It was December 12, I was finalizing our plans for Christmas dinner, and I asked Michael, “What kind of pie would you like for Christmas day? Anything special?”
Michael raised his eyebrows and gazed at the ceiling as he racked his brain.
“Mincemeat pie,” he finally said.
Normally I would have responded politely with something like, “Really? Why mincemeat pie?” But the residual levels of HGT hormones from pregnancy and the lack of sleep during the postpartum recuperation period caused me to momentarily lose control over my inner monologue. “Mincemeat pie? You’ve got to be kidding me.“
“Why? What’s wrong with mincemeat pie?”
I was silent for a few moments. What’s not wrong with mincemeat pie? I had never met one I liked, and I know that many other people feel the same way about mincemeat pie as they do about fruit cake. Don’t get me wrong, I do like meat pies such as turkey or chicken pot pie, and I even enjoyed some take away pie made from kangaroo (which tasted like venison) while in Australia. I just couldn’t picture myself making a mincemeat pie and actually enjoying it. But I had asked and that’s what he wanted, so I was determined to do some research and figure out the best way to make one. We set a few ground rules:
- This would be a minced fruit pie, no meat.
- This would be a scratch pie, no canned filling.
Some mincemeat trivia: Traditional British mincemeat was popular from medieval times through the Victorian era, and was made from ground meat, dried fruits, and spices. The concoction was often soaked in alcohol (brandy, whiskey, or rum) for up to 30 days, likely as a preservative. Most modern mincemeat pies really don’t have meat anymore, except for the Amish variety.
I read probably thirty mince pie recipes before settling on this one, although in the end we weren’t exactly strict about ingredients. The original recipe calls for candied ginger and currants, but we’re not too fond of candied ginger and Michael couldn’t find currants in any of the grocery stores within a 5 mile radius of our house, so I substituted golden raisins. I made the pie on Christmas Eve and I had to admit that the filling tasted pretty good, and the house smelled wonderful while the pie was baking. Now I was intrigued and looked forward to tasting the pie the next day. Everyone proclaimed the pie to be delicious, even my two picky preschool-age boys—”Mommy, this pie is dewicious!”—and Michael’s mom asked me to post the recipe on the website so that she could make it for our shut-in aunt.
So I can admit that I was wrong and post this recipe for a pie that we think is very simple and absolutely delicious.
[Updated: December 26, 2009.]
[Featured in Chew On That – Monthly Mouthful, November 2009.]
- one batch prepared double crust pie dough
- 4 apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes (I used Empire apples.)
- 1/3 cup golden raisins (33 g)
- 1/3 cup sultanas or currants (50 g)
- 1/3 cup (33 g) dried cranberries (I like the unsweetened kind from Trader Joe's.)
- 1 orange, zested and juiced
- pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup (55 g) packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 mil) plus 2 tablespoons apple cider, divided
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (I use Wondra or Pillsbury Shake and Blend.)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- cinnamon sugar
- Preheat oven to 400° F/200° C.
- Combine the apples, raisins, sultanas, and cranberries in a large saucepan. Add the orange zest and juice to the apple mixture. Stir in the salt, brown sugar and 1/2 cup apple juice. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for 7 to 10 minutes or until apples are tender.
- Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons apple cider with the flour. When the apples are tender, stir flour mixture in and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about a minute or two. Remove from heat.
- Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ground ginger. Pour the mixture into prepared pie crust. Top with the other crust. Flute the edges. Make 3 slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. (You may also slice the second crust into a lattice crust top, if you prefer.)
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly hot. Serve warm or at room temperature.
9-inch pie plate
Use apple brandy (Calvados or similar) instead of apple cider for mixing with the flour.
Use part Grand Marnier + part orange juice.