Marvellous and magnificent mincemeat…or a little of what you fancy does you good

homemade mincepies

One of my favourite foods to eat in the winter months is mincemeat, the combination of mixed fruit in spices and sugar always makes me happy regardless of the weather outside…..I know most people only eat it at Christmas in little pastry pies but I would (and have done) happily eat this all year round.

This year I cheated and bought a big jar of mincemeat from my local supermarket (just a basic one but then added a generous slosh of brandy to add a little festive spirit)…I really ran out of time while I was getting ready for fairs and finishing commissions, but most years I make my own as it’s not very hard to do and I find I end up using it an awful lot when baking puddings and breads over the colder months….it’s a bit of a big shopping list and if you were only going to eat these a few days of the year then it would be a bit daft, however there is loads you can use it for so I think it’s worth having a few jars stored away in the cupboard (and if you are more organised than me and make it in say, October or November, then I think it would be a much appreciated present…especially if you include a couple of other uses for it apart from mince pies)

The version I make is vegetarian (so no actual minced meat) and it keeps really well….I’ve had jars in my cupboard, from when I made massive batches,that kept fine for a couple of years but I think you are supposed to use them up within 12 months. Obviously once opened then keep them in the fridge and use within 4 weeks.

Mincemeat

ingredients

1.25 kilo of baking apples

500 g of mixed fruit (a good mix of raisins, currants, sultanas)

50g of glace cherries

50 g of mixed peel

250 g dark soft sugar

250 ml cider (something medium dry)

100 ml brandy or dark rum (spiced rum is very good)

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of mixed spice*

juice and grated peel of a lemon

Method

In a large pan, (I use a preserving pan) tip in the sugar and pour in the cider.  On a gentle heat allow the sugar to slowly dissolve in the cider, stir a little.

Chop the apples into 1 cm sized cubes and add then to the sugar and cider syrup.

Chop the rest of the fruit, (not fussy fine but a few chops with a big knife kind of thing) and add to the pan along with the spices, lemon peel and juice, and allow to simmer for 30 -45 minutes.

You want everything to look mushy and pulpy.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool down a little before adding the brandy or rum, give it a few good stirs and spoon it out into some sterilised jam jars.  Seal with a screw top metal lid not a waxed disc like with jam.

This makes about 2 kilos of mincemeat.

*I often make my own spice mix, and use variations of nutmeg, a few blades of mace, dry ginger, a star anise flower, clove, a few black peppercorns…….if I’m making gingerbread/spiced biscuits then I make up enough spice mix to use in various things over the Winter festivities.

As I mentioned at the start, mincemeat doesn’t need to be saved just for mincepies…..a few heaped desert spoons added to bread dough before you start the kneading makes for a lovely aromatic spicy bread (delicious toasted with lots of butter)…and if you’ve got some of those deep American muffin tins, line them with little baking parchment squares, add an egg to the dough mix, a couple of tea spoons of melted butter and warm milk instead of water, allow to rise then shape the dough into balls and place in the lined muffin tins, allow to prove and bake at gas 7 for around 25-30 minutes for panettone style bread rolls (very nice for breakfast)

Apple crumbles, cobblers and pies also benefit from a desert spoon or two of mincemeat mixed in around the fruit, you don’t need to add any extra sugar as the mincemeat adds the sweetness.  (I’ve also used this for a plum crumble in the Autumn and had lots of compliments)

I’ve also made bread and butter pudding with the mincemeat spread over the buttery sliced bread, cooked in a milky egg custard this is a lovely smelling pudding, perfect for rainy and cold winter evenings.

I’ve even seen recipes for home made ice-cream using a few spoonfuls of sweet sticky mincemeat….it isn’t something I’ve tried as we don’t have an ice-cream make and the recipes I’ve read all seem to require one……..

I’d love to know if you have any interesting ways you use mincemeat.

Finally, I know everyone is making new year resolutions, all “I will eat more healthily” or “I won’t eat this,that, whatever”…….whenever I’ve done this I always end up pigging out on what I’m not supposed to eat (the year I tried to not eat cheese saw me eating so much of it Christmas day that I spent the afternoon drooling on the sofa with cheese sweats and could barely manage any of the Christmas dinner the Arpette had been so carefully cooking in the kitchen……so I’m much more about “a little of what you fancy does you good”……we’ve still got festive foods left (it’s just the two of us and there are no small children in the house to eat all the chocolates and sweet foods) so we try to balance one thing off against another.  (and it makes the walk home on a blustery cold afternoon that much nicer knowing there is spicy toast waiting at the other end)

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