Guilt-free MincemeatPosted: November 27, 2011
Last week, I was flicking through one of my old recipe books (bit of a fib there, because I was actually reading a PDF of a 237 year old book, but ‘scrolling through page scans’ doesn’t really conjure up the same image), when I came upon a recipe for Mince Pies for Lent.
Two things struck me:
- There’s no added sugar or suet in this recipe!
- Mince pies for Lent? That’s pre-Easter! Curious that we now seem to eat mincemeat in pies mostly at Christmastime.
Anyhoo, back to the more relevant thought – no added sugar or suet. Nowadays, we traditionally make mincemeat far in advance of the festive season, so that it can mature in flavour. Both the sugar and the suet act as preservative and so when Christmas rolls around, you’ve got a jar of deliciously spicy sweetmeat and not a fizzing, fermenting jar of goo.
The downside of course is having to be organised enough to remember to make it far enough in advance, making enough for those unexpected baking moments (such as surprise visitors, or a last minute school bake sale contribution), and not making too much so you have storage problems. Quite apart from it not being suitable for either vegetarians or vegans.
Here, hopefully, is a solution. No suet means it’s vegetarian and vegan. No added sugar means its more suited to people needing to control their sugar intake, for whatever reason – although there IS sugar in the candied peel, so this isn’t quite a sugar-free recipe. Best of all it doesn’t need maturing, it’s literally mix and go.
The mixture is gently warmed and the fruits absorb the sherry, brandy and fruit juices. The finely-chopped dates break down and bind everything together. The result is packed full of flavour and with a much cleaner and fresher taste. This mix makes just under 500g of ready-to-use mincemeat.
NB This will keep for up to a week in the fridge, but no longer. Cooked as mince pies and frozen – up to 3 months.
50g raisins – crimson raisins look pretty
50g dates – finely chopped
25g candied orange peel 
25g candied lemon peel 
25g candied grapefruit peel 
35g dried cranberries
25g flaked almonds – chopped
juice & grated rind of an orange
pinch of ground ginger
a grating of nutmeg,
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of mixed spice
pinch of ground cloves
60-100ml apple juice
- Put the dried fruits into a small saucepan.
- Cut the candied peel into small pieces with scissors and add to the pan with the spices. NB If you’re using your home-made candied peel that has been stored in syrup, then there’s no need to soften it in the saucepan – just stir it in with the nuts once the fruit has plumped.
- Add the orange juice and zest, brandy, sherry and 60ml of apple juice.
- Stir gently to combine and set pan over the lowest possible heat.
- Cover and let the mixture stew gently until all the liquid has been absorbed.
- If the fruit isn’t as plumped and juicy as you would like, add a little more apple juice.
- The mixture should be moist, but with no liquid visible in the bottom
- When you’re happy with the consistency, stir through the chopped, flaked almonds. 
Cost: £2.85 (using crimson raisins and home-made peel, November 2011)
 If you’ve made some candied peel yourself, then these are pretty straightforward. If not, then use 75g of what you have/can get. Buy whole peel pieces if possible – they retain their flavour much better than chopped – and cut them just before use.
 As a variation, you might like to include some chopped, fresh apple. However, please bear in mind that the juices in the apple will be released in cooking and might create SBIs .
 Soggy Bottom Issues. Which, we all know from the Bake Off, are to be avoided at all costs!