15 Dec 2012

Sweet Mincemeat

Having lived in the UK for over 5 years now and being someone that likes Christmas traditions, I thought it was at the time to turn my attention to sweet mincemeat. I absolutely love everything with dried fruits, so the discovery of British mincepies, Christmas pudding,  etc was a delight! 
To give my mincemeat maximum chance to develop all the lovely flavours of booze and sweet fruits, I managed to remind myself to prepare it in November. After seeing lots and lots of different recipes, I reverted to my all-time favourite and  indispensable book the "Larousse Gastronomique". I slightly modified the recipe by reducing the amount of sugar and suet and increasing the proportion of fresh fruits for a ligther and fresher result. Though the beauty of making your own mincemeat is of course to adapt it yourself according to your taste.

Mincemeat iongredients to make 4-5 jars:
  • 150g dark muscovado sugar
  • 200g currants
  • 200g sultanas
  • 100g chopped dried apricots
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 100g shredded suet
  • 50g mixed peel
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 50ml brandy
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of each cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger

Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Sterilise your jars: My way is to make sure my jars are absolutely clean and don't have any detectable smell. Then I just pour boiling hot water into them for three times. Pack the mincemeat tightly into your jars and keep in a dark and cook place. They'll be ready and delicious in time for Christmas!

4 weeks later: Mincepies

Of course I had to make mince pies shortly before Christmas and I had them tested by my British in-laws and colleagues! I think they liked them although I never quite know how to interprete British politeness as a German. In any case, all the pies were eaten which I take as a good sign. I decided to make two different varieties after I had seen a tempting recipe in delicious for a macaroon topping - that's my French side coming out once again!

Ingredients for about 20 mince pies:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 100g unsalted butter 
  • pinch of salt 
  • 30g icing sugar 
  • 1 orange
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • about 500g mincemeat
  • 1 egg white
  • pinch of salt
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 40g ground almonds

Pastry: Rub the flour, almonds, salt, sugar, orange zest and butter together with your fingertips. Add the egg yolk and about 1 tbsp of water. Mix everything together quickly and chill for at least 1 hour. For convenience, I often make my pastry the day before and  leave it to rest in the fridge overnight.
Pies: Roll out the pastry and cut out disks of desired size using a fluted pastry cutter.  Use them to line your buttered pastry tins and prick the pastry with a fork. Add 2 tbsp of orange juice to the mincemeat and spoon as much as you can fit into the pastry cases. Cut small stars out of the remaining pastry and place them on top of half of the mincepies. Bake the pies in a hot oven at 200°C for 15 minutes. 
Macaroon topping: Whisk together the egg white and a tiny pinch of salt until stiff. Fold in the  sugar and the almonds using a spatula. Spoon the mixture onto the other half of the pies and bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden brown at 180°C. Sprinkle with some caster sugar. 

And now for a complete mix of cultures: British mincepies with a French macaroon topping presented within a German "Adventskranz". A traditional wreath holding four candles, that are each lit on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.