Mince Pies

Time to make mince pies.
I've never bought one but I have sampled a few commercial mince pies. They are a completely different beast to the homemade pie. The commercial pies I have eaten have been overwhelmingly sweet, the mincemeat too runny and syrupy, oozing all over your fingers as you eat; the pastry sweet and powdery, clumping together and sticking itself to the roof of your mouth, and invariably they are too deep making the sweetness even harder to deal with.

I like my mince pies simple and unpretentious. I don't want a 'twist' on the traditional pie. No meringue or frangipane on top, no marzipan or rum butter inside, no fancy pastry shapes and definitely no low-fat filo pastry nonsense.

I want plain unsweetened shortcrust pastry and I want mincemeat inside and nothing else.
Sometimes I use Delia Smith's quick flaky pastry for mince pies which is very good but this year I'm sticking to shortcrust. I favour half lard and half butter. Butter for flavour and lard for shortness.

If you are tempted to buy ready-made shortcrust pastry may I just say I think you are mad.
Bought pastry is more expensive and not as nice. It's made with vegetable oil not butter so you are paying more for inferior ingredients. If you think it will save you time let me tell you that it takes just ten minutes to make pastry by hand and seconds to do it in a food processor. You can make lots at the same time and freeze it. 

Here I have 1 lb of plain flour, 4 oz lard and 4 oz butter.

Rub it together until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Add 4-5 tablespoons of cold water, bring together to form a dough. You are supposed to refrigerate it for half an hour or so before rolling but I find it much more manageable to roll it out straight away.

Use a bun tin not a muffin tin. Grease the holes lightly first.
Do not overfill -a scant tablespoon should do it.
Snip a steam-hole.

I don't worry much about how they look.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden in a hot oven 200ºc/180ºc fan oven

I made a dozen quincemeat pies and a dozen ordinary mince pies.
The quincemeat was good but not better than ordinary mincemeat.

I had a go at real mincemeat last year, the kind with minced beef in as was traditional once upon a time. The suet survives to remind us of mincemeat's meaty past. The real mincemeat was nice, it is true you cannot taste the meat in it. So why bother putting it in? It seems such a waste of meat to me. Better in your bolognese.

The trouble with very short shortcrust is that it does tend to break easily. Particularly when you are trying to photograph a half-eaten pie in front of your festive holly.



  1. You have spurred me on Sue! I shall open my jar of heavily doctored mincemeat/quincemeat (has the brandy soaked quinces scooped out of the quince brandy jar & then roasted) & I shall make some pastry & start the mince pie making!
    Thank you for inspiring me!

  2. The best mincepies I ever tasted were made with real mincemeat. Not made by me, I hasten to add, but memorably good.

  3. I love making mince pies and detest shop bought ones too. And I'm so glad you like to use lard ; )
    I made my own mincemeat again this year (RC Preserves book). I think I'll be a-baking this weekend. I'm going to have a go at The Pink Whisk's pastry with Baileys...

  4. So glad it is not just me who finds it easier to roll pastry without putting it in the fridge. Love making pastry. Love making mince pies. Love eating them. Sadly, so do the rest of The Beans. Ax

  5. They look just right to me. I love mince pies, but tend not to make them, as I'm usually the only person who eats them.

  6. Anonymous5:44 pm GMT

    How lucky you are not to have to work and so to have time to make your own mincemeat and pastry and take pictures of it.


  7. They do look good, that's just how I like my mincepies too. :)

  8. Jean,
    As I said, pastry takes ten minutes to make. Apart from chopping a couple apples and a handful of nuts the mincemeat is just a question of measuring things and mixing them in a bowl. Took me about 15 mins. Taking photos takes seconds.

    I don't understand why having a job means you can't make pastry and mincemeat.

  9. May I also recommend Josceline Dimbleby's orange pastry made with icing sugar. It works well with my sharp mincemeat. Like the Cornishware jug.

  10. I am nearly going to agree with all you say but not quite. The very best mince pies have homemade mincemeat and homemade pastry. The worst pies of all are 'homemade' with bought pastry and bought mincemeat both of which I think are pointless flavour wise and spoil a nice thing. If I can't have decent homemade, then I do actually enjoy the 'top end' range of bought pies but only some of them and they must have nuts and alcohol in. Some most annoyingly have no nuts in which really spoils any mincemeat for me. So really it's a case of all of nothing. Bought and homemade are a different beast, as you are right about the syrupyness but not all are too sweet I find. I do like them both. No sweetened pastry for me either though. Oh and I don't put pastry in the fridge either.

    Ready made pastry is nasty but I am not a fan of butter generally. I like it on scones the most, otherwise I do not actually like its taste all that much and don't have it from day to day. So, all butter pastry is out. I like my pastry short, and the mince pie experience will be spoiled if the pastry isn't short enough.

    Oh and Sue you do work. Pretty hard, actually. Weekends are for making mince pies if you want to and most people have those, even if they are busy doing other things most other times.

  11. I do half butter and half lard. Don't make my own mincemeat though. This year I've been using Robertsons 'Date and Brandy' version, very good it is too.
    Carol xx

  12. First things first; that is a beutifully written, no nonsense post and you have made the process of making mince pies look crystal clear.

    Easy springs to mind.

    Second, looking after a home and family invovles a heck of a lot of work: in my humble opinion as much as a job. Even when I worked I still managed to find the time to bake for my family. We all prioritise differently of course but baking does not have to be very timeconsuming.



  13. ps Sorry for the typing mistakes!

