Northwest Mincemeat

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Mincemeat was originally made with meat.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.

I canned this in pint jars, in the normal way, but it will last for a long time (months) in the refrigerator. Its best after it rests for a while, a couple of weeks is great.


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.

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Fruit Shrub? Pickle Juice?

I was using my great cranberries from Rainier Cranberry company and getting to the bottom when I saw this recipe for pickle cranberries from Serious Eats. I made a batch, and probably won’t be making them again for the stall — although they are delicious. The benefit was the leftover brine, which was suggested to be mixed with sparkling water as a kind of cocktail. Wow, is it delicious. The spices in the pickle are a little unusual, including juniper berry, which is a flavoring in most gins. It makes a great drink

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The new world of food — a survey

Mark Bittman is the New York Times food columnist and his Thanksgiving column is a good place to get an overview of the leading edge of change in the world of food.  I recommend spending a lazy afternoon or Sunday morning reading the column and surfing the links. I especially like his lean towards local and self-sustaining agriculture.

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A great photo

This photo was posted by a friend on Facebook: Its not me, I promise:

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Local Food, no elitist plot.

Mark Bittman, the New York Times food writer, has a good essay about why to eat local. I’m reccomending it.

I try to get most of my product locally, and I always credit a local producers in the ingrediants lists. I’m irritated that nobody makes good local organic sugar, even tho sugar beets grow in the Northwest. But I’d rather have some nice jam from a local berry bush, or apple tree, then a fancy-pants jar from France or Denmark.

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All them markets

I recieved an email from a student who has made a cool database of farmers Markets and what they sell etc. Check it out–

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East meets West in a game of chicken

I regret not getting the camera out when I started, but I hope to add a picture of the finished product. The story is that on a whim, I asked Jennifer at Crown S. Ranch if they had any chicken livers. And in a couple of weeks she brought me a packet of frozen chicken livers. But these aren’t just any chicken livers, these livers come from chickens that live the high life in the Methow Valley. Here’s a picture of their accommodations:

and they live in the  most beautiful place in the world, with happy, contented and organic, neighbors like this:

But my book club was reading a book about immigrant cooking, and we needed appropriate snacks for lower East Side tenement dwellers. (The book, 97 Orchard, is very good, by the way.) The net result, chopped Methow Chicken Livers, which is a contrast in cultures in a whole number of ways.

The chickens have better accomadations:

But the chicken livers are delicious.

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Finally, hot enough!

Every week at the market, some customer says, “do you have any really hot jelly?” and I’m forced to say no. So on Saturday, I’m next to Alvarez Organic Farms and they have this beautiful display of peppers and I say, I’m going to make a really hot one. So I got about a pound of mixed hot peppers — including



Some of these long green guys:

and a couple of others.

Then Andy, from Hedlin, asked what I was doing and showed up with a little bag that had some brown habaneros:

and a whole mess of these skinny red ones:

I went to the supermarket, bought some rubber gloves and made a nice “hot pepper jelly” from this mixture. It’s too hot for me, and too hot for one of the mexican bakers in the kitchen, but the falalfel guy loves it and the other baker thinks its good.


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Photo Class

So yesterday the photo class hung out at the market. One nice fellow spent at least 15 minutes with a big camera at my booth. He sent me this picture with the comment it was his best result. I’m resisting editorial comment.

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Contest — Name that Jam Business!

I need  a new name for my jam business. I’ve got a bunch of reasons, but the end result is a need a new, groovey name. My imagination isn’t working that way, so I’m having a contest. The prize, a case of jam — 12 jars — either all at once or you can come and pick them as the year goes on.

The name should reflect my Northwest roots, be fairly short, and reflect the high quality and fun flavors of my jams, jellies, fruit butters and chutneys. It would be nice if it reflected my farmers market connections. “Smuckers” is already taken.

To enter, email me at Entries close at Thanksgiving.

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