Christmas can be a really busy time, and I’m always grateful for any ideas that help me get everything done without too many late nights or tantrums. So while in a perfect world, we might all be stirring our mincemeat together during November, the truth is we sometimes put things off until the last minute. So here’s a recipe for a really delicious mincemeat that doesn’t have to be made weeks in advance… you can even keep the ingredients in the store cupboard as an insurance policy against the mince pies all running out on Christmas Eve.
Mincemeat is a peculiarly English invention. In the Middle Ages, our ancestors didn’t have our inhibitions about mixing meat, dried fruit and spices together, and the use of expensive imported ingredients meant you could demonstrate your wealth (and not as is sometimes suggested, cover up the flavour of rotting meat!). Then, as merchants travelled farther afield, they discovered new and exotic ingredients such as sugar, aromatic spices and citrus fruit. As sugar became cheaper, mincemeat became less a savoury dinner course, and more a sweet end to the meal, and by the 1840s, Eliza Acton is writing a mincemeat recipe where the only meat is beef suet.
So it’s this combination of exotic flavours from far away places that gives us the traditional mincemeat we know and love so well, transporting me instantly back to a cold winters’ day, listening to familiar tunes on the radio and stirring jewel-like fresh cranberries and rum into this easy, instant mincemeat recipe. True to British tradition, this recipe captures the sunshine of all the wonderful places in the world that we have explored, celebrating with candied orange peel and chestnut flour from Italy and exotic vanilla, as well as nutmeg and rum. I especially encourage people to consider the farmers and producers of ingredients we take for granted while they are feeling festive at this time of year, and to look for spices, dried fruit and sugar in their supermarkets that is Fairtrade certified.
Makes two 440g jars
Place the sugar and rum into a large pan and warm gently without boiling. Add the fresh cranberries and cook gently for about 3 minutes. Stir well. The cranberries will split. Add the cherries, currants, raisins, candied orange peel, ginger, spices, and vanilla and stir well. Cover and simmer very gently for about 15 minutes, stirring and checking occasionally.
Spoon the mixture into clean sterilised jars and store in the fridge. The recipe can be made up to three weeks in advance, or on the day you need to use it.
Recipe by Vanessa Kimbell.