Mince pies with Bramley apple

Not just a Christmas classic, Kent is home to one of the mince pie’s key ingredients: the Bramley apple.Fourayes Farm, near Bicknor, specialises in both growing and processing Bramleys for use in mince pies, but the fruit-based mincemeat it produces today would have had a very different emphasis a few hundred years ago.In the Middle Ages, mince pies were known as ‘Christmas Pye’ or ‘Crib Pies’and were much bigger than today. Cooked in an oblong dish, it wasn’t unusual to see a baby Jesus doll laid on top!As the name suggests, meat was a key feature: anything from rabbit to pigeon might be mixed in with the dried fruits and strong spices.Today, fruit is the core ingredient but, as Phil Acock, md at Fourayes, says: “Many people aren’t aware that apples are a key ingredient. Mixed with dried fruits, the apple is complemented by spices, mixed peel, orange oil and spirit vinegar. The only trace of meat in today’s recipes is the suet, and this is usually replaced with a vegetarian option.”

Mince pies with Bramley apple

Makes 24 mince pies

For the mincemeat225g Bramley apples, cored and cut into small pieces 110g shredded suet 175g raisins 110g sultanas 110g currants 110g whole mixed candied peel 175g soft dark brown sugar Grated zest and juice of one orange Grated zest and juice of one lemon 25g whole almonds, cut into slivers2 teaspoons mixed ground spiceQuarter of a tspn ground cinnamonPinch of freshly grated nutmeg3 tablespoons brandy

For the pastry375g plain flour165g butter3-4 tablespoons waterPinch of salt; milk

Thoroughly mix the mincemeat ingredients, minus the brandy, in a large bowl. Cover with a cloth and leave in a cool place overnight. Next day, pre-heat the oven to 120�C. Replace the cloth cover with foil loosely laid on top, and place the bowl in the oven for three hours. Once done, remove and allow the mixture to cool, then stir in the brandy. For the pastry, mix the flour, butter and salt, rubbing it together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually mix in enough water to bind the dough. Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the refrigerator for half an hour. When cooled, roll out the pastry on a floured surface. Cut circles, the appropriate size to fit a patty tin. Cut an equal number of smaller circles as lids. Place the larger circles in the tin and spoon in the mincemeat. Wet the edges of the pastry with water and place on the pie tops, pressing down the edges to seal them. Brush with a little milk and cut a slit in the top of each pie with a knife.Place in the oven at 200�C for 20-25 minutes, then serve.

Top Tips•  Using Bramley apples will help to give your mincemeat a firm texture.  There’s no need to peel the apples  – the skins will add to the flavour•  For mince pies with a kick, mix some brandy in with your filling•  Be creative with alternative toppings for your mince pies. Anything from crumble to meringue can work well•  Or stick with traditional pastry tops and cut them into Christmas   shapes for a festive vibe