Homemade Christmas mincemeat

Here at Cosy Home, we’re busy getting ready for Christmas by making a batch of our favourite festive mincemeat. Now’s the time, as it needs to be made a few days in advance to let the flavours develop. Even if you don’t trust your cooking skills enough to make your own Christmas pudding or cake, we promise you’ll be able to make this mincemeat recipe, and you’ll be able to make the most fantastic mince pies. It’s also a brilliant way of using up any leftover autumn apples. The recipe makes about 2.5 kgs, which is plenty for several batches of pies and a bit leftover for using in other recipes.

Here’s what you need:

  • 450g cooking apples, such as Bramley, peeled, cored and roughly chopped. Alternatively, use a sharp-flavoured eating apple and grate it rather than cutting into chunks.
  • 200g vegetarian suet
  • 800g mixed dried fruit (see below)
  • 200g candied peel
  • 325g sugar
  • 1 good tablespoon treacle
  • zest and juice of two lemons
  • 2 rounded teaspoons of ground mixed spice
  • 1 level teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 level teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons of alcohol, such as brandy, port or Cointreau (optional)

You’ll also need a large mixing bowl, an ovenproof dish and five or six jars with close-fitting lids.

Put everything except the alcohol into the mixing bowl, and give it a really good stir round, then cover the bowl with aluminium foil or a clean tea towel, and leave it in a cool place overnight to bring the flavours out.

The following day, spoon the mincemeat into an overproof dish – something like a lasagne dish works well. Pack it down firmly with the back of a spoon and cover the dish with foil.

Pack the mincemeat firmly into an ovenproof dish.

Preheat the oven to about 100 degrees Celsius, and put the dish in for two to three hours. (If you leave the house at this point, when you come back you’ll return to a smell that’s like distilled Christmas.)

When you take the dish out of the oven, it’ll look like there’s a lot of fat on the surface. Don’t worry! This is what stops the mincemeat tasting dry. Just leave the dish to cool completely – as it cools, the fat will solidify and coat the other ingredients.

Don’t worry if the hot suet sits on the surface.

Meanwhile, sterilise the jars and lids by putting them in a large saucepan full of hot water, and bringing them to the boil. Lift the pan off the heat and very carefully drain off the water, before taking the jars and lids out and drying them on kitchen paper.

Add the alcohol to the mincemeat, if using, then give it another really good stir to break up any pockets of suet. Spoon it into the clean jars, and leave it until you’re ready to use it. If you don’t use it, it will last quite happily unopened until next year.

Use the finished mincemeat not only to make mince pies, but also to add to apples to spark up a crumble or pie. Adding a good dollop to a sponge cake batter will result in a cake that’s slightly heavier in texture, but full of Christmas flavour. Alternatively, tie a jar of mincemeat with a festive ribbon and a gift tag for a homemade Christmas present.

Notes on ingredients

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s almost impossible to get it wrong, so you can play and adapt it to your personal taste. The traditional mixture of dried fruit is raisins, sultanas and currants, but we’ve also successfully thrown in a few cranberries, chopped dates and figs and even apricots, cut into tiny pieces. Adding nuts is also nice as long as none of your friends are allergic; chopped almonds are most common but chopped hazelnuts also work well. Avoid using ground nuts, though, as it gives the mixture a grainy texture.

Merry Christmas from Cosy Home x

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