Pie Junkie brings real Manchester mince pies to Calgary
'It makes me cry talking about them,' says owner Nancy Goemans
"I get ridiculously nostalgic about mince tarts," says Nancy Goemans, owner of Pie Junkie in Spruce Cliff and Kensington.
"It makes me cry talking about them."
She did tear up talking about the tarts her parents made every year. Her dad was from Manchester, England, an army cook who was raised on mince pies every Christmas, which he made from his great-great-grandmother's recipe.
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When Nancy was growing up in Ontario, her mom and dad would make a big batch of mincemeat every August, jar it and keep it in the cool root cellar — along with the salamis her Italian mother would make — to use the following year.
"After my dad passed away and my mom became ill and moved into a home, there was no more mincemeat," says Goemans.
"And then when my mom died, I decided I'd make the mincemeat. So the first year we opened up shop I made a batch as soon as we opened in August. And when I opened the jars at Christmas, I started to cry."
Previously known as the Pie Hole, they were forced to change their business name earlier this year after a company in B.C. trademarked the same name.
Goemans coarsely grates the apples and grinds about half the raisins (two kinds) and currants as her father did, to create a finer textured mince.
She uses brandy and grated suet — beef fat that's traditionally used in mincemeat — that she sources from a butcher just for this purpose, reserving the butter for the all-butter pastry they use in all their pies. The filling is uncooked but stored in the fridge, similar to her parents' process, to allow the fruit to macerate.
Each tart is then handmade, the edges of the pastry rustically uncrimped, with a star on top and a snowy dusting of icing sugar.
It's the shop's second-biggest seller during the holidays, second only to tourtière. They make the tourtière in larger and single-serving sizes with half beef, half pork, onions and a bit of potato, and the traditional cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves as well as some rosemary and thyme — a formula tweaked by Goemans' French-Canadian friend and business partner, Jo-Anne Caza.
"Occasionally I hear a British accent, and I tell them we make a steak and kidney pie with Guinness and a true sweet mince," Goemans says.
"And I promise they're better than Marks and Spencer's."
Pie Junkie is at Eight Spruce Centre S.W. and 1081 2nd Ave. N.W.
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