Mincemeat is not popular anymore, even if it ever was. If you look in the supermarket, you’re lucky to find a dusty bottle at the bottom of a shelf. I haven’t seen any ‘gourmet’ mincemeat advertised, either. Me, I’ve always liked mincemeat. Even as child I remember asking for mincemeat pie. It may have been the first sign of alcoholism, that craving for dark, delicious, spicey, boozy and sweet. But I still like it, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a new recipe on the internet, from one of the blogs I follow about canning. The recipe is very English and required some translation.
Mincemeat was originally made with meat. It probably part of the medieval confusion of when to mix savory and sweet, and the medieval love of spices.
My Fanny Farmer has a recipe for mincemeat which starts with 4 pounds of ground beef and 4 pounds of suet. Modern mincemeat is more often vegetarian, and this recipe was also vegetarian. I thought I’d try to make it using Northwest ingredients.
You start by melting some brown sugar in apple cider. I had some Rockridge Farms Cider in the refrigerator, so I was able to use it up. Then you simply add ingredients and cook it up. I used some quince from a nameless stall at the University District Farmers Market, and Newton Pippen Apples from Booth Canyon Orchards. The recipe called to shred the quince, but I cut it up fine with my knife. Ms. Nicol used Bramley apples, and if you can find them, they are the best cooking apple I’ve found.
The recipe called for cinnamon, nutmeg and what she called ‘mixed spice’. I made my own mixed spice with a star anise, some cardomon pods, a couple of cloves, and a few black pepper corns. I ran them thought the spice blender.
She has ground ginger in her mixed spice. I dislike the taste of ground ginger so I added ½ a box of candied ginger.
The next ingredient is dried fruit. I used raisins, not very northwest, but necessary. I substituted dried cranberries and blueberries for the sultanas and currents. I skipped the glace cherries, and used dried Bings instead. I couldn’t find candied orange peel at Whole Foods, so I used the grated rind and juice of three clementines. Instead of pecans I used Northwest hazelnuts.
The original recipe adds brandy at the end. Since I don’t drink, this was a little bit of a challenge. Our local liquor store had no miniatures of brandy, so I bought a miniature of Irish Whiskey. I added it at the beginning to give the alcohol a nice long chance to cook out.
2 Cups Apple Cider
2 Cups light brown sugar
1&1/2 pounds tart apples, peeled and finely chopped
1 pound fresh quince, peeled, shredded or chopped
½ t freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/3 of a nut)
½ t ground cinnamon
Spice blend – one star anise, 4 cloves, 4 cardamom pods and 4 peppercorns, ground
2 oz candied ginger, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
2 Cups raisins
1 cup dried sweetened cherries
1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup dried cranberries
Juice and zest of three clementines
Juice and zest of a lemon
Miniature bottle of booze of your choice – brandy, whisky etc.
¼ cup real maple syrup
Put the cider and the sugar in a nice big pot with a heavy bottom. Heat and melt until the sugar is dissolved. Add all the other ingredients except the maple syrup. Cook for about one hour at a low simmer until dark and delicious. Add the maple syrup at the end. If you like a more alcohol flavored mincemeat, add the liquor at the end.
Day after postscript. I tried this this morning in a little tart. It’s fruitier than traditional mincemeat, and the cherries stand out. The hazelnuts (filberts to some of you) are a great flavor and texture addition. I’m looking forward to a pie at Christmas.