It’s Christmas time! Ok, not yet, thankfully; but it’s sort of getting there I guess… Anyway, although the festive season is not upon us just yet, it is, in fact, time to make some good-old traditional mincemeat (actually it’s a bit late but whatever). You may be asking what the hell mincemeat is anyway, mainly because unless you’re from the UK and grew up with it every Christmas it probably sounds a bit confusing. Check out our other festive offerings here.
Mincemeat doesn’t actually contain meat anymore (thankfully) but used to which explains the name. It was initially used as a process for preserving meat, usually mutton, for long periods of time, and included spices brought back by soldiers returning from the crusades. Nowadays what we call traditional mincemeat just has suet instead of the meat, although this isn’t vegetarian either.
If you haven’t heard of suet, which is highly likely if you’re not from the UK, it’s the kidney fat from cows which has been rendered out to remove any impurities (vegetable-based suet is also available). Suet has two characteristics that make it perfect for a variety of cooking and baking needs; it only melts at a relatively high temperature, and it has minimal flavour, so you don’t need to worry about your traditional mincemeat tasting of beef. Because suet on melts at the very end of cooking, it’s an essential ingredient in many classic British desserts, most notably suet pudding (surprise surprise).
Over time, as the meat was removed and replaced with fat, what we now think of as traditional mincemeat has become more and more about the fruit, alcohol and spices. The mix is a uniquely Christmas-y flavour to the British and is found everywhere in some form or another over the period. I guess it seems appropriate that the Crusaders used the spices they discovered on their voyages to celebrate Christmas when they returned.
Whatever the origins and history of traditional mincemeat like this, the flavour is undeniably tasty and can be used for all sorts of things. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some recipes using mincemeat, so get some in the cupboard now! I mentioned earlier that I should have posted this earlier. That’s because your mincemeat is best left to settle for a few months before using, although it isn’t essential.
If you can’t buy suet, like you can’t here in Singapore, you can make it yourself or replace it with some other kind of high melting point fat. If you want to make some yourself, you need to get hold of some suet/kidney/leaf fat from a butcher and render it out. I used this excellent guide. If you’re lucky, the butcher might even give you some for free (probably not in Singapore though)!
Traditional mincemeat is an essential component to any British Christmas. Make mince pies, tarts and ice cream with it. Really easy to prepare, just make it in advance and leave it in a cool dry place to mature for as long as possible. Keeps for around a year in sterilised jars.
- 150 g raisins
- 150 g sultanas
- 150 g currants
- 75 mL brandy
- 75 mL dark rum
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 150 g brown sugar
- 150 g suet normal or vegetable
- 75 g mixed citrus peel
- 1/2 tsp mace
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 150 g grated apple preferably bramley
Mix all of the ingredients in the order written above, stirring well to combine at each step. After the addition of the brandy, rum and lemon juice, leave to sit for about an hour so the fruit can absorb some of the liquid.
Pack into sterilised jars. Jars can be sterilised by running through the dishwasher on the hottest setting. Alternatively, leave in an oven at 120oC for at least 20 minutes. They can then be left inside until needed.
Once the mincemeat has been sealed in the jars, you can leave them in a cool, dry place until needed. It will keep for around a year and is best eaten after at least a month.