christmas mincemeat: and a secret ingredient . . .

Christmas mincemeat 2014
I am curious about how this year's batch of mincemeat will turn out as I've added a "secret" ingredient. Every time you throw a load of mincemeat ingredients into a large bowl, you are stirring up a load of history. It is traditional to have made your Christmas mincemeat on the last Sunday in November, "Stir-Up Sunday" - which gives it a good two weeks to mature before using. While I may be late in posting, I am actually feeling quite smug, as I managed to make mine in early November. That really is a first for me. But this new addition, which is actually a very "old" ingredient has me intrigued . . .

Most years I do keep things pretty traditional. I don't go down the route of slowly baking the mixture, as some people do, as I prefer the "uncooked" version. Some years I use a large and fragrant quince instead of the more traditional apple. Typically I use a cooking apple such as a Bramley, but this year I got hold of some beautifully named Boskoop Rouge apples from Chegworth Valley at Borough Market. They are eating apples and I adore their somewhat "Snow White" poisoned apple appearance. They are crisp and firm; not quite as sweet as some eating apples, (described as "sharp with a Cox-like texture," so I thought they'd be perfect in my mincemeat.

This year, as well as using dried raisins, sultanas and currants, I also used dried sour cherries and some dried peaches. The one thing I never, ever do is to include any kind of tropical dried fruit - pineapple or papaya. I know some people like it, I find it revolting. But each to their own.

One of my favourite indulgent reads, is Hilary Spurling's Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book: Elizabethan Country House Cooking, a book of recipes from the 17th century. I have tried the ultimate in tradition, which was to use actual minced beef or mutton. But frankly the jury is out on that one. It is more of a savoury pie, with a little sugar (very much in the Middle Eastern tradition). It was nice to try, but I won't be bothering again. Having said that, Lady Elinor recommends adding rosewater. Now I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with rosewater (mainly hate). Personally I find that rosewater can overwhelm some dishes with a faint aroma of the cheap perfume of institutional bathroom cleaner. But in keeping with the idea of Middle Eastern cookery I decided to add a little orange blossom water to this year's mincemeat. Well, it was very popular in Elizabethan times and I thought it might add an extra citrusy layer of flavour. I just hope it doesn't end up tasting like air freshener!

Skill level: Easy

200g raisins
200g sultanas
150g currants
50g dried sour cherries
50g dried peaches, roughly chopped
200g mixed peel, finely chopped
125g ground almonds
175g shredded suet (beef or vegetarian)
250g soft brown sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tsp orange blossom water
1 Boskoop Rouge apple (or any apple of your choice), cored and grated (peeling optional)
12 tbsp brandy


  1. Add half the brandy to the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Stir well to ensure that all of the ingredients are well mixed and evenly distributed.
  3. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave overnight in a cool place.
  4. Stir again and add the rest of the brandy. Stir again and leave for a few hours before bottling.
  5. Fill sterilised jars with the mincemeat. You may need to cover this with a wax disc and a lid if planning on storing for a long time. The mincemeat will keep for about a year, in a cool dark place.
  6. Alternatively, if you are using the mincemeat within a few weeks, put the mixture in airtight containers and store in the fridge.
  7. The mixture does need to mature for about 2 weeks to allow the flavours to develop, although you can use it immediately if you prefer.

  • I sterilise the jars and lids by washing in very hot, soapy water. I rinse them and then put them on a baking tray in the oven at 160C / Gas Mark 3 to dry for about 15 minutes.


Vohn's Vittles said...

Ooh interesting! I can't wait to hear how your secret ingredient works out.

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

Me too! :) Just a bit worried that it might taste too flowery, but actually so far, so good!

Anonymous said...

I hope you made your Christmas pudding on the last Sunday before Advent, 'Stir up Sunday' as you managed to get ahead with your minvemeat!

Bintu @ Recipes From A Pantry said...

I am not a fan of mince pies but do like the addition of rosewater. I can image what a delicate lift that would bring.

Bintu @ Recipes From A Pantry said...

Just dropping in to say merry xmas.