It's been a busy morning. Just 10 o'clock and I've put crepe batter in the fridge for tonight's potluck (I'm taking smoked salmon-ricotta-mascarpone crepes), put a batch of yoghurt in the incubator, and clarified butter in which to cook my crepes. But this is a post about mincemeat.
You've already heard more than you'd probably care to about candied peel and I've most likely spent too much time and energy on procuring/producing a minor ingredient, but I did use it. And it was very satisfying. The other ingredient I had rather a hard time finding was suet. I've been driving past a farm advertising grass fed beef for months now and have been curious to buy some meat from them. I also thought they might sell me some grass fed suet. The sign says, 'Tues.-Thurs. 4-6 Sat. 10-12,' so I went out on a Wednesday at 5 only to find the gate closed and no sign of grass-fed-beef-selling activity. A little disappointed, I returned to town. I thought the meat department at the co-op would be of some help, might even have some suet, but I was wrong on both counts. I went up to the meat window and told the man on the other side that I was looking for suet and wondered if he might have some. 'Don't have any--can't help ya,' he said almost before I had finished my sentence. Tapping reserves of courage I asked a second question. Did he happen to know anyone who did have any? 'Nope--can't help ya,' he said, trodding on several of my words. Oki-doke. I guess I wasn't getting the suet there. Instead of driving from pillar to post--the other two supermarkets here are on opposite sides of town--I came home, vented my frustration with the rude and entirely unhelpful (if perfectly honest) meat man, and made a phone call. The first supermarket I called had suet. 'Yup,' said the said the meat man, 'we've got it. Fresh beef suet.' I asked him if it was the real deal--you can't be too careful with suet, they'll try to sell you anything--and he assured me that yes, it was. I'm still not sure whether it was or not, but I was just happy to have found suet and not to be snarled at but a meat department employee. The remainder of the ingredients--raisins, golden raisins, currants, apple, almonds, lemon juice, orange zest, lemon zest, brown sugar, brandy, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger--were easy to come by. The bulk department stopped carrying mace and I wasn't about to buy an entire jar for only a pinch. I left it out with little regret and no damage to the mincemeat.
The November 2008 issue of Saveur has a nice article on mince pies and two recipes for mincemeat. One is the traditional mincemeat containing meat as well as suet; the other is the modern version without meat. I mostly followed the modern mincemeat recipe and also consulted The Farmhouse Cookery. I found it strange, though, that they made large pies with mincemeat. I've only ever seen small mince pies, about 3 inches in diameter, and those are what I intend to make.
makes 1 quart (and a bit)
- 2/3 cup raisins
- 2/3 cup golden raisins
- 2/3 cup currants
- 1 apple, cored and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup almonds, blanched and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup mixed candied peel, finely chopped
- 10 dried Conadria figs, chopped
- 1/4 cup beef suet, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 tsp orange zest
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- a pinch each of mace and ginger
- 4 Tbs brandy, whiskey, or rum
- Roughly chop the raisins, golden raisins, and currants and mix together. Add the rest of the chopped (and finely chopped) ingredients, sugar, spices, and liquids and mix together. Put in jars and store in the fridge. It is best to let it sit for a few days before using
I have a thing for dried figs so I chopped up ten Conadria figs and added them to the mix. The recipe in Saveur calls for a Granny Smith apple. I thought that was a bit boring and I live a few miles from an heirloom apple farm so I used a Calville Blanc D'hiver. Saveur calls for 3 Tbs. cognac and 1-1/2 Tbs. dark rum. The Farmhouse Cookery gives you a choice of 4 Tbs. brandy, whisky or rum. Use what you have or buy what you like.
Don't be lazy with your chopping. Where it says 'finely chopped,' make an effort to chop finely. Your mincemeat will be better for it. Saveur doesn't specify chopping the raisins or currants, but The Farmhouse does. It seemed to me that the juices might flow more and flavors mingle better if all the ingredients were chopped. In The Farmhouse there is a picture of all the dried fruit and apple and everything being passed through a foodmill.
So once everything is chopped and mixed together add the liquids and spices and zest and sugar. Mix again well and put in jars. Saveur says to refrigerate for 2 days to 2 weeks.The Farmhouse is a little different. It says to 'cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave for 2-3 days. Stir the mixture well two or three times a day. Then add the spirit. Pot and seal as jam.' I followed the procedure from Saveur.
I've already done a trial run of mince pies and they were spectacular. More on that later.