All-star Nigella Christmas: Cranberry-studded mincemeat 

I used to be old-school about mincemeat, preferring the sort that is really no more than dried fruits stirred up with some brandy, grated apple and suet and stuffed into a jar. It’s certainly easy, since no cooking is involved, but Hettie (who’s had more than a walk-on part in every one of my books since How to Eat) introduced me to the notion of a suet-free mincemeat, a recipe I used gratefully in How to be a Domestic Goddess, and which I’ve adapted here to make it garnet-glinting and tartly fruity with cranberries.

I know this doesn’t make a huge amount, but it is enough to fill a good 50 of my little mince pies (see page 53 for the recipe). It also happens to be the work – if you call tipping things into a pan and then scraping them out again work – of moments, so if you need more (and it would be beautiful, in a jar, as a present), it’s not going to take much out of you.

I love the louche, old-fashioned mixture of port and brandy (which used to be administered to children for tummy aches) but if you wish to be a little more austere, replace the ruby port with cranberry juice and add another 2 heaped teaspoons to the amount of brown sugar below.

MAKES ABOUT 600ML – ENOUGH FOR 50 MINCE PIES

  • 75g soft dark brown sugar
  • 60ml (4 x 15ml tablespoons) ruby port
  • 300g cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 75g currants
  • 75g raisins
  • 30g dried cranberries
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 clementine/satsuma
  • 25ml brandy
  • ⅛ teaspoon or a few drops almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons honey

❄ In a large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the ruby port over a gentle heat.

❄ Add the cranberries to the saucepan.

❄ Then add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves, with the currants, raisins and dried cranberries and the zest and juice of the clementine.

❄ Simmer for 20 minutes or until everything looks pulpy and has absorbed most of the liquid in the pan. You may need to squish the cranberries a little with the back of a wooden spoon to incorporate them.

❄ Take off the heat and, when it has cooled a little, stir in the brandy, almond and vanilla extracts and honey and beat once more, vociferously, with your wooden spoon to encourage it to turn into a berry-beaded paste.

❄ Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jars (see below).

MAKE AHEAD 

Make the mincemeat and spoon into sterilised jars. Seal with jam-pot covers or lids and store in a very cool, dry place for up to 1 month. (An extra splash of brandy on top at this stage helps prevent the mincemeat from going mouldy.) Note: if using cranberry juice in place of port, store the mincemeat in the fridge for up to 10 days.

FREEZE AHEAD 

Make the mincemeat and spoon into a freezer-proof container or sealable bags. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight at room temperature and use immediately.

STERILISING JARS 

Jars and bottles should be sterilised before having foodstuff put in them, but I have to say that I regard a dishwasher-clean jar or bottle (providing it comes fresh from the machine, with not so much as a finger touching the inside) as a sterilised one. If you wish to be more meticulous, you can sterilise by washing your jars well in soapy water, then rinsing them and letting them dry in a cool (140C/gas mark 1) oven. If you’re putting warm chutneys or jellies into them, all jars must be used warm. 

 

 

 

 

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