While Christmas is a holiday that’s universally celebrated, some cultures have their own unique traditions and Christmas in Ireland is no exception. Since Ireland doesn’t have a Thanksgiving, there is no precursor to the holiday season so Christmas is a much anticipated and hugely celebrated holiday in Ireland.
Like in the US, businesses close early on Christmas Eve and everything is closed on Christmas Day which is reserved for family time. A drive in the country on a Christmas Eve in Ireland would reveal candles burning in the window. This originated as a religious ceremony rooted in the nativity scene but today it is seen as more of a welcoming gesture.
A typical Irish Christmas feast might consist of turkey, ham, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and stuffing with a mince pie for desert. While Christmas is very family-oriented, the day after Christmas is more of a social event where friends go out and live it up. It’s also St. Stephens Day or the day of the Wren, a largely celebrated catholic holiday so the devoutly religious attend church. Banks and other public offices are generally closed on St. Stephens Day.
The spirit of Christmas extends beyond the 26th through January 6th when the Feast of Epiphany, also known as “Little Christmas” is celebrated. This day tended to mark the end of Christmastide. On this day, dedicated Catholics attend mass and rejoice in one last holiday feast.
Like St. Stephen’s Day, the Feast of Epiphany is another holy day that shares its space on the calendar with a less religious cultural tradition. Nollaig na mBan, also known as Women’s Christmas is customarily known as the Irish woman’s day of rest where the husband is supposed to handle all the household chores (although some Irish women claim this is not necessarily always the case. Nollaig na mBan is, however, traditionally known as a ladies night out).
If you can’t celebrate Christmas in Ireland this holiday season, bring Ireland to you with this traditional Irish recipe for mince pie from your friends at Authentic Ireland. We hope that when you are ready to take that trip to Ireland, you will come to us to help you make your travel arrangements. All our travel agents are experts in Ireland and are truly passionate about creating life experiences in Ireland that our clients will always cherish.
MINCE MEAT INGREDIENTS
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
4 cups raisins, seedless
2 cup currants, dried
1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup candied citron, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup figs, dried and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup candied orange peel, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup candied lemon peel, coarsely chopped
2 cups peeled and cored cooking apples, coarsely chopped
1 cup of pale dry sherry
2-1/2 cups cups of brandy
OPTIONAL: If you’re looking for pure Irish tradition, add 1/2 lb. finely chopped fresh beef suet but this can be omitted entirely or substituted with any type of vegan meat substitute for you vegetarians.
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into bits
1-1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoons ice water
Preparing and Baking the Crust
If you’re looking for that traditional Irish mince pie, then don’t expect to wait till the last minute. The recommend marinating time for the filling is 3 weeks.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except for the brandy and sherry and stir well. Pour in the brandy and sherry. Using a wooden mixing spoon, stir all ingredients together and mix. Once this mixture is well moistened, cover the container and store it in a cool place for 3 weeks (do not store in the refrigerator). Check on the mincemeat once a week. Once the fruit has absorbed the liquid, use about 1/2 cups of a brandy and sherry mixture to replenish the liquid. When kept covered in a cool location without refrigeration, Mincemeat can be kept indefinitely. If preferred, after about a month you can refrigerate the mincemeat. This mixture makes approximately 1 1/2 quarts.
Combine butter, flour, salt, sugar, either in bowl or food processor. Add enough water to make the mixture just adhere together, so it is not crumbly. Form into ball, wrap in waxed paper and chill for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 375° F. With a pastry brush, coat bottom and sides of 8 (2 1/2-inch) tins with the softened butter or oil, allowing 1 teaspoon for each tin.
Roll out onto floured pastry cloth and with a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, cut 16 (3-inch) rounds of pastry. Gently press 8 rounds into tins, one at a time, then spoon about 3 Tablespoons of the mincemeat into each pastry shell. With a pastry brush dipped in cold water, lightly moisten the outside edges of the pastry shells and carefully fit the remaining 8 rounds over them. Crimp the edges with a fork. Trim excess pastry from around rims with a sharp knife, and cut two parallel slits, about 1/2-inch long and 1/4-inch apart in the top of each pie.
Arrange pies on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° F. and continue baking for 20 minutes more, or until crust is golden brown. Run the blade of a knife around the inside edges of the pies to loosen them slightly, and set them aside to cool in the pans.
Then turn out the pies with a narrow spatula and serve.