How to make your own Christmas mincemeat
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Mary Kemp’s home-made Christmas mincemeat recipe
However busy I am, if I can get my Christmas cakes, puddings and mincemeat made in November, I do. With a huge sigh of relief, it’s something I can tick off that ever-growing Christmas list.
And they are all much better for being made ahead of time, then given a few weeks to mature.
Mincemeat is one of the staple ingredients in my Christmas larder. Used mainly for mince pies, small and large, it also works brilliantly added to other dishes and desserts.
You can find English recipes for mincemeat from the 15th century, described as a fermented mix of minced beef and fruits originally made with vinegars or wines. In the 18th century it was made with distilled spirits and spice and, as the recipes evolved, sugar was added and mincemeat became more of a sweet filling rather than savoury.
The basis of a mincemeat recipe is always dried fruit, sugar, spices and alcohol and you can, of course, use your favourite tipple. Whisky and brandy-based drinks work well and you can use pears rather than apples, add ginger or more spices. The choice is yours.
My favourite mincemeat
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This recipe makes a traditional, lovely rich, citrus flavoured mincemeat, which is full of fruit. I use cold grated butter or beef suet from my butchers. You can use boxed brands beef or vegetarian suet, but just remember these are often dusted in flour, which will absorb some of the wonderful juice and give you a drier mix. Once I have prepared the ingredients, I cook it slowly in a roasting tin in a warm oven to soften the apple and enhance the taste.
This works brilliantly in the simmering oven of the Aga, although you may need to add extra time.
Makes 10 x 250g jars
50g mixed peel
50g ready to eat prunes chopped
240g soft dark brown sugar
160g grated butter, beef suet shredded or vegetable suet
450g grated cooking apple
the finely grated rind and the juice of 2 oranges and 2 lemons
50g chopped flaked almonds
50g chopped hazelnuts (or add more currants)
4 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
120ml of plum brandy or brandy
Place all the ingredients except the brandy in a large bowl and mix well, cover in cling film and stand somewhere cool overnight.
The following morning pre-heat the oven to 120*C/ Gas mark ½
Pour the mincemeat in to a large roasting tin, cover with foil and cook for about two hours. The apples will soften, the colour darkens, and the suet will soften too.
After two hours remove the tin from the oven, cool, then add the brandy, stirring well. Then spoon into sterilised jars and store somewhere cool.
A few mincemeat and mince pie hints and tips
Christmas Bread and Butter pudding.
Layer your bread and butter pudding with homemade mincemeat to give a wonderful festive taste.
Christmas Tart Tatin
Add a layer of home- made mincemeat between the apples and puff pastry to give your Tatin a hint of Christmas.
If you have time to get ahead, roll out short crust-pastry between cling film, then roll up into a tube and freeze it. It’s then ready to defrost, roll out and cut with pastry cutters for quick mince pies. Or cut the discs and freeze them individually layered with grease proof paper in a plastic tub, all ready to defrost and fill.