My favourite thing about Christmas would have to be the fruit mince pies. The smell of a Christmas trees would be a very close second. I love walking through the house & catching those little pockets of fragrance from the Christmas tree & a hundred memories from Christmas’ past come rushing back to me. If I were to assign Christmas a scent, it would be the smell of a Christmas tree. In fact the only reason it came second is because as much as I love ‘the smell of Christmas’, it gives me terrible hay fever & so I normally spend the month of December dosed up on antihistamines, it’s worth it though.
But once again I’ve gotten distracted… I was intending to talk about fruit mince pies. A lot of people I know have a strong dislike, possibly even a hatred, of fruit mince pies. To be fair, if the only versions I’d ever eaten were the pre-made supermarket options, I’d probably feel the same way. The pastry is (in my opinion) too thick & the fruit mince is too raisin heavy & is missing the lovely spicy syrupy taste that my mother’s fruit mince pies always had. The secret is my mother always made her own fruit mince.
In our family the Christmas cooking would start with the fruit mince which we would prepare a month ahead. Mum would always let us help with the preparation of the mince. I think the only reason my brother & I helped out in the earlier years was for the chance to eat glace cherries while Mum wasn’t looking, but as I got older I really enjoyed helping out with the Christmas cooking. Now I do my own every year. Today I made the fruit mince, the recipe I use is an adaptation of a recipe from the Margaret Fulton Cookbook. Actually, I think the recipe I have is actually an adaptation of an adaptation, because today, when I was thumbing through my Nanna’s old copy of the Margaret Fulton Cookbook (which is now my copy), I found a page of her notes & adjustments, which are different to both the recipe in the book & the recipe my mother handed down to me. Finding little things like this is really one of my favourite things about cooking from recipes that have been handed down to you.
Anyway, before I get distracted AGAIN, here is the recipe for fruit mince as I know it;
500g Apples (I use Granny Smith apples or any good cooking apple)
100g Glace Cherries
125g Flaked Blanched Almonds
250g Mixed Peel
375g Brown Sugar
2 tsp Mixed Spice
1/2 tsp grated Nutmeg
2/3 cup Brady
Roughly chop the raisins until they are a little smaller than the sultanas. Slice the cherries into quarters. Peel the apples & grate them. Combine the raisins, sultanas, currants, grated apple, cherries, almonds & mixed peel in bowl. Add the sugar & spices & stir. Juice the lemon & orange. Melt the butter. Add the juices, melted butter & brandy to the fruit & mix through. Transfer to a large jar, which has been cleaned with boiling water. I keep the fruit mince in the fridge as it can get quite hot & humid here in Australia. I tend to leave the mince to stew for 1-2 weeks before using it to make pies.
And here’s my giant jar of fruit mince. This was actually a double batch. I always end up making heaps of fruit mince pies for friends & family.