I love mince pies, I love mince pies so much. Lilly and I set a challenge this December to try all of the mince pies we could possibly get our hands on in Jersey. Shall I let you into a secret none of them match up to today’s recipe. We hope you like them just as much.
A bit of Mince Pie history
Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Today when we make mince pies we omit the meat but most recipes contain suet. You can use the tradition beef suet or a vegetarian option if you prefer.
My Last Minute Mincemeat Recipe
You can use a good quality mince meat but you might like to use my own quite luxurious recipe. As with a lot of my recipes you can always adopt to your own tastes. You can add Drambuie instead of brandy, some freshly grated orange zest, and fresh cranberries for example.
Mincemeat is traditionally made in advance and stored in sterilised air-tight jars but I this recipe is just as good and read to use immeadiately.
The best Mince Pie Recipe
The basic recipe is for sweet buttery sable pastry and any left overs can be used to make Christmas biscuits. You can make the pastry ahead and freeze and defrost as you require. If you want to make a more traditional cover seal the edges with a little cold water, top with pastry and snip a small hole in the top.
These crumbly, buttery mince pies are delicious made with my recipe for mincemeat.
Our recent family holiday in Devon was on a wonderful farm with very, very comfortable accommodation, a lovely little cottage, there were animals for the children to feed, amazing views and the best fresh eggs in the morning boiled and served with soldiers.
As we all went through the field with the Shetland ponies and Mummy, Lilly and Honeysuckle helped me pick a mountain of ripe, plump brambles which when we got back to Stable cottage we made into two crumbles, one for tea and one for Farmer Tony and Kathy who run such a wonderful holiday haven in North Devon.
Shetland Ponies at Lower Campscott Farm
It is difficult to trace the origins of the crumble, the sweet golden-brown topped pudding, The Oxford Companion to Food suggests the recipe for crumble was developed in the second world war, as an alternative to pastry, using whatever fat was available. Crumbles can be made throughout the year and made with plums, rhubarb, greengages, gooseberries and most popularly apples or apples and soft fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, and brambles.
Crumble is best served hot with lashings of custard, clotted cream or ice cream.
Bramley Apple and Bramble Crumble
Apple and Bramble Crumble
Bramley apples can discolour quickly when peeled, to prevent this from happening as you peel the apples, toss the apple in a little freshly squeezed lemon juice which slows down the oxidation and the browning. If you like nuts you can substitute fifty grams of the flour with ground almonds and add a small handful of rolled oats to the crumble mix.
500 gr Bramley Apples ( 3 to 4 medium sized Apples ), peeled and cored
Heat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas Mark 4. Slice the apples into finger thick chunks and place into a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pan. Add four to five tablespoons of cold water and place onto a gentle heat covered with a lid. After a couple of minutes, the apples will start to soften and break down, take off the lid and give them a stir, add a splash more water if required. Keep stirring until the apples are breaking up but still contains good-sized chunks of whole apple, then add fifty grams of the sugar and a generous grating of nutmeg. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Spoon the apple into a deep sided oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the blackberries or brambles and put to one side. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the remaining sugar. Cut the butter into cubes and tip in the bowl of flour and sugar and rub it into the flour mix with your fingertips until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. You make crumble in a food processor but don’t overwork or the butter will melt, and the mix will form a paste.
Spread the crumble mix evenly over the fruit and level off, then place the dish on a baking tray and place in the oven for thirty- five to forty minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for ten or so minutes before serving.
If you have read any of my posts you may be aware of a few reoccurring themes, cream, garlic, bacon, seafood and barbecuing but bacon is probably up there as a potential favourite. Now I waxed lyrical about an American recipe Bacon Jam*, a mouth-watering combination of sweet onion, salty bacon with just a tickle of chilli heat but I think I might have just found something even more sticky and moreish. I saw a post for cheese and biscuits online, a fantastic piece of Manchego with a ramekin of Chorizo Jam!
A little bit of online research later and a couple of trials……………..
