Saturday, 15 November 2008

Christmas in a jar

Yes, I know, I know, it's only the middle of November, but there are some things that need to be done early in order to be ready when the festivities begin, and who am I to argue when it's going to make the flat feel all warm and smell of oranges, brandy and sugar.

This afternoon I had my first bash at homemade mincemeat. Mince pies are one of my favourite things, and last week asked N just how soon I could get away with making them. I could eat them all year round, and would, except then they would feel less special in December and I would probably gain quite a few pounds all year round as opposed to just stacking it on at the end. I do however try and make the best of the season and make and consume as many as possible. I have my favourite commercial ones (Pret's shallow ones being the nicest in my opinion) but absolutely nothing beats making your own, and this year I wanted to go all the way and make the mincemeat too.

I spotted a suet-free cranberry mincemeat recipe in Nigella's new Christmas book, and thought it would be perfect, especially as she gave an ordinary version too. The instructions looked amazingly simple and apparently it would take no time at all. Plus, I had all the ingredients to hand, having done a sneaky pre-Christmas shop during the week.

Off I went and in twenty minutes had a glistening jar of cranberry mincemeaty goodness. A quick wash-up of the pan and in another 30 mintues I had two jars of a more traditional mincemeant. Now that's the kind of Christmas prep I like; done in less than an hour with all the more time to potter about basking in the results.

I have to confess that I did lick the spoon, and I think that in about three weeks time when I can finally justify starting the great mince pie ressurgence it's going to be very good indeed.

Nigella's "Cranberry-studded mincemeat"

Makes about 600g.

60ml ruby port
75g soft dark brown sugar
300g cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
75g raisins
75g currants
30g dried cranberries
zest and juice of one satsuma
25ml brandy
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 almond essence (I ommited this because N doesn't like it, and I don't have any as a result)
30ml honey.

In a large saucepan dissolve the sugar in the port. Add the cranberries. Then add the spices, along with the currants, raisins and dried cranberries and the zest and juice of the satsuma. Simmer for 20 minutes or until everything looks pulpy and has absorbed most of the liquid, bashing the cranberries helps release their juice. Take off the heat and, when it has cooled a little, stir in the brandy, essences and honey and beat to turn into a more pasty mix. Spoon into sterilised jars.

It keeps for up to a month.

To make the traditional version just substitute the fresh cranberries for a small cooking apple, grated and replace the dried cranberries with 15g raisins and 15g currants.

NB: I kept the cranberries in our traditional version because I like them a lot and thought it would make it slightly different. I also used an orange rather than a satsuma.

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