Foods associated with Christmas? Surely one of the first foods that pops into your head is traditional mince pies?
And, as far as we’re concerned, homemade mince pies are the best!
Everyone has their own little additions and tweaks that makes their mince pie recipe special to them. And to the people they share them with.
Things have changed a lot over the years. We now have the Çalış Christmas Fair, for example.
Making Our Own Fun
But when we spent our first Christmas in Turkey – a predominantly Muslim country – many years ago, we realised we would be making our own Christmas fun.
It was time to get inventive.
No mince pies in the supermarkets, of course. And it’s just not Christmas without mince pies.
A Tweaked Recipe
Time to take myself back to childhood days. And memories of helping with my nana’s homemade mince pies.
Since then, my own mince pie recipe has been tweaked, developed, made up as I’ve gone along.
The one constant to the mince pie recipe? They just have to be star-topped.
For no reason other than a star was the only remotely festive pastry cutter we could find all those years ago. It worked well. And now it’s tradition.
And Christmas is all about tradition for us. So that also means a mince pie recipe with shortcrust pastry.
For mince pie recipes with a twist, however, we will also be experimenting with yufka (filo pastry) for Christmas 2021.
But shortcrust pastry will always be the star attraction.
Our Mince Pie Filling Recipe
The big plus point of homemade mince pies in Turkey is it’s easy to buy your ingredients for your mince pie filling.
A visit to one of the dried fruits and spices stalls of Fethiye Tuesday market or Çalış Sunday market and you can buy all of your staples in bulk.
We buy a lot. And we try to buy them in November so that I can make the mince pie filling. And also, so Barry can make his winter chutney, too.
We can even get inventive and choose a few extra ingredients.
There are no hard and fast rules to what makes the best mince pie recipes. It’s all about personal choice.
Of course, the currants and raisins and fresh apples are always needed. But after that, we like to play around.
Perhaps a few cranberries. Chopped dried apricots. Or dried sour cherries?
The zest of oranges and lemons, too, for a bit of festive flavour for our mince pies.
A few toasted pine nuts? Why not?
Oh, and we do go boozy. A good splash of brandy will be going in there.
Depending on when we get round to making our mince pie filling, we add a drop more brandy to the mixture once a week or so.
All In One Pan
Once we’ve got all of our mince pie filling ingredients together, all we need to do is put them into a large saucepan.
As well as our dried fruits and fresh fruits, we’ve got brown sugar. We’ve also got comforting Christmas spices.
Our homemade mince pies have a hint of cinnamon, clove, allspice. And also star anise. All those warming flavours, full of festive spirit.
And you might have noticed something else in the pan, too….
Cubes of butter. This is a no suet mincemeat.
We could go to our local butcher and ask if they can arrange some suet for us to make our mince pie filling.
But, quite honestly, the butter works just as well.
We’re going to heat our mincemeat for our mince pie recipe on a low light and stir it around for 15-20 minutes.
After that, we leave it to cool. And then it’s ready to jar up until we’re ready to make the mince pies, themselves.
Mince Pies Recipe – FAQs
No. Our mince pies are made without suet. We prefer to use butter. This means our vegetarian friends can enjoy them, too.
Mince pie filling is often known as mincemeat. In the past mince pie recipes actually contained actual meat such as beef or lamb as one of the ingredients.
These days a typical mince pie recipe has dried fruit, fresh fruit, sugar, brandy and spices such as cinnamon and cloves as the main ingredients.
We add brandy to our filling. Our mincemeat for our mince pie recipe will last for a year if stored in a sealed jar in a cool dark place. The brandy will help to preserve it.
In the past, we have made a lot of mincemeat and used it two years in a row for our mince pies.
We make our mince pie filling in advance. Then we make the actual pies a couple of days before Christmas Day so they’re nice and fresh.
If you want to make the whole mince pies in advance, however, you can bake them and then freeze them in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to three months.
Thaw in the fridge the night before you want to eat them.
We love our little star-topped, rounded mince pies but they actually used to be rectangular in Tudor times. According to Historic UK, the pastry casing represents the manger of the baby Jesus.
Some pies would have a pastry baby on top, too.
In the Middle Ages, there was a tradition where people would eat one mince pie every day from Christmas Day to 12th night on January 5th. It was believed this would bring good luck for the year ahead.
And these days, in the UK, mince pies are left out by the fireside on Christmas Eve so Santa Claus can have something to eat whilst he places the presents under the tree.
And us adults? Well we just eat our way through more mince pies than we’d care to remember!
How To Make Mince Pies
Let’s get started with our mince pie recipe.
It’s a recipe in two parts. First of all, we’re going to make the mince pie filling in advance.
And then, just before Christmas Day, we’ll make the shortcrust pastry and create our mince pies.
It was very recently that we decided the shortcrust pastry I’d made for the mince pies was the best yet. Fortunately, I remembered to write it down so that we now have a ‘go-to’ recipe.