Manchego Cheese and Chorizo Jam
So, I only made Chorizo Jam for the first time three week ago and I have eaten Chorizo Jam on toast, stuffed Chorizo Jam into Chicken breasts and used Chorizo Jam as a garnish for soup, but this sweet, slightly spicy, slightly smoky, relish is a must with a cheese board, absolutely delicious in fact. Enjoy
Cut the Chorizo into small pieces at most half a centimetre square. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed, pan and place over a medium heat. Add the Chorizo and fry stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning until the Chorizo is nicely brown, caramelised and crispy. When the Chorizo is cooked remove it from the pan and strain to drain off the excess oil.
Add the onions to the pan in enough of the oil to allow them to gently fry. Cook over a medium heat, for fifteen to twenty minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another two minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a low rolling boil. Stir in the Chorizo and reduce the heat until the jam is simmering. Stir frequently and cook until the onions are meltingly soft and the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. Be careful due to recipes high sugar content you must keep stirring to prevent the mix sticking and burning.
Remove pan from the heat and allow the mix to cool for fifteen minutes. Using a funnel transfer into sterilised glass jars and seal tightly. The jam will keep in the refrigerator for a month.
The history of Apple Day, held on the 21st of October, is relatively new, the first official celebration was in 1990 in Covent Garden, this event has grown and is now a fixture all over the UK. However, there have been fairs across the south-west cider growing regions for a much longer time. Apple Day is now a celebration of all the myriad varieties of apple, their cultivation, cooking with them and, of course, making cider. There is another tradition much older, as old as cider making itself invoking pagan gods in an ancient fertility ritual which is Wassailing, which takes place in the cider orchards on January 17th.
Jersey and Guernsey have a proud apple growing tradition going back many centuries and in Jersey around a fifth of the islands, fertile growing land in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was occupied by orchards. Today both islands boast fine cider makers in La Robeline in Jersey and Roquette in Guernsey. But Jersey has another old, traditional product made from sharp, cider apples, ‘ black butter ’ or ‘ Le Nierre Buerre ’. Black butter is now made on Apple Day, with a great many islanders taking part in the production at the Jersey Nation Trust.
Black butter is made from cider apples, cider and sugar which is slowly cooked and reduced over a very long time, often all night with volunteers stirring all evening, with a special wooden paddle, to prevent the mix burning due to the high sugar content. The concentrate is then flavoured with a secret blend of spices, lemon, and liquorice. During the evening there is traditional singing, dancing, story-telling and perhaps drinking of a few glasses of cider.
The finished product is a sweet, dark, sticky spread which you can eat with a salty cheese or perhaps as an alternative to jam with a scone but my favourite is as a glaze on baked ham.
Black Butter Ham
Ask your butcher to source a traditionally prepared dry cure ham and to tie it for you. For more information on curing please visit A Cooks Compendium. A dry cure ham will shrink less during cooking and produce a better quality easier to cut joint of meat. Poaching the ham before finishing the joint in the oven also improves the carving quality and produce a flavoursome stock from which you can make traditional pea and ham soup.
A piece of boned and rolled dry cured Ham, around 1.5 kg – 2 kg is a nice joint
( ask your butcher to weigh it this is important for cooking times )
Place the ham in the pan and cover with cold water. Place on the cooker and bring to the boil. Carefully take to the sink and pour out the water and wash off any scum from the ham. This initial boiling will help reduce excess salt in the finished ham. Cover again with cold water and add the carrots, celery, coriander seeds and peppercorns. Pierce the bay leaves with the cloves, pin to the onions and add to the pan. Bring back to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and cover with lid. Cook for twenty minutes per pound of raw weight. Once the cooking time is finished turn off the heat and leave to go cold in the cooking liquor. This can be done the night before.
Preheat your oven to 400 F /200 C / Gas mark 6. Take out your ham from the cold stock which you can strain and reserve to make an excellent soup. Place on a baking tray and with a sharp knife remove the skin leaving a nice layer of fat. Score through the fat with the tip of your knife to leave small, squares or diamonds. Spread over the Black Butter and cook in the oven for thirty to forty minutes turning the oven down if the ham starts to burn. Remove and serve hot or cold.