Christmas can be a really busy time, and I’m always grateful for any ideas that help me get everything done without too many late nights or tantrums. So while in a perfect world, we might all be stirring our mincemeat together during November, the truth is we sometimes put things off until the last minute. So here’s a recipe for a really delicious mincemeat that doesn’t have to be made weeks in advance… you can even keep the ingredients in the store cupboard as an insurance policy against the mince pies all running out on Christmas Eve.
Mincemeat is a peculiarly English invention. In the Middle Ages, our ancestors didn’t have our inhibitions about mixing meat, dried fruit and spices together, and the use of expensive imported ingredients meant you could demonstrate your wealth (and not as is sometimes suggested, cover up the flavour of rotting meat!). Then, as merchants travelled farther afield, they discovered new and exotic ingredients such as sugar, aromatic spices and citrus fruit. As sugar became cheaper, mincemeat became less a savoury dinner course, and more a sweet end to the meal, and by the 1840s, Eliza Acton is writing a mincemeat recipe where the only meat is beef suet.
So it’s this combination of exotic flavours from far away places that gives us the traditional mincemeat we know and love so well. And then we come to my own journey, to find me standing, half a world away from an English Christmas, under a canopy of lush green nutmeg trees on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Local farmer James Sinclair pulled the tawny outer case of the nutmeg away to reveal the most exquisite red filigree of mace surrounding the nutmeg seed. He delicately removed the mace, cracked the nut on a nearby rock and ran the sharp edge of his thumbnail down the side of the fresh nutmeg. The intense aroma of fresh nutmeg in the Caribbean heat was like a wallop of Christmas, transporting me instantly back to a cold winters’ day, listening to familiar tunes on the radio and stirring jewel-like fresh cranberries and rum into this easy, instant mincemeat recipe.
So, true to English tradition, this recipe captures the sunshine of all the wonderful places in the world that we have explored, celebrating with candied orange peel and chestnut flour from Italy and Ndali vanilla from Uganda, as well as my own Grenadian nutmeg and rum. I especially encourage people to consider the farmers and producers of ingredients we take for granted while they are feeling festive at this time of year, and to look for spices, dried fruit and sugar in their supermarkets that is Fairtrade certified.
Makes 2 x 440g jars
Prep time 15 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes
- 200g soft brown sugar
- 200ml dark rum
- 300g fresh cranberries
- 170g sour cherries
- 200g mixed currants and raisins
- 130g candied orange peel
- 30g peeled, very finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp Fairtrade ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp Fairtrade ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp Ndali Fairtrade vanilla powder
Place the sugar and rum into a large pan and warm gently without boiling. Add the fresh cranberries and cook gently for about 3 minutes. Stir well. The cranberries will split. Tip in all the dried fruit, candied orange peel, ginger, spices, and vanilla and stir well. Cover and simmer very gently for about 15 minutes, stirring and checking occasionally. Spoon the mixture into clean sterilised jars and store in the fridge. The recipe can be made up to three weeks in advance, or on the day you need to use it.Print