Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pie is the Best Present of All

I have a friend who is a nightmare to buy presents for, but he loves homemade baked goods. So in lieu of purchasing a Christmas present for him this year, I decided to make him something special. I conferred with his wife, and she informed me that he loves mincemeat pie, but she herself does not, so she never makes it for him. Done, and DONE, I say!

About two weeks before Christmas, I cooked up a batch of mincemeat using just dried fruits and no actual meat or suet. I had to admit, it looked and smelled divine, even before macerating in liquor for a good long while. Here is the recipe I (mostly) followed:

Homemade Mincemeat
Makes about 6 cups (enough for two pies)
(Source: adapted from Rick Rodgers' Christmas 101 via Joy of Baking)

2 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled and grated (I used MacIntosh)
1 12 ounce (1 1/2 cups) can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
1 cup dried apples, chopped
3/4 cup dark raisins
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup dried currants
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup mixed candied peel
1/3 cup candied lemon peel
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup brandy or cognac (I used maple whiskey)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used 1 full teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I only used 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
*I also added one cup of orange juice to the mix

Place all the ingredients in a large Dutch oven, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the mincemeat, stirring often, for about 25-30 minutes, or until the liquid is almost evaporated. Transfer the mincemeat to a large bowl and let it cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator, at least overnight, or up to a month. Note: If storing longer than a week, stir in a little rum or brandy (about 1/4 cup) every week.

Ok, so I had mincemeat, but how now to make it into a pie? Truthfully, I consulted lots and lots of recipes, but then just kind of used The Force and winged it. I started with my favorite recipe for a two-crust pie and chilled the dough thoroughly. Then I rolled out both crusts, filled the bottom one with three cups of the mincemeat to which I added a cup of roughly chopped walnuts, dotted the filling with two tablespoons of butter, covered the filling with the top crust, perforated it and added a traditional star design for flourish. Then I egg-washed the top with a whole egg mixed with a tablespoon of cream. I started baking the pie at 425 degrees for about fifteen minutes, then turned it down to 350 and baked it until golden, probably about an hour total (and I covered the edges of the pie when they threatened to get too brown).

When I presented the pie to the lucky recipient at a local pub where we exchanged gifts a few days before Christmas, my friend Tom took a fork out and dove right into the middle of it! He said it was good, but his affect displays are hard to read (=understatement). Still, I believe he was pleased. This was confirmed the next day when his wife sent me a picture of Tom enjoying his pie...for breakfast! Tee hee.

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