Saturday, November 4, 2023

Mincemeat and other Christmas preperations

Last night I got caught up in knitting and the new Ali Hazelwood romance and completely forgot my intention to post daily in November - never mind. Tonight I'm back after prepping dried fruit for making a Christmas cake and putting together a batch of mincemeat.

I love the calm hours in October and November spent on making the things that need to mature when there's no particular rush or pressure - this day off or the next one, doesn't matter, there's still plenty of time and a pleasant sense of anticipation before it all gets to be too much later in December. I think a Christmas cake, a pudding, mincemeat, and Chutney all make thoughtful gifts according to the inclinations of the recipient too. 

Of all of them, mincemeat is probably my favourite thing though - I love mince pies, and like them even more now I'm in complete control of the ingredients. Bought ones always have too high a pastry-to-filling ratio, and bought mincemeat has too much sugar and apple in it so inevitably it boils over the side of my tin and makes a red hot glue that's a nightmare to deal with.

Homemade has less of the cheap filler and behaves much better - I can also tailor it to suit myself which is as much fun as I'm getting on a cold, wet, November night with work the next day. There are a lot of mincemeat recipes out there - Nigella does a good one with (I think) cranberry and port, Mark Diacono does an excellent quince and ginger if you have any quinces left. Both of those need cooking before bottling. My go-to recipe is a Fiona Cairns one from the now out of print Seasonal Baking. It doesn't need cooking ahead of time, and it's endlessly adaptable.

The original recipe was for fig and almond mincemeat, but I don't like figs very much and don't always use almonds. The sugar is doing the majority of the work in preserving the mincemeat - and any leftover from this Christmas will keep perfectly well in a full, sealed, jar until next year - at most, it'll only want a little bit more alcohol to rejuvenate it. 

This year I've made Cherry, Almond, And Coffee mincemeat - it needs 100g of flaked almonds lightly toasted, 250g of Bramley apples peeled cored, and finely chopped, 200g of raisins, 150g of currents, 150g of dried sour cherries, 100g of suet, 100g of mixed peel, 100g of demerara sugar, 100g of dark muscovado sugar, 60ml of coffee liqueur (or cherry brandy, or a mix of cherry brandy and brandy, or ameretto and brandy...), the zest and juice of an orange and a lemon, 1.5 teaspoons of mixed spice and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Mix everything together, cover with clingfilm, and leave for the flavours to blend for around 24 hours re-mixing from time to time before potting into sterilised jars.

As long as the proportions between sugar, fruit, and liquid are more or less stable exactly what you use to make this is up to you - there are endless combinations of alcohol and preferred dried fruits to play with and it makes your kitchen smell amazing - highly recommended.

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