Mince pies did indeed contain meat once upon a time. Back in the middle ages, when fashions moved more slowly, meat dishes were frequently flavoured with fruit, and minced or processed food was always popular.
I have eaten fruit mince from a jar, and it was fine. But making your own fruit mince is very simple, and takes about half an hour. If you want to give a home made gift, but don't have the time and energy for the full fruit mince pie, why not fill some clean, sanitised jars with fruit mince and put a really nice label on them?
I recommend keeping this fruit mince in the fridge for up to a week before use. If you plan on keeping it longer, bake it into a pie or put it in the freezer. There is a bit of grating and chopping, so exercise your common sense when cooking with children. It is a very flexible recipe: measure by guesswork, substitute what you have to hand, switch in things you like, and see what happens. This recipe makes about 2 cups of fruit mince.
- Chop the raisins into pieces about the same size as the currants. If you like a very fine fruit mince, also chop the sultanas.
- Grate the apple (don't bother to peel it).
- Melt the butter and stir in the brandy.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
- Cover and store in a cool place for 2-3 days before using.
- If you are bottling this as a gift, sanitise the jars and fill with fruit mince. Pour a little extra melted butter over the top of the fruit mince - just a tiny bit, to give it a bit of a 'seal'. Cover it with a proper lid as well.
To turn your fruit mince into pies, make or buy some shortcrust pastry and use that to line any kind of small tins: patty pans, regular or mini sized muffin trays, small friand tins, etc. Fill the pastry shell with fruit mince: you don't want it overflowing, but there is nothing here that will expand, so be generous. You can either top the pie with a full pastry lid, or you can cut small pastry shapes to top each pie. Brush the tops with milk or egg as preferred and bake for 10 or 15 minutes at 180oC until the pastry is cooked. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving them warm or cold.
If you have any leftover fruit mince after making pies, you can try baking it into a muffin, or stirring it through softened icecream.