Last weekend The Observer reported that only 7% of people who took part in a recent survey said they would make a Christmas pudding from scratch. I can understand why people aren’t keen on making their own puddings. They take hours to cook and in my experience people either;
Don’t like rich steamed fruit puddings which by their very nature can be very heavy; or
Don’t have room for such a filling dessert after their Christmas dinner.
I have to confess to being a fan of Christmas pudding and it’s one of the things I look forward to over the yuletide period. I love it hot with brandy butter and the left overs make a wicked ice cream. However, this year the consensus in our family is that they can do without it. So there will be no homemade Christmas pudding in the Bilton household. But mince pies are another matter entirely. They are an institution and Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without them. No matter what anyone else says I will be making plenty of these, (Santa will of course get his share on Christmas Eve.)
While I empathise with the reluctance to nurse a plum pudding for the best part of a day I can never really understand why more people don’t have a go at making their own mincemeat. No matter how much manufacturers claim their mincemeat is a ‘luxury’ or ‘gourmet’ product nothing beats the homemade variety. Mincemeat was the first experiment I tried with medlars. The brown pulp blends wonderfully well with the dried fruit and spices. If you don’t have access to medlars then substitute the puree for the same weight of bramley apple puree.
I’ve used Delia Smith’s method to ‘cook’ the mincemeat (although you will find countless other recipes that don’t involve any cooking). Although this means the suet will melt it also means that the mincemeat is sterilised and there should be no danger of fermentation in your larder (which is what happened to my earlier attempts of making mincemeat with apples). This recipe makes enough for around 36 mince pies. If that’s too much you could always give a jar or two away to friends or family. Equally if it’s not enough you can always double or treble the recipe.
(Makes 3 x 450g jars)
200g medlar purée
100g chopped mixed peel
100g dried cranberries
100g sultanas or raisins
100g pitted dates, chopped
110g beef or vegetable suet
175g soft dark brown sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
25g blanched almonds cut into slivers
2 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
A generous grating of nutmeg
3 tbsp Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 tbsp brandy (or more if you like your mincemeat really boozy!)
Mix all the ingredients together (except the alcohol) in a large, heat proof, non metallic bowl or casserole. Cover with foil or a tight fitting lid and leave overnight.
The next day preheat the oven to 120°C (and no higher). Place the covered bowl or casserole in the oven for 3 hours.
Remove from the oven and intermittently stir well as the mincemeat cools. When the mincemeat is cool stir in the alcohol.
Spoon into sterilised jars, cover with waxed discs and seal. It should keep for several months in your larder but is probably best used within a year of production. (Truthfully, I have no idea how long it keeps as we rarely have any left beyond the end of December.)