Mince pies freeze very well, taking some of the headache out of all that Christmas preparation. If I make lots of these before Christmas, I freeze them raw and then cook them on the day. Cooked mince pies can be stored in a biscuit tin or airtight box and warmed through gently before serving. They are perfect with a glass of spicy mulled wine or a cup of coffee for a festive snack.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/200 degrees C/Gas mark 6. Brush the tin with melted butter.
On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to 1/8-inch/3 mm thick and, using the 2 1/2-inches/6 cm cutter, cut out 24 circles for the bases. Then use the smaller plain/fluted cutter or star cutter to cut-out 24 circles/stars for the lids. Re-roll the trimmings, if necessary.
Line the holes of the cake tin with the larger pastry rounds. Fill each base with a teaspoon mincemeat and top with one of the smaller rounds or stars. Brush the tops of the mince pies with the beaten egg.
Bake in the oven for 10 to 13 minutes until pale golden. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar (confectioners') to serve.
Put the apple chunks in a small saucepan with 1 teaspoon water, cover and cook over low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes until the apples are cooked down to a pulp. Allow to cool.
Mix the apples with the orange zest, orange juice, lemon zest, lemon juice, suet, raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel, dark brown sugar, almonds, mixed spice, and whiskey in a large bowl and put into sterilized jars.*
Properly handled sterilized equipment will keep canned foods in good condition for years. Sterilizing jars is the first step of preserving foods.
Jars should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks. Preserving or canning jars are topped with a glass, plastic or metal lid, which has a rubber seal. Two piece lids are best for canning, as they vacuum seal when processed.
Before filling with jams, pickles or preserves, wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and arrange jars and lids open sides up, without touching, on a tray. Leave in a preheated 175 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Or boil the jars and lids in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.
Use tongs when handling hot sterilized jars, to move them from either boiling water or the oven. Be sure tongs are sterilized too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a few minutes.
As a rule, hot preserves go into hot jars and cold preserves go into cold jars. All items used in the process of making jams, jellies and preserves must be clean. This includes any towels used, and especially your hands.
After the jars are sterilized, you can preserve the food. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products.
Leave to mature, if possible for at least 2 weeks before using.
Put the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and whiz briefly. Add half the beaten egg and continue to whiz. You might add a little more egg, but not too much as the mixture should be just moist enough to come together. If making by hand, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs then, using your hands, add just enough egg to bring it together. With your hands, flatten out the ball of
dough until it is about 3/4-inch/2 cm thick, then wrap in cling film or place in a plastic bag and leave in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or, if you are pushed for time, in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry: In place of the pinch of salt, use 1 tablespoon icing sugar (confectioners').
Soured cream shortcrust pastry: Replace the egg with 2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche, adding just enough to bring it together.
Cut the fruit in 1/2 and squeeze out the juice. (Reserve the juice for another use, perhaps home-made lemonade.) Put the peel into a large bowl, add the salt and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 24 hours.
Next day, throw away the soaking water; put the peel in a large saucepan and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer very gently for about 3 hours or until the peel is soft.
Cook's Note: It should mash between the tips of your fingers easily when it is cooked.
Remove the peel from the pan and discard the water. Scrape out any remaining flesh and membrane from inside the cut fruit, using a teaspoon, leaving the white pith and rind intact.
In a clean large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in 1 3/4 pints/1 litre of water, then bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the peel and simmer gently for 30 to 60 minutes until it looks translucent (shiny and 'candied') and the syrup forms a thread when the last drop falls off a metal spoon. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 20 to 30 minutes to slightly cool.
Put the candied peel into sterilized glass jars* and pour the syrup over. Cover and store in a cold place or in the refrigerator. It should keep, stored like this, for at least 3 months.
*TECHNIQUE: STERILIZING JARS
To sterilize jars for jams and preserves, wash them in hot soapy water, then rinse and dry. Place the jars upturned on a baking tray in a warm oven preheated to at least 250 degrees F/120 degrees C, Gas mark 1/2 for approximately 15 minutes until completely dry. Leave them upturned on a clean tea towel until ready to use. Alternatively, you can put them through a hot cycle in the dishwasher.