Thursday, 20 December 2012

Mince pie

Mincemeat, as the name suggests, is not usually vegetarian. The funny thing is that it isn't what it sounds like that keeps it off a veggie's menu; it's not ground up meat. It's actually largely dried fruit and nuts with sugar and brandy. (If you haven't had it, you're really missing something! My mother and I used to buy a second jar of mincemeat each Christmas, because we knew full well that one of them would be in our bellies before the pies were even started.) The issue is that traditional mincemeat has something called suet in it, which is pretty much little bits of solid beef fat.

Quite frankly, I love mince pie too much to give it up. That meant a trip to the drawing board!

I've developed a recipe for mincemeat that replaces the animal fat with vegetable oils, and so not only is it vegetarian, it's actually vegan. Three cheers for homemade holiday treats!

This jar of homemade mincemeat has been in my cupboard for a month to let the flavours blend.

As a general rule, mincemeat needs to "steep" in its own flavours for at least a few weeks, so if you haven't made your own for this year's Christmas dinner, it's a little late to start. I made mine in mid November. All hope's not lost, though. This year you can grab some store-bought vegetarian mincemeat (in Canada, President's Choice makes a reasonably good one called "5 minced fruits") and whip up a batch of mincemeat in the New Year to store until next Christmas!

When I make mince pies, I add extra stuff to the mincemeat filling, as per my (grand)mother's recipe. That means chopping up some apple, measuring out some raisins, and sweetening with a little brown sugar.
My homemade mincemeat didn't have too much sugar to begin with, so a little extra brown sugar was in order. Commercially-prepared mincemeat pie filling generally has more than enough sugar to begin with, so use your discretion!
It's handy that I had to come up with a vegan pastry for the Nut Wellington. I used a bit of that to make my pie crust, and it worked beautifully.
This pastry bakes up flaky and is really simple to make. As an added plus, it's really easy to roll out.

And once baked up, the pie looked and tasted just delicious! I made two so I could save one for Christmas dinner.
These pies were so yummy that this one almost didn't make it into the freezer for Christmas dinner! (Notice the re-used foil pie plate? They're perfect for pies you're leaving with a friend!)

Vegan Mincemeat Pie Filling
Makes 2 litres (2 large mason jars)
1 lb cooking apples, cored and diced (I leave the skins on)
1 cup 100% vegetable shortening
2 cups dark raisins
1½ cups sultana raisins
1½ cups currants
1½ cups mixed candied peel
2 cups golden cane sugar
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup chopped almonds
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup brandy or rum

Combine all ingredients except brandy in a large bowl and mix very well. Cover and let stand overnight in a cool place.

Transfer the mixture to an oven-safe dish and bake at 250°F for 3 hours.

Let cool at room temperature, stirring the mixture about every half hour to make sure the oils mix into the pie filling. When at room temperature, stir in the brandy and immediately pack into clean, sterilized mason jars. Seal and store in a cool, dark place. Once canned, the pie filling will keep for over a year.

When making into a pie, I add an extra 1 cup diced apples, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup raisins per pie and use the pastry here. Using this method, one large mason jar (1 litre) of pie filling will yield exactly two 9" pies.


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