How flipping lovely is Christmas baking? I’m never happier than when I’m in my kitchen, surrounded by twinkly lights, my new kitchen Christmas tree, and the delicious scent of Christmassy cinnamon wafting from the oven. I make so many mince pies over Christmas (Mr E is a big fan) that I tend to buy an absolute ton of mincemeat. However, it’s really lovely – and easy – to make your own. Homemade mincemeat makes great presents for friends and family and you’ll be surprised how delicious it tastes compared to the stuff from a jar (which I always zhuzh up with a load of booze and extra cranberries anyway).
As usual with this sort of cooking, as long as you stick roughly to the quantities, you can mix and match a little bit. This recipe has been adapted so much over the years, I’m not exactly sure where it came from. I have scribbled variations in different notebooks and folders, but I do remember that one of the originals called for candied peel, which I detest, so I swapped it for soft dried apricots. If you can’t be bothered with squeezing oranges, just use 200ml of orange juice from a carton, then the zest of an orange, or clementine, or whatever you’ve got. Oh, and while you’re preparing the apples, pop them in salted water, it will stop them browning.
You will need:
200g dark brown (Muscovado) sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
3 or 4 oranges, juiced (you need about 200ml juice)
2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
A good grating of nutmeg
150ml booze – I use sloe gin, but brandy or sherry is good too
250g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped
100g soft dried apricots, chopped
200g whole dried cranberries
100g vegetable suet
Firstly, gather all your ingredients together. It’s easiest to have everything weighed out before you start. Warm the sugar, orange juice and zest, the spices and the booze in a pan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves (this smells amazing).
Meanwhile, peel, core and chop the apples into small dice, and chop the apricots too.
Add into the pan with the dried fruit. Bring to the boil (watch the liquid where it’s pooled between the fruit – it will start to bubble), then turn down and simmer until the apple is cooked.
After about ten minutes, check a piece of apple by cutting into it. If it’s soft, then turn off the heat, otherwise leave a tiny bit longer.
Allow the mincemeat to cool before finally stirring through the vegetable suet.
Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jars – I like Ball preserving jars (buy them in Lakeland) as they’re really good quality and the lids ensure a good fit. Click here for tips on sterilising jam jars from my lovely friend Tracey, click here.