Monday, 22 December 2014

Bejewelled Festive Fruity Mincemeat (includes Thermomix method)

A rich mix of colourful dried fruits, festive spices and slivered almonds, fragrant with orange and spiked with brandy


For the uninitiated who may be daunted by the idea of eating sweet meat pies, worry not - mincemeat generally stopped containing actual meat about halfway through the last century, although from the 15th century onwards, it was exactly what it said on the tin! Now it's usually a heady mix of dried fruit, spices, distilled spirit, and frequently suet (which is often vegetarian now too), and sometimes mixed peel and nuts.


The great thing about mincemeat, is that it keeps really well, frequently for a year, and sometimes another year after that (some people revive it with another glug of brandy stirred in, or whatever spirit is to hand). It's most commonly used to make 'mince pies', and can also be used inside festive 'strudel' type pastries. My preference is to make it into mincemeat stars (inspired by the Finnish festive star-shaped pastries, Joulutorttu, which are filled with plum or apricot jam and look so pretty) which I started making many years ago and have now become something of a family tradition. If you can make this a couple of weeks ahead of using it, the flavours will develop really nicely, but if (like me) you frequently end up fire-fighting everything you need to do in the week (or couple of days!) before Christmas, then don't worry - I've made it and used it on the same day, and it still tastes fantastic! This quantity will fill two large 800g jars (or an equivalent volume of smaller jars) with a tbsp or two left over.

Make sure you sterilise your jars first, and that all of the equipment you use is scrupulously clean. You can switch and swap the dried fruits according to your own preferences or what you have to hand, of course, and leave out nuts if you prefer - just remember to chop up larger dried fruits.

Ingredients
200g glace cherries
200g raisins
300g sultanas
150g dried cranberries (craisins)
200g slivered (flaked) almonds
300g shredded suet (suet contains gluten, use frozen then coarsely grated butter if preferred, or grated lard if you want it dairy free too - vegetable suet is available for vegetarians / vegans)
250g dark brown / muscovado sugar
100g mixed chopped (candied) citrus peel
Zest of two oranges, and juice of one
2 tsp cinammon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
Good grating of nutmeg
2 Bramley (cooking) apples (400-450g after peeling and coring)
100ml brandy

Method
(See below for Thermomix method in italics)
Sterilise your jars in readiness (you will need enough jars to take 1,600-1,700ml mincemeat by volume).

Roughly chop the glace cherries (I like to chop them into roughly eighths), and add to a large bowl with all of the other ingredients (finely grate the orange zest) except the apples and the brandy and give a quick stir. Peel the apples, grate coarsley and stir in thoroughly. Once everything is evenly combined, add the brandy and stir in thoroughly. 

At this point, if you like, you can put a tablespoon of the mincemeat into a small microwaveable bowl and microwave for a few seconds until cooked through and bubbling slightly. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then taste that you're happy with the spice levels, and you can then adjust them if you want to (remember the flavours will develop further in the jars).

Mincemeat Stars - see next blog!
Once you're happy then pack into the sterilised jars. Push the mix down with a spoon as you go, to squash out any air bubbles. If possible, leave for two weeks before using. Should last for at least 6 months, and lasts for a good year in my house (so I have enough for next year too)!





Thermomix Method
Weigh the 250g sugar into the bowl and peel the zest from the oranges (avoiding as much of the white pith) as possible) and add to it. Blitz 20 seconds / Speed 10 to grate the zest. If you want to chop the glace cherries in the Thermomix, add and chop for 2 seconds / Speed 3 (the stickiness of your cherries, and the amount of syrup that goes in with them will affect how they chop - my preference is to chop them by hand roughly, into about eighths, for consistency).

Tip into a large bowl, then peel the apples, chop into quarters and cut out the core, and cut each quarter in half (or cut down each side of the core, and cut into large chunks). Add the apple to the bowl, and 'grate' 2 seconds / Speed 6. Add the orange juice, brandy and spices to the large bowl, and mix thoroughly.



I then balance a small bowl on top of the Thermomix, and set the scales to zero each time, and weigh out the dried fruit, nuts and suet one by one and add to the mix. Give a good stir, add the 100ml brandy and stir again to combine everything thoroughly.

At this point, if you like, you can put a tablespoon of the mincemeat into a small microwaveable bowl and microwave for a few seconds until cooked through and bubbling slightly. Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then taste that you're happy with the spice levels, and you can then adjust them if you want to (remember the flavours will develop further in the jars).

Once you're happy then pack into the sterilised jars (if the necks of your jars are wide enough, you can use the Thermomix lid on top as a 'funnel' to help you. Push the mix down with a spoon as you go, to squash out any air bubbles. If possible, leave for two weeks before using. Should last for at least 6 months, and lasts for a good year in my house (so I have enough for next year too)!


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