This mincemeat is naturally sweetened, vegetarian and quick to make. The result is a deliciously spiced fruit that’s perfect for mince pies and other treats.
I always find it fascinating both how foods can vary in different places around the world. Particularly in Europe, where nowhere is that far apart, foods are surprisingly diverse. True, they can have similar themes – panettone and stollen are both fruit-filled Christmas breads but still quite different.
To me the dishes for festivals and holidays are often both some of the most traditional and creative. Of course, there are often many variations, but usually at least a few things that make the dish what it is. At this time of year, one of the traditional treats from my part of the world is mincemeat. I have many memories of making it as a child with my mum, and it still holds a place in my heart.
Does mincemeat have meat in it?
To a foreigner, I can understand the name is a bit confusing. Mincemeat contains no meat nor is it ‘minced’. Instead it is a sweet fruit mixture. However you barely need to know much about British cooking to know it has many confusing names.
Yorkshire pudding is savory. Spotted dick is indeed spotted but good luck guessing what it is otherwise. Toad in the hole is most definitely not made with toads. Ok when you see it, you can understand the logic a little, but it is a bit of a stretch. Cottage pie, shepherd’s pie, bubble and squeak…you get the idea.
Maybe that is part of why British food hasn’t exported particularly well but to me it is part of the fun. Most have some logic to the name, even if it might not make as much sense these days.
Mincemeat is another where there is a bit of background to the name that has some sense to it – there was at one point some meat of some description (I found a bit of a mincemeat history for anyone interested). These days, however, the closest thing to meat is suet in some versions.
What is in mincemeat?
Mincemeat is basically a mix of:
- raisins (and often golden raisins/sultanas and currants);
- brandy or another spirit;
- citrus juice;
- some kind of fat.
There can be other fruits in there too, most commonly candied citrus peel, and in many cases sugar. Whatever you use, all you do is put everything in a pan and cook it down.
Slight variations in ingredients
As I said many recipes contain suet, but you can easily replace this with butter. I also prefer to reduce the fat content compared to some traditional recipes.
Rather than use sugar, as in many recipes, I have tried to keep the sweetness down by relying on the fruit but I feel it’s still sweet enough.
I decided to add a little of my new home in the form of cranberries. To me, they are just plain tasty and fit in almost anything this time of year. You can also get cranberries that are sweetened with apple juice rather than sugar if you want to keep to being fully naturally sweetened.
I used apricots both for their flavor as well as their natural sweetness as opposed to the more traditional candied peel.
It is usually best to make it a day or so in advance of when you are using it in pies or whatever else, just to allow it to mature a little. The picture below is after five days and you can see that there is a bit of a change in color that is part of the maturing. I appreciate it may be hard to wait when you smell it cooking, but do try, and then have fun cooking with mincemeat (and licking the bowl clean).
Mincemeat is the key ingredient for mince pies but you can also use it in other baking, like my mini mincemeat tarts. It’s very easy to make and this version is lighter than many you may have tried. It still has a lovely spice to it and is sweet despite there being no sugar. To me, it’s a delicious taste of the festive season, however you use it.
Mincemeat (for mince pies and other treats)
- 1 1/2 apples or 2 small, approx 200g peeled and cored weight
- 2 oz dried apricots a little under 1/3 cup/55g
- 4 oz raisins 2/3 cup/110g
- 2 oz dried cranberries 1/2cup/55g
- 1 orange juice and zest
- 3 tbsp brandy
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- Peel and core the apples. Dice the apples and cut apricots small to roughly the size of the raisins.
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan over a medium heat.
- Bring to boil and boil for 15mins with lid on, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat, allow to cool and store in a jar or airtight container until ready to use. You can use it immediately but is better left to mature a few days. It keeps for a good few weeks if canned properly.
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