Mince Pies: Third, Make Your Mincemeat
This is another recipe from The British Baker and is included in the chapter entitled `Useful and General Recipes’, nestling comfortably inbetween `soda flour’ and `short paste’. And it is called Mince Meat, two very separate words to our modern one.
The other key yet subtle difference between the old style Mince Meat and the modern mincemeat is the amount of sugar, candied peel and apple. I checked BBC Good Food’s and Delia Online’s mincemeat recipes and they both contained more sugar and less apple as a percentage of the total ingredients. The British Baker recipe has a total of 16% sugar versus BBC Good Food’s 22% and 28% apple versus Delia’s 21%. The difference in the peel is more marginal with the original recipe sporting the highest amount at 14% and Delia’s recipe just 10%.
The variations between apple, sugar and home made versus shop bought mixed spice are merely a sideshow though compared to the main event: the home produced candied peel versus the shop bought. This is the defining difference. The contrast between their flavours is incomparable and the contrast in the finished product of both the raw and cooked mincemeat is similarly stark too.
Overall, the balance of ingredients gives the British Baker’s recipe the edge with a fresher and lighter flavour, enhanced by a lighter spice mix and probably a less sugary pastry too. Curiously, to me at least, the 100 year old recipe feels more contemporary than the heavier flavours of Delia and BBC Good Food’s versions.
This recipe makes approximately 6 jars of mincemeat (but for commercial batch making, the original recipe is also included) and will keep very well in the fridge for months on end.
- 450g sharp cooking apples
- 230g beef suet
- 230g currants
- 230g candied peel (200g is fine too)
- 230g sultanas
- 260g sugar (caster)
- 1/2 tsp (or a generous grating of) nutmeg
- 3 tsp of mixed spice (but use 1.5tsp if you are using shop bought).
Since the British Baker assumes its audience has no need of a method, none is included, so I’ll tell you what I do and hope that it’s near enough the original to be worthy of it. The first thing to point out is that if you are a lucky enough to be able to buy fresh shredded suet from your butcher you will be able to store your mincemeat in a cupboard, but if you use packet bought suet it must be stored in the fridge. Packet suet is dusted with flour to stop it clumping and this will cause your mincemeat to start fermenting 2 to 3 weeks after it’s made if you don’t keep it chilled.
The second assumption I have made is that the sugar is caster sugar, but you could, as I often do, use half caster and half soft brown sugar to give a better colour and slightly more treacly flavour. You can let this stand for 1 to 3 months before using and you will find the flavours meld and mellow, but equally, I think it’s great freshly made too; it’s simply a matter of personal preference versus time available. Here’s the original recipe:
- 14 lb apples (6.35kg)
- 7 lbs suet (3.2kg)
- 7 lb currants (3.2kg)
- 7 lbs peel (3.2kg)
- 7 lb sultanas (3.2kg)
- 8 lb sugar (3.6kg)
- Nutmeg and good mixed spice