The first time I ever ate mincemeatpie, I was sorely disappointed. All the literature and old English Christmas songs had steered me wrong, I thought. It tasted…a little like potpourri. Then I found this one from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess. It’s suet-free and tastes like everything I imagined it would before I tried it. And it has the added bonus of working without the suet, so you don’t have to source it and the resulting dishes can be vegetarian, which is helpful for a holiday dish.
I originally made it for the little mincemeat pies that are also in her book. Nowadays it often goes into little lidded tarts like these. I like it because one pie crust and one jar will make two of these individual pies with just a few spoonfuls left over to add to oatmeal in the morning, which is what I use it for most anyway.
For years I portioned it out and froze it instead of canning it because I didn’t know how, but it’s pretty easy to can. However, the original recipe calls for using the old canning method of pouring something in a hot jar, lidding it, and inverting it to cool. That creates a sort of suction that seals the lid. This was once a commonly used method. My grandmother still does it, maybe yours does too. But this is no longer an approved method of canning. It doesn’t apply heat long enough to kill bacteria. Obviously I’m still going to eat my grandmother’s delicious canned food, but I err on the side of caution. So for this recipe I’ve amended it to suit modern standard methods for canning jam – 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. I’ve also included the original ingredients before my substitutions in case you’re more comfortable canning that.
Hettie Potter’s Suet-Free Mincemeat
1 cup soft dark brown sugar
1 cup medium dry or sweet cider
2 1/4 lbs cooking apples, peeled, halved and quartered
½ tsp mixed spice (I used 1/8 each allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/3 dried mixed fruit – (I used sultanas, currants, and cranberries as per another version of this)
1/3 cup glace cherries, roughly chopped (I substituted dried cherries.)
1/3 cup blanched almonds
zest & juice of ½ lemon (I subbed the zest for orange zest, but added a little extra lemon juice)
6 tablespoons brandy (alternatively you can use rum.)
Combine the cider and sugar in a pot on low heat. Stir in the chopped apples. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the brandy (or rum). Let it simmer about 30 minutes. It will get soft. The apples will break down a little and the dried fruit will absorb liquid.
While the fruit simmers, sterilize the canning jars. If your timing is right, you can get them fresh from a dishwasher cycle sterilized. Otherwise just let them hang out in the water bath canner and they’ll boil while you work. I usually heat my lids in a small saucepan of water alongside that.
Add the brandy and transfer to the sterilised jars. Once the jars are filled and the lids are finger tight, place them in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
This mincemeat is good right away but does improve with age.