You are probably wondering why you should go to the trouble of making your own mincemeat. A few years ago I would not have dreamed of it myself. However, circumstances forced me to and I am so glad they did. It is really easy and worth it. I know store bought mincemeat is good but homemade is a lot, lot better.
Mince Pies are one of my favourite foods ever. It kind of annoys me that they are only eaten at Christmas but it does make them even more special. I used to love them as a child even though I thought I hated dried fruit, nuts, spices and candied peel, all the main ingredients. I really loved that fruity, spicy, juicy filling with soft buttery pastry.
My nan used to make the best ones with really thin crispy, light pastry. I have never tasted pastry like hers anywhere else. At Christmas she would make dozens of mince pies, bakewell tarts and coconut tarts, her baking was one of the best things about the festive season.
Our Auntie Hilda also made great mince pies but they were really different with thick pastry and icing instead of a pastry lid. A sort of stodgy, overly sweet version of my nan’s light, crispy ones. I loved those too. Basically I will eat any mince pie put in front of me. I realised they are a really evocative food for me when I didn’t eat any for a few years. After I left home I didn’t cook or even buy them & my nan stopped baking.
When I was living in Peru there was nowhere to buy mice pies or even mincemeat so I had to make my own. I was amazed at how tasty they were & how they took me straight back to my childhood watching nan bake and the annual visit to Auntie Hilda’s house. I don’t know why we only visited once a year she was so jolly & fun with incredible twinkly eyes. The Christmas visit to her was always a treat, she had a real fire and fed us loads of treats. Her house is one of my most vivid childhood memories and mince pies are the connection.
Now is the time to make mincemeat as it benefits from a little time to mature for the brandy to mellow. It keeps forever and we even used to start soaking the dried fruit in brandy in January for later in the year. I have made three batches now and every visitor to our house has gone crazy over the smell.
My recipe was originally taken from Delia Smith but I have changed it a little. I have halved the amount of fat as I find it unnecessary. I also add more citrus and spice and more nuts.
100 vegetable suet (shortening)
500g apples, peeled and diced into 1/2 cm cubes
850g Dried fruit (I used 250g raisins, 250g currants, 250g sultanas, 100g dates)
200g candied peel, chopped
3 large oranges, rind & juice
2 lemons, rind & juice
75g almonds, blanched & chopped
3 tsp ground allspice
3 tsp cinnamon
1 whole nutmeg, grated
8 tbsp brandy
1. Mix all the ingredients except the brandy together. I mix them straight into the roasting tin where I will cook them.
2. Cover with foil & leave overnight
3. Make sure the foil fits really tightly over the tin & put the mincemeat into a low oven (about 100 degrees) for around 3 hours.
4. Make sure to remove the foil & give the ingredients a good stir every hour during cooking to incorporate all the flavours and avoid burning.
5. The mincemeat is ready when most of the liquid has been soaked up by the fruit. It will not be totally dry but any juices will appear much thicker than before.
6. As soon as it comes out of the oven pour over the brandy and mix everything well. The heat from the oven will evaporate the alcohol.
7. Store in air tight jars and it will keep for years.