Christmas will be low-key in our house this year but I'm at last beginning to feel the tiniest bit festive. London is looking lovely, all lit up, and I've made a batch of mincemeat, which is about a hundred times nicer than the shop-bought kind. It's very easy - you just have to allow a little time for chopping and stirring (which is no problem if you have a food processor). I don't like mixed peel, so I substitute a mixture of chopped dried cherries and apricots.
You will need:
2 large or 3 medium-sized cooking apples, cored but not peeled
8 oz/225 g/2 cups shredded suet (I use the light vegetarian kind)
12 oz/350g/2 heaped cups raisins
8 oz/225g/2 scant cups sultanas
8 oz/225g/2 scant cups currants
8 oz/225g/2 scant cups chopped mixed candied peel -
or the same quantity of sour dried cherries and dried apricots, chopped finely
12 oz/350g/2 heaped cups dark brown sugar
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges and 2 lemons
2 oz/50g/1/2 cup flaked almonds, smashed up a little more
4 teaspoons mixed spice
4 tablespoons brandy (optional)
5 or 6 clean jam jars
Simply chop the apples - in a food processor if you have one - and then mix them up in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients, except for the brandy. Cover the bowl with foil and leave it for a few hours so that everything steeps together, then place in a low oven (225 F/120 C/gas 1/4) for 2 - 3 hours so the suet melts. Your kitchen will now smell wonderfully Christmassy!
As the mixture cools, stir from time to time so the suet is evenly distributed. When it has cooled right down, add the brandy, then spoon into clean dry jars, cover with waxed discs and seal. Use in mincepies, as the basis for a Christmas cake, or in the wonderful Dan Lepard's apple and mincemeat pasties with brown sugar pastry. Best eaten within a few months, but I have kept jars from one Christmas to the next and it's been fine.
Happy Christmas, everyone. The end of this year seems to have been a sad one for all sorts of reasons, but here's hoping the Christmas rituals will bring some kind of comfort for anyone who's grieving, that getting together with family and friends will lighten up the darker days, and that spring doesn't seem too far away...