04 October 2011

It's time to make the fruit mince

One of my very favourite things about Christmas is mince pies. I try to restrain myself until the first of December before I start devouring them but it's getting harder and harder the older I get! I'd have thought a little more self-restraint would be a benefit of ageing, but apparently not when it comes to mince pies. At least in my case. Oh well, maybe I'll last until the 30th November before I start!

When I was a child bride, not so very long ago in the grand scheme of things, I would start buying Robertson's Fruit Mince as soon as it hit the supermarket shelves. Then I'd pick up a packet or two of short crust pastry and go home and make mince pies "from scratch". I was so proud of my efforts.....

When Disaster Struck, buying jars of fruit mince and packets of pastry was beyond my tiny grocery budget. I plucked up the courage to ring my Mum and ask her how to make fruit mince (pastry was still beyond my basic cooking skills). I thought she'd laugh at me, she knows me so well, and I was hoping she'd send me a jar or two when she stopped laughing.

Instead an envelope appeared in the letterbox with her fruit mince recipe and instructions for making it, with the comment "nice try" at the bottom. She really does know me well.

Turns out fruit mince is easy to make. Really easy. And MOO fruit mince is so much nicer than even my favourite Robertson's in a jar.

The secret to a good fruit mince is time. It needs time for the flavours to meld and blend. Oh, and suet. Real suet is hard to get but if you have a real butcher you should be able to order it.

I ordered mine a couple of weeks ago and was told that I'd have to buy a kilo block as that's how it comes now. That's OK, suet freezes really well and if I have it on hand I'll have no excuses to not make Yorkshire puds and suet puddings. It won't go to waste anyway. If you can't get real suet you can use the packaged stuff available at the supermarket. It should be appearing on the shelves about now. Just be aware that the packaged suet is mixed with flour so your fruit mince will thicken just a little and not be quite as bright and shiny as if you use fresh suet. As far as I'm concerned once it's in the pies I can't see it so shiny doesn't matter, as long as it tastes as good I'm happy. I've used packaged suet and yes, it still tastes great.

Mum's recipe combined the fruit and brandy and had to steep in a dark cupboard for 6 weeks before using. I've adapted it over the years so that it's cooked in the slow cooker and can be used almost straight away. I've also swapped the sultanas and raisins in her recipe for the same amount mixed fruit.

Slow cooker Fruit Mince
Ingredients:
500g apples, cored and cut into small dice (no need to peel)
250g shredded suet
1kg mixed fruit
250g glace peel, finely chopped
350g dark brown sugar
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
50g slivered almonds
4 tsp mixed ground spice
½ tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
150ml brandy

Method:
Combine everything except the brandy in a 6 litre slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 - 10 hours until fruit is very soft. Don't worry if the mixture seems to be very runny and swimming in fat - it should look like that. It's the suet. Sit the crock of mincemeat on the sink with a tea towel over it to cool completely. As the fruit mince cools the suet will coat the fruit and it will thicken. Pour in the brandy and stir. Spoon the mincemeat into hot sterilised jars and seal. As the mincemeat cools it will form a layer of fat on top - this is fine, it is supposed to do this. The fat will help to preserve the mincemeat. Mincemeat prepared this way will keep in a cool, dark cupboard indefinitely but I guarantee you won't need to worry about keeping it that long.

This is the fruit mince I use in mince pies and tarts and it can be used straight away, but it does get better with age. If you can wait about six weeks before you use it, you'll be thrilled with the results. The fruit mince will be rich and flavourful and oh so much nicer than anything you can buy.

I use Easy Pastry to make the cases with one addition: I add one teaspoon of sugar to the mixture to sweeten it just a tiny bit.

Talking of pastry cases Thomas made us dessert on Sunday night and it was just lovely. He used a roll of biscuit dough from the freezer to make individual cups and then filled them with ice cream and topping. So cute, so easy and really yummy.

All he did was roll the biscuit dough out, then he used an egg ring to cut circles from it. He tipped a muffin tip upside down and sprayed it with cooking spray. Then he pressed the biscuit dough over the top of each muffin pan to make little baskets and baked them in a 180 degree oven for 10 minutes. He tells me the trick to a crisp biscuit basket is to lift them off as soon as they come out of the oven, then put them back over the muffin pans to cool completely. Lifting them off while they are warm will stop them from sticking when they cool.

I think you could use any type of biscuit dough, Thomas used a roll of plain dough so the baskets were like a shortbread. But think how good choc chip would be, or ginger or even M & M!

5 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your mother's recipe and for your cleverness in adapting it! It's inspired me to have a go at making it too. Vicki

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  2. Hi Cath, is the mince meant to be cold before putting in the jars or just cooled and then allow to get cold in the jars. Thanks
    Helen

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    Replies
    1. Helen you want to put the fruit mince into the jars while it is hot - the jars need to be hot too or they may break. Then put the lids on them and as the contents cool it will form a vacuum and seal the jars so they are air-tight.

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  3. Thanks Cath. I had tried this recipe previously but it burnt after a few hours but I thought it was because I was short of apples. This time I followed the recipe precisely and it was beginning to stick after 4 hours and it was probably over-cooked as it was very thick. Obviously you have to take into account your cooker!

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    Replies
    1. Oh Helen I'm sorry it burnt! I've never had that problem. I know that modern slow cookers cook much faster and much hotter than the old fashioned original burn orange Crock Pots and mine is old - it was an engagement present! I'm glad you persevered though, it is so much nicer than the bought stuff in the jar - I could eat it by the spoonful :

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