How to make mincemeat
1. Start the night before so all the flavours will be given a chance to develop. To make 6 lb (2.75 kg) mincemeat, grate the zest of 2 lemons and 2 oranges, then squeeze the juice from the fruit. Core and chop 8 oz (225 g) unpeeled Bramley apples into small pieces.
2. Cut 8 oz (225 g) candied peel into pieces. Whole candied peel has 100 per cent better flavour than the ready chopped, so it is worth the extra bother. If it's new season, you'll be able to snip it into pieces very quickly with a pair of sharp kitchen scissors.
3. You'll need 1 lb (450 g) fresh cranberries, which will add a sharp acidity to balance the sweetness of the sugar and dried fruits. Cut 2 oz (50 g) whole almonds into narrow slivers with a sharp knife. These can be bought ready blanched or you can use unblanched ones.
4. Put all these ingredients into a large mixing bowl, along with 12 oz (350 g) raisins, 8 oz (225 g) sultanas, 8 oz (225 g) currants, 12 oz (350 g) soft dark brown sugar, 4 level teaspoons ground mixed spice, ½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon and some freshly grated nutmeg. Use only fresh, new-season vine fruits – last year's will not be as plump and juicy. Add 8 oz (225 g) shredded suet – ready-prepared shredded beef suet is perfect for mincemeat, but if you're vegetarian, you can buy vegetarian suet and this will be fine to use too. Stir and mix these together very thoroughly indeed then cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave the mixture in a cool place overnight or for 12 hours, so that the flavours have a chance to mingle and develop.
5. After that pre-heat the oven to gas mark ¼, 225°F (120°C), then cover the bowl loosely with foil and place in the oven for 3 hours. (No gas mark ¼? Click here.) Fermentation used to be a problem with mincemeat because sometimes the apples gave off too much juice, which would then ferment and bubble over during storage. In this method the suet is rendered down to a liquid fat, which then coats all the fruits, including the apples and cranberries, and seals in the juices. This way, you'll never have any problems with storage. When you remove the mincemeat from the oven, it will appear to be swimming in fat. Then as it cools the fat will coagulate and give the mincemeat a dull appearance. This is how it should be and in no way affects the superb flavour.
6. As the mincemeat cools, stir it from time to time; the fat will coagulate. To prepare the jars for the mincemeat, wash them in mild, soapy water, rinse and dry them thoroughly, then place them on a tray in an oven pre-heated to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C). Leave them there for 5 minutes, by which time they will be sterilised.
7. When the mincemeat is quite cold, stir in 6 tablespoons brandy. Pack into the clean, dry jars, cover with wax discs and seal. Don't forget to put the labels on when the mincemeat is cold or they'll simply peel off. It will keep in a cool, dark cupboard indefinitely, but I think it is best eaten within a year of making.
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