My family love mince pies and I start making batches from early December. I like the fruity, spiced flavour of mincemeat, but am not too keen of the slightly greasy aftertaste that comes from the melted suet which is part of the traditional recipe, even if vegetarian rather than beef suet is used. A friend from years ago gave us her method of ‘improving’ a standard jar of shop bought mincemeat where extra amounts of favourite ingredients were added, including plenty of alcohol – I simply didn’t add any extra suet. (See my post Last Minute Mincemeat for the ‘cheat’ recipe, plus my favourite recipe for Mince Pies and more information on their history - and more of the pies we ate last year!)
Then someone told me about Suet Free Mincement and ever since I have looked for a good recipe. I’m glad to report that I have struck gold at last thanks to A Spoonful of Sugar, who found it in Nigella Lawson’s book How To Be A Domestic Goddess in a recipe created by Hettie Potter (who I gather is Nigella Lawson’s right hand woman). If you like lots of apple flavour (very alcoholic apple flavour actually as it contains both cider and brandy) then this could be for you. It was easy to make and I will certainly be doing so again – why buy from the shop! The mixture made four 1lb jars, which I hope is enough for the time being, though I think it may not last too long. Perhaps next time I should make a double quantity or two panfuls at the same time. If you want to make the original version it can be found in Nigella’s book or at A Spoonful of Sugar – Hettie Potter’s Suet Free Mincemeat. I took a few shortcuts, which I don’t think changed the flavour a great deal, substituting dried mixed fruit which of course, includes candied peel and zesting my lemon rather than cutting up the peel. I am sure there could be other variations: my other recipe includes orange which may be a good alternative to the lemon. Cranberries would also be a good addition as would ginger (this would be especially popular with my ginger-loving husband). I wonder too whether the apples and apple cider could be replaced with pears and pear cider, which is now becoming more widely available. It would be interesting to hear comments added to this page by anyone who has adapted this or a similar recipe. If I make any variations I will, of course, add them here. I understand that this mincemeat keeps well and has been known to be good after a year – probably due to the high alcohol content. Sadly if your cooking is an alcohol free zone then this recipe is not for you.
Hettie Potter’s suet-free mincemeat
(Makes about 4lb/2kg)
250g soft dark brown sugar
250ml medium dry cider
1kg cooking apples, peeled, halved and quartered
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
500g dried mixed fruit
75g glace cherries, roughly chopped
75g blanched almonds,
zest & juice of ½ lemon
6 tablespoons brandy (alternatively rum)
1. Place the cider and the sugar in a large saucepan and heat gently.
2. Add the roughly chopped apples to the saucepan and stir well.
3. Add the remaining ingredients, apart from brandy (or rum). Simmer for around 30 minutes until the mixture is soft and pulpy.
4. Meanwhile wash the jars well and sterilise. I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water. I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on. Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes. Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack. Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water. Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.
5. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 5-10minutes. Stir in the brandy (or rum) and transfer to sterilised jars. Once the jars are filled and the lids well screwed on, invert them to improve the heat seal. Turn the jars the right way up once they are cool.
6. This mincemeat can be used immediately after cooking if you wish, but improves with age and keeps well.