My favourite food shops are smelling heavenly and my first Christmas party is under my belt (apple tarts and amazing choc ices) so I can no longer ignore the fact that Christmas is upon us. Christmas puddings are squirrelled away (if they taste good I'll post the recipe in 2012) and attention turns to mince pies. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, there's the mincemeat filling to be considered first.
There's nothing wrong with using a good jar of mincemeat, and you can always add some extra ingredients to make it more to your taste. This year I was persuaded to make my own, whereas I would normally buy it from Neal's Yard Dairy . If you live in London, they keep a particularly good mincemeat at this time of year and you can buy it in whatever quantity you want. The fact I had some lovely lovely lemon peel which I'd candied in summer and some dried fruit from Christmas pudding making convinced me to have a go.
Mincemeat has been popular since the middle ages and originally included meats such as tripe, beef or tongue mixed with dried fruits and spices. Having friends in Alaska, I know that Reindeer meat is still used in some of their mincemeat recipes. These days beef suet is more commonly added. This, of course, makes it a no-go area for vegetarians, although you can buy a 'vegetarian suet' now. I've used butter instead in my recipe to provide the necessary fat content and keep everyone happy, and it works very well.
(makes around 900g)
150g (6oz) raisins
75g (3oz) sultanas
75g (3oz) currants
50g (2oz) dried figs (or apricots or glace cherries if you prefer)
75g (3oz) mixed peel
50g (2oz) blanched almonds, chopped
100g (4oz) apple (I prefer cooking apple), peeled and diced small
100g (4oz) Muscovado sugar
75g (3oz) melted and clarified butter
1 teaspoon ground Allspice
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons brandy(or rum if you prefer)
Mix together all the ingredients. Taste - add a little lemon juice if you think it needs sharpening up. Cover the bowl and leave to macerate for 2-3 days, then keep covered in the fridge for a week or so, or pack into sterlised jars for longer keeping.
*** Check back in a couple of days for a recipe for mince pies with a twist ***