Mincemeat is the essential ingredient of Christmas pies and tarts. It originated centuries ago when returning Crusaders introduced exotic spices to English cooking. Nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves were added to ground meats, dried fruits and spirits creating a festive treat. The recipe remained basically the same until the mid-nineteenth century when mixtures began to appear without meat, and were much sweeter.

Mincemeat can be store-bought, but like most food, home-made is better. Yesterday, the mincemeat mood hit me. Since it was another blustery, stay-at-home kind of day, I adapted several recipes using ingredients I had on hand. The essentials are in it: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, dried fruit and spirits.

 

My Mincemeat Makeover:

4 large apples, peeled, cored, shredded (enough to make 3 cups)img_0006

2 cups candied, mixed peel

2 cups Thompson raisins, rinsed, drained

3 cups pitted prunes, coarsely chopped

juice and grated rind from 1 lemon

2 cups dark brown sugar

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. each of ground cinnamon and ground cloves

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup dark rum (or apple cider)

1/2 cup dark molasses

1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Mix everything in the crock of a crockpot and cook on “low” for 6 hours.

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Bottle in hot, sterilized canning jars. When cool enough, store at the back of your refrigerator until you are ready to do some Christmas baking.img_0010

This recipe makes about 2 quarts- enough to make a couple of pies, or a couple dozen tarts.

I also make muffins with mincemeat, a recipe I’ll share in a few days.

 

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