05/12/2005

Mincemeat

To make about 2kg (4lb)

500g cooking apples (about 1lb, or four medium apples)
350g raisins (about 12oz)
225g currants (about 8oz)
225g sultanas (US: golden raisins)
225g shredded suet - real or veggie
225g mixed peel
225g soft brown sugar
2 lemons (or 1 orange and 1 lemon)
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
150ml brandy or whisky

Peel, core and grate or finely chop the apples, then place in a large bowl with the dried fruit (can vary dried fruit quantities so long as the total is a little over 1kg/2lb). Add the suet, sugar, grated rind and juice of lemons, and spices. Stir well. Add half the brandy or whisky and stir again. Pack loosely into jars or plastic tubs, pour over the remaining whisky or brandy, then seal. Keeps for at least two weeks, but may need to be refrigerated if kept longer in a warm climate.

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This is so easy to make, I've no idea why anybody ever buys ready-made mincemeat! You can adjust it to suit your family's preferences, and avoid unpleasant additives. If you can't find dried currants or sultanas, just use more raisins. If you prefer to use bags of ready-mixed dried fruit, do so. If you want to cut down on sugar, use less. If you want extra fruit or moister mincement, add extra grated apple. If you can't find cooking apples, use crisp eating apples such as Granny Smith. If you don't have any brandy or whisky, or prefer not to use them, just leave them out and add extra orange or lemon juice - but note that it won't keep so long, so you should definitely keep non-alcoholic mincemeat in the fridge.

Oh, and the suet... when we lived in the USA we couldn't find packets of dried suet, so we had to buy the stuff from the meat market, cook it, strain it, and chop it. What a palaver. I expect it could have been left out altogether, although the consistency wouldn't have been so soft when cooked. These days dried veggie suet is widely available in supermarkets - at least in Europe - and as it has less fat content than meat suet, and so many people are vegetarians these days, that's what I always use. This is what you should look for:


As for what you do with mincemeat, the most popular recipe is mince pies. Shortcrust pastry rolled thinly and cut to fit patty pans or cake tins, filled with a teaspoon of mincemeat, covered with another round of pastry, cooked for about 15-20 minutes. Again there are many variations: you can make the pastry with half wholewheat flour, you can glaze the tops with egg or milk, you can add extra ingredients to the mincemeat such as dessicated coconut or chopped glacé cherries...

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