CHRISTMAS 1944 AND OUR FATHER’S MINCE TARTS

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

Pastry:

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!

Chefs note:

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.

16 thoughts on “CHRISTMAS 1944 AND OUR FATHER’S MINCE TARTS

  1. What a most beautiful story! My eyes grew misty reading your words. As a country boy, myself, I was taken back to my childhood and the wood stove I learned to cook and bake on. Those simple and special times all came flooding back to me. Thank you for this very special post!

    • I also started out cooking on a wood stove Tin Man. The recipes should have started with … “first build a fire for a quick oven”. I still put my hand in the oven to double check the temperature. Try explaining that to these young, untried cooks who think they invented the whisk. V.

      • We are the smart ones. Years of experience have given us the ability to recognize temperatures. Sometimes ones oven does not behave properly and this ability to test with our hands gives us a heads up before disaster happens. I also hold my hand over a saute pan for the same reason. V.

  2. What a lovely story Virginia : ) You really had a blessed childhood I can tell…so full of happy memories. I’ve never had a mincemeat tart…or mincemeat anything. It sure does look tasty though. Perhaps you will greet us with a plate leaden with them when we come up to spend Christmas with you : ) LOL Then I can indulge while I admire your holiday decor : ) Wishing you a lovely day…with great affection…G

    • The mincemeat pies and tarts are a very British in origin Ginny. They are very sweet, loaded with dried fruit and frequently good lashings of brandy. When I was growing up you could not buy mincemeat commercially. You made it yourself. The mincemeat on the grocery shelves today are a pallid imitation of these old-fashioned treats. You really do have to go in with cinnamon and nutmeg and do a little magic to the mincemeat. Just a few days left to Christmas. Here’s hoping you are good to go. V.

  3. I’ve coming visiting from Tin Man and so glad I did. I’ve been having a catch up of some of your latest posts. I had a British friend who always made mincemeat tarts…your remind me of the days at Christmas when we would have tea and tarts. I make a mincemeat pie each year. Love all the wonderful things you have done with your home.

    • Oh you darling girl, Gayle. You had me in tears. I write what is in my heart and now when I chat with my sisters the phrase “do you remember” comes up so often. The war years were difficult times for everyone , but our parents made Christmas the most wonderful, magical time. XXXX OOOO Virginia

  4. What a magical story, Virginia! When I was growing up, we had the children’s Christmas service on Christmas Even. All the children from the church school and Sunday school worked for weeks memorizing their lines. None of this reading from paper or off images projected on the wall. At the end of the service as we exited church, each child got a paper bag with an apple, an orange, some nuts, and some candy. Then we went home and opened our presents. Christmas Day we would drive to my grandparents’ farm for Christmas with them. Such wonderful memories.

    janet

    • We worked so hard for those Christmas concerts at the church. It may have just been a few lines but every child had there little bit to recite. I seem to remember bubbling through my few words but in my defense I hadn’t started school yet. We were thrilled when our Christmas bags contained a mandarin orange for they were like gold. Stay safe and happy holidays . XXXX Virginia

  5. Mince pies baking. That is the most glorious fragrance of Christmas. If I bake nothing else during the busy holiday season – it is mince tarts or mince pie. The smell of the baking pies is filled with the memories of Christmas pass. XXXXOOOO Virgiia

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