I like to get started and make my mincemeat in early November – there’s a great feeling of satisfaction as you line up the filled jars in your cupboard!
My basic recipe is taken from my precious and much-loved Delia Smith’s ‘Christmas’ book which my Mother gave me when I cooked my very first Christmas dinner. I think it’s out of print now, but if you check out second-hand bookshops and National Trust properties for hidden treasures, you might get lucky.
I pull my copy from the bookshelf in early November , and it sits on the counter top from then until Christmas Day!
This recipe is all about suiting yourself – so, whilst keeping the basic quantities similar, you can do what I do: remove the nuts (nut-allergic daughter) add apricots and dried cranberries, the zest of 2 or 3 oranges, etc. or whatever you and your family like.
Remember that it’s your Christmas!
The quantities here are enough to make the many, many dozens of little mince pies that I rustle up every year, and still have a few pots as gifts for friends and relatives. There’s often enough to have the happy chance of finding a forgotten pot later on in the year as an unexpected treat. It keeps well for at least a year, so don’t feel you have to use it all up immediately.
- A very large bowl, suitable for putting in the oven.
- Mixing spoon
- weighing scales
- Tin foil
- a selection of jam or Kilner jars – pick some nice ones for giving as presents – washed and sterilised (see NOTES)
INGREDIENTS: Makes 6 pounds, according to Delia..
- 450g of Bramley apples, washed, cored and chopped, (don’t bother peeling them)
- 225g vegetarian suet (I use Atora – it’s in the baking section of the supermarket)
- 350g raisins
- 225g Sultanas
- 225g currants
- 225g of whatever else you like – I use dried cranberries as I like their tartness, and chopped dried apricots – you could use a mixture of mixed peel; or cherries chopped small; or almonds cut into slivers – or a combination of all of the above – you pick..
- 350g of dark Muscovado sugar
- the finely grated zest and juice of two lemons
- the finely grated zest and juice of two oranges (I usually use 3 as I like extra orange flavour)
- 4 teaspoons of mixed ground spice
- 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- half a fresh nutmeg, grated
- And a big, BIG splash of Brandy!
METHOD: This is sooo easy!
- I usually start this off in the early evening, so that I can let it sit over-night before cooking it the next day.
- Put everything, except the brandy, into the bowl, and give it all a really good mix-up. The juices will make the fruit beautifully shiny, so keep mixing until everything looks like it’s gleaming.
- Cover the bowl, then leave it over-night in a cool spot.
- Then next day, heat the oven to 120 fan. Give the mixture another good stir, cover it tightly with tin-foil, and pop it in the oven for 3 hours.
- In-between times, wash and sterilise your chosen jars – I usually put them through a cycle in the dishwasher, then put them into a warm (100 degrees or so) oven to dry out.
- When the time is up, take the bowl out of the oven.
- Give the mincemeat a really good stir, to ensure that the suet – which will have melted – is well distributed.
- Allow to cool, stirring occasionally.
- When the mincemeat is almost cold, stir in the brandy -I have a great memory of Mum standing in our kitchen at home, with the brandy bottle upended over the bowl, and getting side-tracked by a conversation – happy times…
- Using a clean tea towel, remove the jars from the oven, and decant the mincemeat into the jars and seal immediately. A jam funnel is really handy for this – I may have mentioned before that it’s a ‘buy-once-thank-me-forever’ purchase – as it keeps the edges of the jars clean, but it’s not essential.
- Label, decorate and store your creation until it’s time to use it up/give it away
- I save up nice jam jars throughout the year in time for Christmas, to hold the many delicious and useful things you can make to give as presents to fellow foodies. However, there are some lovely little jars available in Lakeland which would really enhance your home-made gift. They come in packs of 6, and I usually buy couple of packs early in the year, when they’re often reduced in price.
- About every 2nd year, I forget that the mincemeat has to sit over-night – don’t panic if you don’t have the time for this – it will still taste amazing! I regularly add the Brandy in error before cooking, which is probably a waste, but I just add some more when it’s fully cooled
- I fill a 1kg Kilner jar for myself, as I know I’m going to use it up fairly quickly.
- Once I’ve baked a few dozen mince pies and they’ve been adequately tested by me and Mr Saturday Night 😉 I freeze them – they freeze brilliantly – give them 5 minutes in a hot oven from frozen and you have fresh, hot mince pies! Once, I forgot about a box of them until July – what an unexpected treat!
- Here’s the link to my easy short-crust pastry http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/my-easy-short-crust-pastry/ but of course you can use ready-made if it’s easier for you.
Mince pies are a real taste of Christmas and we make them fairly regularly in the run-up to the Big Day. If you can’t be bothered making pastry etc, be sure to try my Cheat’s Mince Rollups – made using ready-made Puff Pastry – they are so delicious! http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/cheats-mince-and-cranberry-rolls/