Sunday, 6 November 2011

Seriously Good Christmas Mincemeat

It hasn’t stopped raining now for 4 days. It’s playing havoc with my new running regime. Which is a shame.  And though the woods in our beautiful area here are full of mushrooms ripe for the picking, you can’t pick them in the rain so we sit and wait.

Instead today I made my Christmas mincemeat. A lovely Sunday activity. A good pot of coffee, Frank Sinatra on and away you go. I remember my Mum making the mincemeat when I was a kid; a sign indeed to begin growing in anticipatory excitement for that most brilliant time of year – Christmas. The smell of the fruit, nuts and mixed spice really get the festive juices flowing, that and the cake and the Christmas pudding mixtures. I can’t remember now which one my sisters and I had to have a turn stirring to make our Christmas wish. Small hands clutched around a wooden spoon, fighting against a quicksand of currents and brandy-dissolved brown sugar, tongue sticking out in closed-eye concentration on that most heartfelt wish.

I still do it. I still make my Christmas wish and I make it into the mincemeat for the mince-pies. I try to get the guys to have a Christmas wish too but so far they have refrained. Boys. I will leave the mincemeat out for a day in its bowl so that I can continue stirring it before I stuff it in jars and reckon they’ll probably have a little go when they don’t think anybody’s watching. But it’s a sweet little tradition and if you can get your kids to do all the weighing and stirring then making the Christmas mincemeat can be great fun to do together.

My recipe is a slightly less traditional one without the candied peel that I’m sorry to say, I’m not a huge fan of and I don’t know of many kids who are either. I don’t put anything weird in it, like dried pineapple that I have seen in some recipes, I stick to the traditional Christmas flavours. But I like mine a little less tart and a bit more ‘zesty’.

Also, in France it’s a little hard to come by all the usual and traditional ingredients like suet and Brambly apples. So I have devised my own child-friendly, French-a-fied recipe. And my mince pies are the best mince pies I have ever tasted…is that rude to say?

Maybe just try for yourself. If you’ve never been a huge fan of mince pies then I’ll give you my mincemeat recipe now and then my extra special and slightly different mince-pie recipe a little nearer Christmas. I reckon I could convert you into a mince pie lover. Now, that is a bold statement but I seem to be on a roll today so going with the flow, here it is, my Christmas mincemeat;

For about 4-5 medium jars worth you will need;

1 brambly apple or 2 granny smiths
150g currents
150g sultanas
150g dried cranberries
200g glacier cherries
50g pecan nut
50g walnuts
50g ground almonds
250g dark muscovado or natural molasses sugar
1 heaped tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp mixed spice
A quarter of a grated nutmeg (do not use ready grated, it tastes of dust)
Zest and juice of 1 large orange
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon or 2 small ones
300g suet or 150 g grated, frozen lard
100 ml whiskey or brandy


  • Peel, core and grate the apples and set aside. They might go a little brown but that’s fine.

  • I like to weigh all my currents, sultanas, cranberries and cherries out and then before I put them into the large mixing bowl I either give them a brief whizz in a blender or chop them roughly with a knife. This just breaks down the ingredients a bit allowing the flavours to mingle and mix a little better. Also this works better for mini-mince-pies. 

  • Finely chop the nuts but don’t blitz to a powder, you want some texture. Add to the bowl of currents and cherries with the ground almonds.

  • Add the sugar and spices, the orange and lemon zest and juices and then the grated apple.

  • Now add the suet of you are using but if you can’t get hold of suet, use frozen lard. I chopped mine up into pieces with a heavy knife then put it into my mini blender with a tsp of ground almonds to coat the lard to stop it from sticking together. Or simply grate straight into the bowl.

  • Pour in the brandy or whisky and now is the very satisfying part where you get to use your biggest spoon to mix it all up.

  • Pass around the family so that each person gets a stir and makes a wish. Or leave on the side for 24 hours so that the older chaps can make their wishes in private.

When you’re ready to put the mincemeat into jars, put 5 jars through a dishwasher cycle to sterilize. When they are completely dry, fill each with the mincemeat, top with a circle of greaseproof and screw the lids on tightly. They should keep for up to 6 months but I have used a jar after a year and it was really good.

Oh I do get excited about Christmas. A little while to go yet I suppose. And besides in the mean time there are mushrooms to get excited about. I saw so many today on a little drive we went on through the woods. I hope those little umbrellas of tastiness are still there when it stops raining… will it stop raining?

I know, I’ll go make a little wish into the Christmas mincemeat now. That should do it.

Thanks for reading.