2 days.Note: These pies freeze well. Freeze in an airtight container or ziplock bag, will keep for up to 3 months.
First published on The Daring Gourmet 18, 2017