|Christmas mincemeat 2014|
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
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
- Add half the brandy to the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir well to ensure that all of the ingredients are well mixed and evenly distributed.
- Cover with a clean tea towel and leave overnight in a cool place.
- Stir again and add the rest of the brandy. Stir again and leave for a few hours before bottling.
- 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.
- Alternatively, if you are using the mincemeat within a few weeks, put the mixture in airtight containers and store in the fridge.
- 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.