  14. Anonymous7:41 pm GMT

    Sorry Millefeuilles but I manage to work AND look after my home and family. The two things aren't mutually exclusive. You say we have different priorities and I heartily agree. It just appeared to me that Sue was disparaging those with different priorities. I am sure Sue does indeed work hard but she would have to admit, given her recent blog post about how she spends her day that it is hardly nose to the grindstone stuff. I work 40 plus hours per week and I also bake and cook from scratch but I know there are those who would rather play with their children or watch a movie. Whatever pleases them. I just think the tone of this blog post was a little cutting to those who have different priorities. Apologies for any offence caused. I assure you all I harbour no ill feeling towards stay at home mothers and given the chance I would probably be one. Meantime I do the best I can with the time I have and try not to let myself be judged on whether I make my own pastry.


    ps. They do look tasty :-)

  15. I agree - can't abide shop mince pies ... but maybe that's because I am a fussy eater and can't abide peel! It just 'forces' me to make my own mincemeat, Christmas cake and Christmas pud .... and makes me look like a Domestic Goddess when really I am just very selfish! If I don't like peel, nobody else is going to eat it either!!!!

  16. Somebody help me out here! Where on earth was I disparaging? Was it the 'mad' remark? I thought that was fairly obviously jokey. I am not judging people for buying pastry; I'm merely pointing out how much better homemade shortcrust is and how quick and easy it is to make.
    By the way I buy ready made butter puff pastry regularly because I can't be bothered to make that as it is a lot more time-consuming than shortcrust.

    I never ever claim that running a house and looking after a family is hard work. I don't think it is.

  17. I always make my mincepies with a star cut-out top because I always end up filling them too full and bursting them open. The star top allows room for bubbling over....

  18. I used to work in a job where Christmas was silly season for us. I worked every day for 3 weeks around the period with only Christmas day off.

    I still made mincemeat, mince pies and other Christmas goodies. I'm not superwoman, I just did what I call "ad break cooking". During an hour long programme there are sufficient ad breaks to get up and get mincemeat ready to soak. The next day you cook it and bottle it... again in ad breaks. Pastry can be measured out in an ad break, rubbed in in another and so on. This gave me sufficient rest, whilst getting something I enjoy done.

    I didn't find Sue at all disparaging, she's never come across to me that way. I do disagree with her though... I like a sweet shortcrust for mine and I lever up the lid to put brandy cream in!

  19. your mince pies look lovely..and i especially like your photo of the holly and pie relics..

    i agree with you that pastry is easy to make..i usually use my food processor to make pastry and that way it's even easier..it just takes a bit of care not to over work the dough..

  20. My mince pies look exactly like yours, though I sometimes make the open-topped variant with little shapes on top, if only to distinguish the children's pies from the grown-up brandy-laced ones.

  21. Actually I think some people would find being full time at home nose to the grindstone work. I had a friend who was delighted to 'escape' to work as she said it gave her a break from housework and her 3 children and gave her a rest. (I'm sure not everyone feels like that though.) It is horses for courses, we are all different.

    I know that there are only a certain amount of hours in the day so an out of the home working mum - unless she is up until the small hours and is super mum can not get so much domestic stuff done. So maybe there aren't so many hand made treats but that is OK. You don't have to do it all. Everyone can find some time for SOME cooking though - if they want to. There are compensations for mums working outside the home which some families prefer. No right or wrong way. It doesn't mean either mother is letting their family down. The simple matter of making pies is something everyone can find time for.

    Had you not thought that the remarks about shop bought pastry, reflect merely on the quality of the product, rather than a value judgement on how you lead your life Jean? Why look for insult where none is intended!

    Nowhere on this post are there any disparaging comments. The only remarks of that kind are from Jean, unnecessarily in my view. And all because of making mince pies?!! Who would have thought that would have been a trigger? Why are women often so harsh and unfair and unsupportive to one another? I really don't know.

    Sour grapes are best eaten alone and not shared.

    p.s. children were always fed brandy laced pies in my house both as a child and in my own house. Did you make separate child friendly ones like mise? Not enough were eaten to have an effect but anyway doesn't heat kill off the alcohol?

  22. Oh dear, will you forgive the fact that I buy my mince pies (no one eats them except Mr knitsofacto, we only ever need a token half dozen) if I tell you that I always make my own pastry. My grandmother used to say I have pastry maker's hands ... they're constantly cold!

  23. Delicious. There's nothing like them, and despite being tempted by a crumble-topped version this year, I suspect, like you, I'll stick to no nonsense pies.

  24. I like my mince pies star-topped and I use a Nigel Slater recipe for my pastry that isn't sweetened but does involve an egg. The pastry has to be as thin as I can get it. The trouble with bought ones is that there is too much pastry and, like you say, it is claggy.

    I think people don't always understand when you are joking because you aren't in the habit of (over) using exclamation marks.

  25. I am alarmed that at the end of this delicious post, LinkWithin has chosen to show us a picture of your toe.

  26. Anonymous2:57 pm GMT

    Goodness. Who'd have thought mince pies would bring all that on.
    Have you tried green tomato mincemeat?
    I completely agree with you about pastry making - homemade tastes better and it's easy to make.

  27. Anonymous9:12 pm GMT

    MMm. home made mince pies, they look yummy Sue, and your usual no nonsense approach is evident.
    I remember last year when you hurt yourself and were laid up for days.
    Merry Chrismas Sue, and a safe one.

  28. Pati from London8:15 am GMT

    I love mince pies in all shapes and forms.... x Pati


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