Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mincemeat

I have an aversion to citrus - specifically orange peel. So I have never really eaten things that have candied peel in - which includes many traditional Xmas cakes.

However, one Xmas when I was growing up, Sainsburys decided to stock citrus (peel)-free mince pies. They tasted great - but they didn't stock them again, ever.

So, if I want to have mince pies for Xmas that I can eat, then I need to make my own mincemeat. Which means that I need to get round to making it in September to give time for the flavour to mature.

Fortunately, mincemeat is so easy that it really barely counts as cooking!


  • 1 kg pack of Raisins
  • 1 kg pack of Sultanas
  • 1 kg pack of Currants
  • 500g pack of Dried Apricots (or Candied Peel if you can eat it)
  • 250g pack of Flaked Almonds - or 250g of whole almonds, roughly chopped.
  • Optional: 500g pack of shredded beef suet, or vegetable suet - I generally don't bother as beef suet makes it vegetarian-unfriendly whilst vegetable suet is full of nasty trans fats. But if you want to be traditional...
  • 1 kg cooking apples, weighed after peeling and coring
  • 1 kg pack of dark brown muscovado sugar
  • Several heaped teaspoons of ground spices, to taste: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, mace, black pepper, cardamon, or use pre-mixed Mixed Spice (Apple Pie Spice for Americans)
  • 8 tbsp (bottled) lemon juice (or use the juice and finely grated zest of 3-4 lemons and/or oranges)
  • Spirits: Rum, Brandy or Whisky. At least 500ml of it. This acts to preserve the mixture as well as flavour it. If you skimp on the alcohol, it will ferment in the jars.
You will need a very large non-reactive bowl to steep the mincemeat in - I use a large enamelled stockpot. A food processor also speeds up the process considerably.

Tip the rasins into the food processor and coarsely chop them, then tip the chopped raisins into the bowl.
Repeat for the Sultanas, Currants, and Apricots (or peel).
Now tip the peeled cored apples into the food processor and finely chop - which will also clean some of the sticky dried fruit residue off the blade), and tip the chopped apple in the bowl too.
Now tip the sugar, almonds, (and suet if you are using it), into the bowl too.
Spoon lots of ground spice onto it all, and sprinkle over the lemon juice.
Get a big long-handled wooden spoon and stir it all together. It will be fairly hard to mix at first as the dried fruit tends to start off sticking together in one big lump.
Cover the bowl loosely and leave overnight.
Every day for the next 3 days, stir the mixture in the morning and evening, keeping the bowl loosely covered in between stirrings. It will gradually become moister and stickier.
On the morning of the final day, add ~500ml (about half a bottle) of your chosen spirits into the mincemeat to preserve it.
The next morning, stir the mincemeat one last time and then pack it into sterile jars. Try to avoid leaving air pockets and press the mincemeat down tightly into the jars. Top each one with a tablespoon or so more of alcohol before tightening the lids. The sugar and alcohol content should be high enough to preserve it without the need for further processing.
Put the jars in a cool dark cupboard and forget about them until mince-pie-making time.