We moved from Perth to Sydney (via Melbourne) when I was very young. Each year Nana Thorpe, my Yorkshire born grandmother, would send a Christmas package all the way from Perth filled with a moist and aromatic fruit cake, a plum pudding – complete with a sixpence inside, a jar of fruit mince and a tin of fruit mince pies. In a time where ALL foods had their season, this was a yearly delight, the smell and flavours still strong in that now long distant memory.
Over the years I have made the cake and the pudding (I have both recipes) but have never attempted the fruit mince, usually too busy for the planning necessary to get the fruit soaking weeks (if not months!) in advance. Plus, my partner and children didn’t really like the bounty of fruity baked goods that I held in such high esteem. Until my darling Imogen – the lucky last.
It’s hard to share interests with a 14 year old girl-becoming-a-young-woman. But I do. We share a love of musical theatre, outrageous hair colour, Jason Momoa and of course fruit mince pies. We love them so much, that each year we drive nearly 40 minutes to stock up in a patisserie at the other end of where we live just to get the best pies we have found in our area.
But not anymore. This year I thought we would make our own, in preparation for a trip to stay with my granddaughters, whom I hope, as we make a batch of these little lovelies in my rented holiday accommodation, will become indoctrinated persuaded to join our fruit pie lovers club.
The best fruit mince i have ever tasted
A good fruit mince pie is a perfect balance of pastry and mince. But it’s not really about that at all – it is ALL about the fruit mince. A generous blob of rich fruity goodness – with its flood of flavours and aromas in the first bite. My ideal fruit mince has a good balance of fruits and spice, is rich and aromatic but still tastes light on the tongue – that way you can eat more of it. Of course it also has complex depth of flavours that usually includes some sort of alcohol, most often brandy or sherry, which I have found can be a bit harsh if not cooked off properly (found of course when taste testing other fruit mince pies over the years).
This recipe has white rum and chocolate liqueur. It pretty much had me at the word chocolate. It’s genius! And because the chocolate is added as a liqueur it is not overpowering, but adds a subtle flavour note in the many layers of joy that this fruit mince delivers to the taste buds.
The pastry in this recipe is dairy free for allergy reasons, but it is a light and tasty wrapper for the star of this show. The fruit mince is also NUT FREE. Feel free to add chopped almonds if those float your boat.
The Fruit Mince
This recipe is enough for 1 medium sized jar of fruit mince and 12 small pies.
The Fruit Mince
- 1 cup raisins, chopped
- 1 cup sultanas
- 3/4 cup red glacé cherries, chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup mixed peel
- 1/2 cup currants
- 1/4 cup pitted dried dates, chopped
- 1 cup sweet orange marmalade
- 1/4 cup white rum
- 1/2 cup creme de cacao liqueur
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
When cooking the mince
- 2 peeled and grated red apples
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
Step 1 – the soaking
Put raisins, sultanas, cherries, cranberries, mixed peel, currants, dates, marmalade, rum, creme de cacao, brown sugar and mixed spice in a bowl. Stir to combine. Transfer to an airtight container (I used large zip lock bags as they take up less room in the fridge). Store in a cool, dark place for at least 1 week (preferably longer), stirring occasionally, to allow flavours to develop.
(Note: We live in Queensland – not many cool dark places to story anything. We kept ours for 4 weeks in the fridge.)
Step 2 – cooking the mince
Cooking down the mince helps to deepen the flavours as well as cook off the alcohol. Put the fruit mince in a large saucepan, add the grated apple, the apple juice and the orange juice and simmer on a very low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure the mince doesn’t stick to the bottom or burn.
Step 3 – bottling the mince
Sterilise the jars. Allow the mince to cool then add to the jars, pushing down the fruit to get rid of any air bubbles. Seal and store. Can be stored up to 6 months, though I can’t imagine it will last that long!
Fruit Mince Pies (Vegan)
This pastry recipe is enough for 12 pies.
- 150 g margarine (or other butter substitute. I used Nuttelex)
- 240 g self raising flour
- 50 g caster sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup oat milk (or other milk substitute)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place the flour and sugar in a bowl. Rub the margarine into the flour mixture with the tips of your fingers until it is the texture of buttery breadcrumbs. (You can use a food processor for this part). Add the vanilla to the milk and then slowly add to the flour and butter mixture, forming a dough with your hands. Knead to mix, then wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Spray your little pie tins with cooking spray (I use olive oil spray), making sure the flat surface on the tray is well greased too. Get your pastry from the fridge and cut off a third (this is for the pie lids) – rewrap in cling wrap and put back in the fridge. Lightly flour a flat surface then GENTLY roll out the rest of the pastry to about 3-4 mm thickness.
Cut circles for the base of the pies and place them in the greased pie tin. Fill each pie with a desert spoon of fruit mince.
Remove the remaining pastry from the fridge and roll out on a freshly floured surface. Cut the desired shaped lids from the pastry – heart or stars, or trees – and place on top of the fruit mine pies.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar, shaking it through a sieve.