Christmas started early in November for me. What a joy to begin the school day practicing our songs for the Carol Festival held annually at one of Prince Albert’s beautiful old churches.
This marked the beginning of the celebrations of Christmas.
It was bitterly cold the first week of December. Our Mother and the three sisters bundled up for the mile walk to the church.
Two layers of hand-knit mittens.
Heavy woolen scarves criss-crossed across our faces.
Our eye lashes rimmed with frost.
But so much excitement, so much anticipation we never felt the cold.
The walk home in the still, clear dark night. Stars so brilliant we felt we could reach up to heaven and grab a handful of diamonds.
Northern Lights flashing and flamboyant. An outrageous rainbow of colours in the Northern Sky.
Our boots crunched in the snow . The only sound in this silent night.
Home at last. The wood stove crackled. The kitchen was filled with the sublime spicy aroma of mince tarts. Our father taking the mince pies out of the oven. How absolutely glorious to walk into our toasty house, and eat the pies hot from the oven.
Dad’s mince tarts were so flaky they literally drifted through t he air and into our waiting mouths. His secret – lard to make the pastry. We sisters still use our Father’s recipe. It’s pretty simple (or at least we pastry makers feel that way). But if you follow the directions, and cheat a little (roll the pastry between wax paper, chill the flour) you can pull these beauties out of the oven and wow your family and friends. Every home should have mince tarts baking in the oven at this time of year.
These were the tarts the Good Husband took from the oven baked while I trimmed the tree. We enjoyed them with a glass of very dry sherry.
FATHER’S MINCE TARTS … makes around 30 morsels of delight
2 cups all-purpose flour chilled
2/3 tsp salt
2/3 cup chilled lard cut into small pieces
5-6 tbsp cold water
l egg yolk beaten with a little water.
Before you start making the pastry put the flour and salt mixture into the freezer for 30 minutes or so. Chill a cup of water at the same time. Cut the lard into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, or if you’re using your food processor use the pulse button to process just until it looks like large flakes of oatmeal.
Add the water gradually, a tablespoon at a time tossing the mixture lightly with a fork. If you are using the food processor add the water and process JUST until mixed. It should be loose in the bowl.
Turn your pastry out onto your board and form into a ball. Flatten the ball and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a good 15 minutes or more. This allows the pastry to relax. And everyone knows pastry should be relaxed.
Divide the pastry in to two portions.
Roll out one portion 1/8 inch thick. Cut into circles about 1 3/4 in diameter. This will be your base. Cut the second half into circles about 2 1/2 inches across. These will be your tops.
Moisten the edges of your base and put a small amount of mincemeat on each circle. Top with the larger circles. Press the edges to seal. Brush with egg wash and bake around 20 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!
We made our own mincemeat at our restaurant Roxy’s Bistro. We used a traditional recipe using suet and a good dollop of brandy. Taste your purchased mincemeat. You will probably need to add some additional flavour. Add a little freshly grated nutmeg, a sprinkle of powdered cloves, a good amount of cinnamon, some allspice and a little lemon or orange juice. And if you have some brandy.
Happy tree trimming.