Every Christmas Eve I swear I’ll never bake another Christmas cake; every October I stockpile enough goodies to make one for every fragment of my (large) family. This year I’m in the middle of baking / soaking 4 large cakes, which will turn into 8 little and 2 large cakes. Every spare cm of space on the worktop beside the kettle is covered with plastic containers holding kilos of dried fruit and brandy. Every time I pass, or make a put the kettle on for anything, I give one or more of the containers a good shoogle, oozing the now-syrupy brandy onto currants or sultanas that could do with a teensy bit more plumping up. On the other work-surface is a growing stack of tin-foiled parcels that are carefully unwrapped every weekend, anointed with brandy, and lovingly rewrapped. The kitchen does reek a bit…
This year, in a fit of indecision at which mincemeat to buy, I decided to make my own mincemeat. I consulted friends, internet recipes, Nigella cookery books, and decided on what for me is the one that feels most homely: the one from the Glasgow Cookery Book. I love that book! It was the only recipe book we used when I was growing up (my mother and her mother were both graduates of Dough School). My sister has the original one from then; I bought my own when an ad for the cookery book’s centenary triggered a wave of happy memories. Now I find that the older I get, the more I go to its old, comforting, traditional recipes. I’ve even started writing my own notes in its margins…!
So: this recipe for mincemeat is from that book, tweaked only very slightly by me…
Ingredients:100g raisins 100g sultanas 200g currants 100g chopped glace cherries 50g mixed peel 400g grated cooking apple 100g shredded suet rind of a lemon juice of a lemon 100g soft light brown sugar 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 level teaspoon ground mixed spice 1 level teaspoon ground nutmeg 125ml brandy
Whang it all in a big bowl and stir like hell until it’s all combined. Cover with clingfilm. Stir occasionally over the next day or 2. Put into 4 sterilised jars and cover. Store for a month before using.
I know that some friends are finding it difficult to find suet, mixed (candied) peel, or suitable spices, so here is another variant:550g mixed, dried fruit 400g grated apple a lemon 100g brown sugar 3 level teaspoons Christmassy spices 250ml brandy Drink half the brandy. Put the rest in a bowl with all the other ingredients. Mix hard. Drink whatever brandy’s left in the bottle, just to be tidy. Put the mix into bowls and dot around the house behind plant pots (well, do you really want to eat the stuff when it’s not snowing and cold?!)