These pies are a great snack for small adventures taken just outside the borders of the Shire. A hunk of bread, a little cheese, and 2-3 of these make a perfectly portable elevenses, just the right size to tide you over until a civilized lunch back in the comfort of your Hobbit Hole.
In the middle ages, mincemeat pies included ground beef and suet (beef kidney fat) as well as even more pungent spices. This had a lot to do with the notion you should cook for the humors – which cutting edge medieval medical science insisted was best done by mixing a lot of meats with sweets.
By Tolkien’s day, the actual meat had disappeared from mince pies and the spices were a little less aggressive. Suet became the only animal product left in something now rather inaccurately called “mince-meat.” It makes you really wonder about the real origin of some of the more graphic British place names.
Since suet is particularly hard to find these days and I have quite a few vegetarian readers, I’ve replaced the beef suet with the far cheaper and more readily available butter. Vegans can make the recipe entirely animal-free by substituting coconut oil. Either way, you’ll end up with something that tastes like a grownup fig newton sprinkled in pixie dust and spiked with rum.
Small Adventure Sized Mincemeat Pies
3 large granny smith apples, peeled and cored
1 cup golden raisins
½ cup dried figs, chopped
¼ cup dried cherries
¼ cup dried apricots
2 tbsp crystallized ginger
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup butter or coconut oil (for vegans)
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
½ cup spiced rum or brandy
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves
Put everything in a food processor and pulse 10-12 times, less if you prefer a coarser mixture.
If you don’t have a food processor but do have miraculous patience, you can always chop all the solids very fine by hand then mix them with the liquids.
Either way, let the final result sit in the fridge for at least 3 days. Thanks to the combination of alcohol and refrigeration, the mincemeat should keep for up to 6 months.
2.5 cups flour
½ cup cornmeal
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter (or ½ cup coconut oil for vegans)
¼ cup water
¼ cup apple juice
Mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt until well blended. Add the butter. Use your fingers to really work the butter (or coconut oil) into the flour mix until you have something that looks like edible gravel. Moisten it up with the water and apple juice. You should end up with a dense pastry dough.
Spray a mini-cupcake pan with nonstick coating.
Lightly flour your work surface and roll out about ⅛ of the dough. It’s easiest if you work in small batches. Aim for a ⅛ – ¼ inch thickness. You don’t want to make it too thin. Remember – this is meant to be hearty traveling food, not a dainty pastry.
Use a round cookie cutter to cut circles from your dough. Tuck them neatly in the mini cupcake tin’s holes. Cut away any excess from the top.
Once you’ve made all your bottom crusts, fill them about ⅝ of the way to the top with your refrigerated mincemeat mix. For me, this meant about 1 tablespoon, but your mileage may vary depending on the size of your mini-cupcake pan.
Roll out the last of your dough. Cut out top crusts for your tiny pies. I used mini cookie cutters with leaves, moons, and apples, but honestly, use whatever you’d like. A simple small circle will do, or a thick X of dough, or whatever tickles your fancy. Just make sure you leave ample room for steam to escape while the pies bake.
Once your pies are filled and topped, pop them in a 400F oven for 18-20 min or until the tops are golden brown. It may be a struggle, but once you remove them from the oven, let them sit for at least 15 minutes to set.
These are delicious hot, but unlike most baked goods, they taste even better the next morning. That makes them great snacks for elevenses when adventuring outside the shire.
Need more Hobbity goodness in your life?
Preview even more recipes from An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery, available now!
Sample recipes from all seven chapters of An Unexpected Cookbook:
Breakfast – Poached Pears Stuffed with Frumenty
Second Breakfast – Beef and Mushroom Stuffed Hand Pies
Elevenses – Shire Seed Cake
Luncheon – Stewed Hare with Root Vegetables and Dumplings
Afternoon Tea – Shortbread
Supper – Stuffed Roasted Mushrooms
Dinner – Boxty on the Griddle with Bacon
Need more? Get your own copy of An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery from Amazon.com.