Tuesday, 14 January 2014

how to make mincemeat

This is another experimental recipe, but oh so yummy!  While I say experimental, what I mean is that I made it last year (January) and it was eaten over Christmas, so technically that might mean it was experimental last year - but I'm sharing it now with the added bonus of knowing how it will turn out in eleven months time ... have I lost you yet?

Although it might seem like a bit of a palava, making mincemeat, it will pay off next christmas, I promise.  One of the big advantages is that you can vary your ingredients to suit your tastes - if you're a big fan of the fudge-like texture of dried pears, chop a pack of those up and add them in.  If you prefer lots of apple, put more in.  If you're not keen on prunes, leave them out.  Your mincemeat, your rules.  

Traditional recipes usually include suet, sugar and alcohol, but not this one.  Suet makes the mincemeat taste kind of greasy to me, and because of Smiler's meds alcohol is a no go area.  The fruit juice (replacing the water and brown sugar) means you can alter the flavour a little, and the pomegranate juice tastes all mulled wine-y but - as with everything else here, feel free to switch and swap things in and out.

These amounts of fruit and juice made 3kg of mincemeat - I know that sounds like a lot, but two batches of starry mince pies uses a 500g jar; mincemeat streusel uses another 500g.  A lot of the amounts of the fruits I've used are dependant on pack size, and of course fruit juice tends to come in litre cartons.  If this makes more mincemeat than you're going to use, think about whether a beautifully presented jar of homemade mincemeat would work well as a gift for a friend or family member.  If you still think it's too much, the easiest way to reduce is by half - use one carton of juice instead of two, and work it out from there - the weights don't need to be dead on, it's all pretty flexible, so just trust your instincts, and give it a go.


Ingredients :

apple juice (a litre)
pomegranate juice (a litre)

sultanas (1kg)
dried figs (500g)
dried apricots (250g)
dried prunes (250g)
apples (7 medium sized eating apples, for example golden delicious, peeled and cored)

ground cinnamon (1tbsp)
ground cloves (1tbsp)
sweet mixed spice (1tbsp)
ground ginger (1tsp)
almond extract (1tbsp)


Equipment, and other things to think about before you begin :

• sharp knife, veg peeler and chopping board (or scissors to snip up the dried fruit if you're cooking with children)
• stockpot, or ...

... a maslin pan!  This was my first time using my exceptionally posh maslin pan (a christmas gift from Mr Manley), so please excuse any gratuitously shiny photos - I can't help it!
• a wooden spoon (to stir your concoction)
• prepared glass jars (see below)
• a sterilizable wide neck funnel and scoop (to get the mincemeat in the jars)

Prepare your jars - remember it is better to leave a sterile jar empty than have too much mincemeat to fit in the jars you have ready, so always prepare one more than you think you will need.  Not that I've ever been caught short or anything.  Obviously.


Directions :

Chop up the apples and all of the dried fruit (apart from the sultanas - they're small enough as they are!)  How finely you need to chop depends on the texture you want the mincemeat to be - just use your common sense really!

If you have pint sized assistants, they can join in - dried apricots can easily be cut up into small pieces with scissors, as can figs and prunes and dates, if you want some of those in there!


Put all the fruit in the pan, pour over the fruit juice, add the spices and stir.


Over a medium heat, bring the pan to the boil; then reduce so it is simmering very gently, uncovered.

Simmer for about 90 minutes, stirring every so often to keep it all moving.


It is ready once the sultanas have plumped up and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  
If you look at it and there is still lots of liquid, or the sultanas are still a bit wrinkly, give it a good stir and continue something gently for another 20 minutes to half an hour.
Once it's ready, stir well so the consistency is even - it doesn't need to be left to stand the way jam does, so you can get on with filling your jars.


Share the mincemeat out between the warm jars, using a sterilized funnel.  To ensure each jar has it's fair share of the spiced juiciest bits, half fill all (but one of) your jars, then go back through and top them all up.
If you still have any leftover, fill your final spare jar, and pat yourself on the back for being so organised.
Screw the lids on securely, and wipe any jars that are sticky.

Once cool, check that the lids have been sucked in - you know that clicky poppy vacuum seal bit in the centre?  If you can depress it and it pops back up then that jar needs to be stored in the fridge, where it will keep for two to three months.  Others can be stored somewhere out of the way (you know the cliché - somewhere dark where they will not be exposed to extremes of hot and cold) until you need them.


Storage :  

We have a big cupboard which Mr Manley has helpfully filled with nice deep shelves - as well as all our coats / scarves /  gloves / board games (as you do) it is our long term food store, so plenty of rice / pasta / cereal as well as marmalade, jam and mincemeat.

Before any jars go in the cupboard they are checked that they are properly sealed (see clicky poppy lid explanation above!), and labeled with what they are (yep, I have accidentally opened mincemeat thinking it was chutney) and the month and year they were made.

Mincemeat, full of plump dark fruit and rich spiced juice, can be eaten as soon as it's done, but if you can leave it to mature for a while it'll be even better - the flavours combine over time and mature, so I try and make it in January for christmas time.  That also means if a jar doesn't seal properly and needs to be eaten, I can pass it off as using up the last of that year's mincemeat!

What to do with it :

Whatever you like!

Mince pies is the obvious choice - you could take a batch of these into work, or school, or to a friend's house - or just keep them in the kitchen - they'll disappear soon enough!

Mincemeat streusel is a new one for us, but very yummy.  With custard, or with cream, or evaporated milk - I think it's a winner pretty much whatever you put with it!  The recipe is on its way, so watch this space.


If you've made your own mincemeat, or even just enjoyed reading the post, I'd love you to leave a comment, and if you'd like to make sure you don't miss any more posts like this one, there's a box towards the top of the page on the right where you can enter your email address.  Fill it in, then check your email - there will be a confirmation link you need to click, and then each brand new shiny post will appear in your inbox, just like magic!


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