Well, I think it’s safe to say that the Christmas countdown has officially begun. The time for mincemeat making is upon us.
Truth be told, this year I’ve kind of let the Christmas preparations slide a bit. Normally by this time I would have the Christmas pudding made and maturing, chocolate croissants made and frozen ready to be proved on Christmas eve and baked for Christmas breakfast, cranberry sauce, a variety of cookies, cakes and the veg. main course all ready to go. And as for the mincemeat, that would have been made some time in early September, and have been sitting on the fridge as a happy reminder of the upcoming festivities.
This year however autumn seems to have passed in a flash. The normal obsessive compulsion for festive preparedness carried out with the regimental precision of an automaton elf seems less important, and I must say, it’s been a bit of an epiphany.
It seems that Christmas is not, in fact, going to be ruined. The boys will not be forever traumatized. And I very much doubt that anyone will even notice that the pudding has not been aged for several months because really, that actually is not what it’s all about. At the risk of sounding even more like a Charles Dickens novel, maybe, just maybe this year the lead up to Christmas and indeed the day its self is all going to be nicer, more relaxed, and more meaningful for not having allowed myself to be sucked into the self-imposed furor of a Stepford-wife-ish domestic goddess, duty bound to provide the “perfect” Christmas. Hooray!
So on the back of this festive realization, and with my new found chilled-out attitude (and having embraced the fact that “domestic goddess” is probably just not in my make up), I decided to embrace the moment and try something different with the mincemeat, which lead me to festive epiphany number two; mincemeat doesn’t actually need sugar or fat added to it!
Traditionally mincemeat is made with suet or butter. While I am by no means a fat-free type of a gal, in the interest of simplifying and finding a healthier fat to use, I decided to investigate the reason for its addition in the first place and was intrigued to find that no one really seems to know its purpose here. While I suppose that this traditional ingredient does add a certain amount of richness, as far as I can tell it seems to mostly just be a throw back to a time when a key ingredient in mincemeat was actually minced meat. So when I came across a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Christmas book that omitted the fat, I was quite excited to give it a try. I made a couple of other substitutions like replacing the sugar with maple syrup and port with juice, cooked it up and eagerly tasted it. The results were not good. It was sickly sweet, far too boozy, and just really weird.
Not one to be defeated without a fight, I started to think about the sugar in the recipe. Is there really any need for it at all? Mincemeat is made mostly from dried fruit which is inherently sweet without help. Once again I hit the internet and nearly immediately found this awesome recipe from diabetes.co.uk. I liked the looks of the recipe but made a couple of substitutions just to accommodate what I did and didn’t have in the cupboard (and to add more raisins because I love them). The resulting mincemeat is delicious! It’s loaded with Christmas spice and sweet fruits, and has a bit of a zing at the end. I can not wait to see what it’s like after aging a week. I bet it will be delicious!
I think to complete the mince pie revamp I’ll whip up some date-sweetened oaty pastry for the pies. This will make them completely sugar free, and if I use gluten-free oats, they’ll be gluten-free as well, something that’s super important for us as my Mother-in-Law has coeliac. (In truth I’ll probably leave it up to Buddy to do the pastry part as it’s become traditional for him to make the gluten-free pastry for the mince pies at Christmas, and he has it down to a fine art!)
If you’re feeling the need to get a little festive and kick off the season with a healthy version of a Christmas classic, whip up a batch of this extremely easy sugar-free mincemeat and be ready for some healthy snacking on the day!
- 75g dates, chopped
- 75g sultanas
- 150g raisins
- 75g dried currants
- 6 dried figs, chopped
- 2 apples, peeled and grated
- The juice of half of a lemon
- The juice and zest of 1 satsuma or clementine
- 1/2tsp allspice
- 1/4tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8tsp ground cloves
- 90mL brandy
- Put all of the ingredients into a large pot over medium heat. Bring it to a simmer and lower the heat a bit and allow it to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the dried fruit is plump, and the apple is soft and cooked through.
- Remove from the heat and pour it into a sterilized jar. Close the jar and allow it to cool. Once cooled to room temperature store it in the fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze (you’ll need to use a plastic container for this) for three months.
- To sterilize your jars wash them well in hot soapy water and then set them in the oven heated to 140 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. Or run them through the dishwasher. Fill them while they're still hot.