Winter Blog Hop , Day 15 – Making Mince Pies with Nina Croft

Portrait of writer Nicola Cleasby

Can you believe it’s Day 15 already? Today’s guest is my friend and critique partner, Nina Croft. Nina lives in Spain, but I think I made her a little nostalgic for England recently when I told her about my visit to her hometown in northern England. She’s sharing a post about English Christmas traditions, and a recipe for one of her favorites. Comment below on your favorite Christmas food for a chance to win a copy of Nina’s latest release, Flying Through Fire.

What’s in a Mince Pie?

I’m English, and although I tend to write aimed at the American market, my characters are usually English and my stories tend to be set in England. But the story I’m currently writing is set in Washington, D.C. and I’ve been inundating my crit partners with questions about all things American.

I’ve already had to become aware of the differences between American English and what we speak back home. It’s not just spelling, like realised and realized, but also actual words. We have lifts, Americans have elevators, we have pavements they have sidewalks. Jumpers are sweaters, cafes are diners, and boots are trunks.

And it goes deeper, to the food we eat and the way we celebrate certain festivals. So it’s no surprise to discover that there are also big differences between English and American Christmas traditions.

Which takes me to mince pies.

christmas-food-577876_1920Mince pies are a huge Christmas tradition in England. But after a bit of research I find that—it’s true—Americans do not eat mince pies at Christmas. In fact, it seems many Americans don’t even know what a mince pie is.

When I was growing up, we would always leave a mince pie and a glass of sherry out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve (and don’t forget the carrot for the reindeer), as a thank you for delivering the presents.

Another custom is that if you eat a mince pie every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night you will have happiness for the next twelve months. The perfect excuse for indulging.

If you’d like to try and make your own mincemeat, here’s a simple recipe:
250g raisins
375g currants
100ml brandy
zest of 1 lemon, juice of ½
300g shredded suet* 
250g dark brown sugar
85g chopped mixed peel
½ small nutmeg, grated
1 large Bramley* apple, peeled and grated 

Soak the raisins and currants in the brandy and lemon juice for 1 hour, then drain and set the brandy aside. Mix all the ingredients together, then pour in the brandy when everything else is well mixed. Spoon and press into sterilised jars, to exclude any air. Cover and leave for at least a fortnight. Then make your pies!

(*An aside from Marin: just to illustrate the UK-US differences Nina mentioned, it’s hard to find food grade suet in the US–it’s not the same as the suet we use in bird feeders! Use lard, shortening, or butter if you can’t find it. I don’t think we have Bramley apples in the US–at least, I’ve never seen one. Granny Smiths would be a good substitute. And if you’re looking for a recipe for the pie pastry, try this one from the BBC.)



Leave a comment and let me know your favorite Christmas food from your part of the world and get a chance to win a free ecopy of my latest release, Flying Through Fire.   

Thanks, Nina! My mouth is watering now. 🙂 To find out more about Nina or to subscribe to her great newsletter, visit her website at

16 Replies to “Winter Blog Hop , Day 15 – Making Mince Pies with Nina Croft”

  1. Love the idea of mince pie, though I’m probably too lazy to make the recipe. My favorite Christmas food is stuffing. There are so many different ways to make it, and I think I’m going to try a new recipe this year.

    Happy holidays!

    1. Funny–I never think of stuffing for Christmas, even when we have a turkey. My mother-in-law makes Swedish meatballs and rice pudding for Christmas eve, one of the weirdest meals I’ve ever had but after twenty-one years of marriage I’m not sure I could do Christmas without it 🙂 Merry Christmas, Lori!

  2. Mm…I love mince pies. Growing up in Canada we had homemade mincemeat every Christmas, baked into a large pie, or individual tarts. No top crust on our tarts though. And they were served warm. My mum always made the mincemeat from an old family recipe that had been passed down through several generations, and it contained real ground beef, or mince as you would say, and was cooked for a few hours, filling the house with a delectable smell. Love love love it! It tastes like Christmas to me.

    My other favourite holiday food is Christmas cake, or what we call fruitcake. I make my own every year (trying Mary Berry’s recipe this year for the first time), starting in November so there’s plenty of time for the cake to “cure” with the help of sherry or whisky. Yum!

    1. Your version of mince pie sounds delicious, Luanna! I’m not a fan of fruitcake, but I might have to try Mary Berry’s recipe–I do love her!

      1. *Gasp!* Nina, how can that be??? LOL My hubby never used to like Christmas cake either, until he tasted my version that had been well “cured”, and baked without most of the candied fruit and peel that fills most fruitcakes. Instead I use dried real fruit like the usual raisins, sultanas, currants along with blueberries, cherries, dates, figs. Some day yours and my paths will cross and you can try my Christmas cake.

  3. Even though I was born and raised in the US, we had mince pies every Christmas (and sometimes in between) and they’re on my short list of favorites, right along with the oft-despised fruit cake. You see, I was raised by a Newfoundland-born mother of strong British heritage. Christmas baking was a huge undertaking at our house and those are the best memories! Oh and I have to say, a mince pie every day for twelve days sounds just about perfect.

    1. What wonderful memories, Laura. And you’re beginning to convince me I need to make mince pies this weekend. 🙂 Merry Christmas!

  4. I’m Canadian, and my mother used to make mincemeat tarts every Christmas. I haven’t had them in years, but the other day I saw mincemeat in a jar at the grocery store and I was tempted. I didn’t buy it then but I still might. Or I might try this delicious sounding recipe!

    1. While I don’t really like mince pies – I love apple and mince meat crumble – if you’re tempted to go back and buy that jar,

  5. How fascinating, Nina. My mother in law used to make mincemeat pies. I only ever bought the premade version in a jar, but really liked it. Now that I know I’m severely gluten intolerant I would have to add that into the mincemeat meld.

  6. Better late than never. WIP and Edits on A Warlock’s Secrets, 2nd in the Demon Witch series are keeping me busy. It was interesting to find out what was in mince pies. However, my favorite is pumpkin pies. Good luck with Flying Through Fire. Merry Christmas!

  7. Wow, Nina! That book cover caught my attention. I’ll be sure to check it out.
    The mincemeat pie my grandmother made used pork. She’d can the filling to use throughout the year.
    My favorite Christmas food is Rum Cake. Lost of nuts and Rum. Yummy!

    1. It’s a pretty cover isn’t it! Nope – no pork, or any meat at all, in English mincemeat! Rum cake sounds good!

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