Christmas 1944 – The three sisters brave the cold . The youngest, Heather is wearing a snow suit. I am standing Mona’s right. We are all wearing real fur trimmed parka style headgear
It is the childhood memories of Christmas that evoke the strongest feelings. 1944 and the rationing of almost everything meant making do, making over and often going without. But Christmas was still bright and wonderful and our Christmas stockings were always filled with mysterious wonderful things.
In early November we began the school day practising songs for the annual Carol Festival. This long anticipated event was held in one of the cities beautiful old churches. All the schools in the city performed. The Carol Festival marked the beginning of the celebrations of Christmas.
It was bitterly cold the first week of December. My Mother and my sisters bundled up for the mile walk to the church. There were no bus service after 6:00 p.m. Our Dad wasn’t able to drive us in the family car. Gas was rationed. We dressed for the cold.
Two layers of hand-knit mittens.
Heavy hand-knit woollen scarves cross-crossed across our faces.
Our eye lashes rimmed with frost and when we spoke it was as if we were filling the air with puffs of smoke.
So much excitement, so much anticipation we never felt the cold.
We sang our way on the walk home. The sky was clear. Stars so brilliant we felt we could reach up to heaven and grab them like a handful of diamonds.
Northern Lights were flashing, glowing and dancing across the Northern sky.. Magnificent emerald greens, yellows, pink, magenta and occasionally sapphire blue sweeping back and forth. We stopped and shouted. We clapped our hands. We truly believed the lights responded to the sounds we made.
Home at last. The wood stove crackled. The kitchen was filled with the sublime spicy aroma of mince tarts. Our father taking them out of the oven. How absolutely glorious to walk into our warm house, and eat the pies hot from the oven.
Dad’s mince tarts were so delicate and flaky they melted in your mouth. His secret – he always used 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.
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.