Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mincemeat in abundance

(deze keer alleen in het engels)
It's always a race in the last two months of the year here in Holland. We have to deal with St. Maarten and an overload of candy and sweets on the 11th of november and the next saturday Sinterklaas arrives in our country and create a lot of kiddy stress until the 6th of december. Sinterklaas first and and then Christmas, which has to wait until after the 6th. There are banners in the street in some towns, that say "No christmas until after 6 december", I believe there is even a special committee for it.... ah well we're dutch, we seems to have committees for just about everything.
Most years you just want to take a breather after all this wrapping, making poems, baking 'pepernoten' and 'speculaas' and dealing with the kids stress and hyperactivity from half november till the bearded man has finally left.... but then you have to run to the attic to get the Christmas boxes out, get yourself a christmas tree as soon as possible, or you won't have long to enjoy it. Sometimes it feels you're doing nothing much than decorating and getting it down again. Both festivities are fun, don't get me wrong, but they should be a little further apart. And although I was complaining about the loss of magic at Sinterklaas recently, I'm beginning to see the advances as well. As said it was still fun, but the best part was the lack of kids stress and hyperactivity, which could be quite severe sometimes. So I was able to start some early Christmas preperations even before the 6th.... but in secret, 'cause you never know when the Sinterklaas-police will peek through the window to see if you're Christmassing too early.

I used shop-bought mincemeat last years to make some mincemeat pies and Mincemeat tea loaf. I had a very hard time getting hold of the mince meat here in the Netherlands and only was able last year to buy one basic kind if mincemeat.

This year I wanted to make my own. I didn't want to use beef suet, but you can of course (order from your butcher). I saw options using grated cream coconut (sounds good to me too), butter (not practical here because of milkallergy, but good otherwise) and of course there is vegetable suet. Hard to come by here in the Netherlands, so I had it flown in from England... wow that sounds quite decadent doesn't it.

There are a lot of different kinds of mincemeat recipes around, I'll just stick to some without real meat in them. And I found there were two basic groups. Those that just chop, mix and stick in a jar and those that chop, mix, cook and stick in a jar. I thought that would be a nice thing to investigate. So I printed out a lot of recipes, tried out a selection and tell you about what I found.

First the 'uncooked' varieties.

1. Stirrin' stuff mincemeat from organicfoodee. This just really looked so good, I love how the colors all showed individually. And the dots of red from the cherries and cranberries. Very fresh too with the citrus juice and zest (lemon, orange and lime). Easy to make, just chop and stir together. I liked this one a lot, my personal favorite, 9 out of 10.

2. Betty's Traditional mincemeat.
A little less spice used here, but still lovely. I used calvados instead of sherry and chopped dried apple instead of the crystalised ginger (to please others in the family). Also less suet/fat used, only 30 g in a large jar. No candied peel, which is not everybody's favorite, but of course you can tweek these recipes to your own liking. I gave this one 8 out of 10.

3. Homemade Christmas mincemeat from "Delia Smith's Christmas".
This is largely a mix of dried 'vine'-fruits like currants, sultana's, raisins and a lot of mixed candied peel. You mix all the ingredients together, let it stand overnight and than cook it in the oven for 3 hours, the suet (or butter if used) melts, you just stir it in, so it's all through the mincemeat instead of in little shreds. When it's cold you stir in some brandy and just fill them in sterilised bars. According to Delia it keeps (cool and dark storage) for ages. I stirred the brandy in while still hot and immediately closed the lids, this way you close the jars airtight by placing them upside down for 5-10 minutes and you can store them safely outside the fridge. I would five this one 7 out of 10.

4. And finally a Slow cooker recipe. The advantage is that you can store this one outside the fridge too and keep for next year(s), which is handy for people like me with quite a small fridge. This one uses more apples and pears, which gives a fresh taste. Its looks were a bit less atrractive, because it's more like mud with lumps. Not tastewise though!! 8 out of 10.

New-Fashioned Apple and Pear Mincemeat
(slow cooker method)
(about 1 quart)
(PRINT recipe)
2 small cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 small pears, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup (240 ml) apple juice (or pear juice)
2 ounces (60 g) dried apples, chopped
1/2 cup (75 g) golden raisins
1/2 cup (75 g) dried currants
1/4 + 1/8 cup (53 g) dark raisins
1/4 + 1/8 cup (53 g) cranberries
1/4 + 1/8 cup (53 g) chopped dried apricots
1/4 + 1/8 cup (53 g) finely chopped candied orange peel
1/2 cup (100 g) packed dark brown sugar
1/8 cup (2 TBsp) calvados
1/8 cup (2 TBsp) brandy or rum
1/8 cup (2 TBsp) rice vinegar
1/4 cup (57 g) unsalted butter (or vegetable suet)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cloves
a mini-pinch of salt
1/2 orange (grated zest and chopped flesh)
2 TBsp brandy to top up the jars

Place everything -except the brandy- in the slow cooker, stir it together, cover and cook the mincemeat on 'high' for 1,5 hours.
Remove the lid and continue to cook on 'high' for 3 hours. Stir a few times during this cooking time.
Spoon the hot mixture in sterilised jars, top with a little brandy and screw the lids on tightly. Turn the jars upside down for 5-10 minutes, then put them back on their feet. This way the jars will be airtight and can be kept (also outside the fridge) for a few years.

I loved the fact that so much apple and pear was added, that made it moist and fresh. On the other hand it was more a kind of spicy apple pie filling than the others mentioned here.

(Adapted from "Not my mother's slow cooker cookbook"- Beth Hensperger)
  • Cooked mincemeat has the advantage of good storage for more years, because it's placed hot in the jars it can be sealed airtight which is really handy when you want to make a lot, also for next year or when you have a small fridge.
  • I don't think cooking mincemeat is really necessary, because most of the time you'll use the mincemeat in something that is cooked or baked again, like mince pies, cake or cookies. So the flavors still infuse and the fats (suet, butter or coconutcream) will still melt through the rest of the ingredients.
  • Uncooked (though cooked later in baking) give you the opportunity to taste a little more the different flavors I think, it's not all blended to 1 taste.
  • Uncooked is ready quicker of course and looks better. If you give jars with mincemeat as a present, which would be a real nice gift, it looks better uncooked. Try to use some fruits with vibrant colors (red cherries, green kiwi's, pistachio nuts) that does make it look like a really festive gift.
  • Uncooked should be stored in the fridge, and can be made weeks in advance this way to amalgamate the flavors.
  • The best part of mincemeat that you can use whatever fruits you like; you can make a tropical mincemeat with pineapple, mango, papaya and kiwi (and use creamed coconut instead of suet). Or a berry-variety with blue berries, cherries, dark raisins and cranberries. Or make an light coloured one by using mango, apricots, yellow raisins, pineapple and apple. So substitute freely whatever dried fruits you have or like. Though personally I think raisins (or sultana's), dark or yellow should be included.
  • Though my personal choice would be uncooked mincemeat next time (for color and taste), all tasted spicy and fresh and there wasn't one that I disliked.
Recipes with mincemeat:
- Mincemeat pies (only in dutch)
- Tea loaf with mincemeat

- Mincemeat cookies
- Yule Wreath with mincemeat filling
- Mincemeat and apple jalousie
(I'll update this because more mincemeat recipes will arrive soon)


natalia said...

Ciao You really worked hard on it ! the only one I made was an uncooked one (you saw it on my blog) and I was suspicious but it turned out very good ! And the chocolate cake too !!

Lien said...

Yes I saw it, they were great! I think the uncooked mincemeat is the best, and I've heard in the meantime that you can also keep it for some years (in the fridge).