If you are lucky, you can occasionally find jars of mincemeat here. If you are lucky, and if you start looking at the end of August perhaps… Any later, and you have had it – fellow “Englishers” (or other curious folk) will have beaten you to the few prize jars of Robinsons that sit surrounded by American barbecue sauce and macaroni cheese mix on the “foreign food” shelf, leaving you with no other option than to make your own.
Having just about mastered jam-making (thanks to a stupid amount of fruit going to waste on various bushes and trees here in the summer), I thought to myself how hard can mincemeat making be? And the answer is not that hard at all actually, especially if you have your mother staying with you, and she does the majority of the hard work, i.e. the mountain of chopping! I will admit to not being overly optimistic at what the end result might be, but (and as is usually the case when you think like that) this is gooooood… Very good. And it pleases me no end that something as imperative to an English Christmas as a jar of mincemeat will never seem out of reach again…
450g Bramley apples, cored and finely chopped:
225g Suet, vegetarian or otherwise (we had vegetarian to hand);
500g fresh cranberries;
225g candied peel;
350g dark brown sugar;
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges and 2 lemons;
50g sliced almonds chopped;
4 teaspoons mixed ground spice;
half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon;
6 tablespoons of brandy.
Combine all of the ingredients in an oven proof bowl, and leave covered with a cloth overnight for the flavours to infuse. Preheat oven to 120DegC, cover the bowl with tin foil and cook for 3 hours. As it cools, give it a stir occasionally. Once completely cool, spoon into sterilised jars, and top with a healthy glug of port or brandy before screwing the lid on tight. Now you can bake mince pies to your hearts content, or if you’re feeling generous, gift jars to fellow deprived expats, or your neighbours (who will undoubtedly ask whether it actually has meat in it)! Enjoy…
Finally, I couldn’t end a post about English Christmas food without giving Premier Inn Gatwick a mention. They very sweetly sent me a lovely hamper packed to the brim with traditional English goodies for Christmas, which made this English expat very happy indeed. Thank you so much! I am prepared to share everything, apart from the Chocolate Orange!!