A generous sprinkling of orange and lemon zest into the dough makes for a pastry with a hint of citrus flavour.
And the star shaped lids with their dusting of snow (icing sugar) gives the perfect festive feel.
Homemade Mince Pies Recipe
- 12 hole mini tart tin
- Sterilised glass jars with lids
- Large saucepan
- Mixing bowl
- Pestle & mortar
- Circular and star shaped pastry cutters of relevant size
- Rolling Pin
For The Mincemeat Mince Pie Filling
- 100 grams currants
- 100 grams raisins
- 100 grams cranberries dried
- 100 grams mixed dried fruit sour cherries, apricots, other berries
- 2 small apples peeled, cored & chopped into small cubes
- 1 small orange juiced & rind finely grated
- 125 grams brown sugar
- 80 grams butter refrigerated & cubed
- 150 millilitres brandy
- 20 grams pine nuts lightly toasted & roughly chopped
- 2 cloves crushed & ground
- 1 whole star anise
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
For The Shortcrust Pastry
- 160 grams plain flour plus extra for dusting
- 75 grams refrigerated butter cubed
- 35 grams icing sugar plus extra for dusting
- 1 orange juiced & rind finely grated
- 1 lemon rind finely grated
- 1 egg yolk beaten
- 1 knob butter to grease your tart tin
For The Mincemeat Mince Pie Filling
- Except for the brandy, add all your mince pie filling ingredients to a large saucepan.
- Heat the mixture gently, stirring gently as it heats.
- Once the butter has melted, allow the mixture to simmer gently for around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool, completely.
- Add your brandy and mix in.
- Now add your mince pie filling to your sterilised jars and seal with a lid.
For The Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
- From a height, sieve your flour and icing sugar into a mixing bowl.
- Now add your cubed butter, cubes separated.
- With cold hands use your fingertips and thumb to rub the butter flour and icing sugar together.
- Try to work quickly and keep going until you have a crumbly mixture.
- Now add your lemon and orange rind and mix in.
- Add the juice of your orange and the beaten egg yolk.
- Now you can start to bring your pastry together. Use one hand to work the pastry until you have a ball of dough.
- Lightly flour it, wrap it tightly in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 10 minutes, at least.
- When you want to make your mince pies, lightly dust a clean, flat workspace with flour.
- Take your pastry. slice around a quarter of it away and leave to one side, covered. This is for your star shaped tops, later.
- Pat the rest of your pastry down to flatten it a little and give it a light dusting of flour.
- Roll it out into a rough circular shape until it is approximately 3mm thick.
- Take your round pastry cutter and cut 12 circles out of the pastry.
- Lightly grease the hollows of your mini tart tin.
- Take a circle of pastry and place it over the first hollow and gently ease it inside. Don't worry about trying to push the pastry right to the edges. Just let it rest into place.
- Keep going until you've filled all the hollows.
- Now add 1 heaped teaspoon of mince pie filling to each pastry case. Be careful not to add too much as it will bubble up during cooking and overflow.
- Now, take the rest of your pastry and roll it out.
- Take your star shaped pastry cutter and cut 12 stars.
- Carefully place each star on top of your mince pies.
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (180 degrees for a fan oven) and place your mince pies in the centre of the oven.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.
- Once cooked, remove your tin from the oven and leave to cool.
- Once your mince pies have cooled, carefully tease them from the mini tart tin using a sharp knife.
- Place your mince pies on a large serving plate and use a sieve to dust the tops with icing sugar.
- For the purposes of the mince pie recipe, we have calculated a rough preparation and cooking time that treats the filling and pastry as if you were making them at the same time. However, you can make your filling months in advance, if you like, so it can mature.
- For reference, our mince pie recipe uses a mini tart tin with 12 hollows measuring 9cms in diameter. Our circular pastry cutter is 7.5 centimetres in diameter and our star shaped cutter measures 6cms across from point to point.
- For the ingredients for our mince pie filling, there are no hard and fast rules. If you can’t get dried cranberries for example, choose another dried fruit. The base is the currants and the raisins. After that, we experiment with different dried fruits each year.
- An important tip with regards your choice of dried fruits – make sure it is a fruit that doesn’t have noticeable pips or seeds. This will ruin the texture of your mince pie filling.
- The type of fresh apple you use for your mince pie filling should be a crisp, firm variety. We use Granny Smith because it is crisp and sour.
- The mince pie filling recipe will leave you with leftovers. Feel free to make more mince pies. You could experiment with frozen puff pastry or filo.
- Alternatively, you could add the mixture to stewed apples to make a festive apple pie or apple crumble.
- Or you could tuck it away in the cupboard and use it again next Christmas.
Once you have perfected your own mince pie recipe, we’re sure you won’t go back to buying them from the supermarkets.