Sunday 21 November 2010

A little gentle preparation and forty tiny claws

Jars of Mincemeat

When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not a pastime to her more than she is to me?

Michel de Montaigne, Essays, 1580

It’s about that time. Lights go up on Stoke Newington High Street for Eid and Christmas, the shops fill with glitzy cards and brightly coloured baubles and otherwise sane souls believe the affection of the ages can be conveyed by hastily wrapped scented candles or cashmere scarves.

I love Christmas. I love the sight of people dragging trees down Church Street, queuing for my turkey at Godfrey’s, midnight mass at St Mary’s and most of all, I love the peace that descends on London for those few short days. In order for me not to careen into the holiday like Wile E. Coyote screeching off a cliff, I try to do a little gentle preparation in the weeks before to make the run up as pleasurable as possible.

And today’s recipe is as gentle a recipe as ever met heat. Making your own mincemeat fulfils that desire for a homemade Christmas without heaping on the stress. It also makes the house smell wonderful, better than any scented candle. Take THAT, Jo Malone.

I’m keen on simple recipes at the moment as they leave me with maximum kitten time. Yes, kittens, life’s greatest deadline-dodging displacement activity. After Oscar died last year and free-spirit Liberty went missing, never to return, in January our house has been sadly lacking in feline presence. Chairs remained unscratched. Roast chickens sat unmolested on the kitchen counter. It was miserable, though Barney might disagree.

Enter Dixie and Prune, slaloming across the marble counter, scaling ten feet of curtain as though it’s nothing, chasing each other’s tails, loving Barney into grumpy submission as they edge their way onto his favourite chair and crowd into his basket. They sit on my shoulders as I type like purring epaulettes, chase the cursor across the screen and generally show disdain for anything as undignified as, oh, earning a living. It’s wonderful.

All 3 together Begrudgingly, Barney shares his favourite chair

Prune It’s hard to know whether Prune’s laughing at you or preparing to eat you. Probably a bit of both.

Prune & Barney ‘You will love me.’


Apple, Pear & Ginger Mincemeat

This mincemeat is intensely fruity and the crystallized ginger adds a dash of sweet heat. It contains no suet, which I think gives it a brighter, fresher flavour. Make some now and it’ll have time to mature for Christmas, though I like to keep a jar back to enjoy next year, too. Use it in mince pies, of course, but it’s also very good as a stuffing for baked apples and delicious in my Mincemeat Crumble Tart.

The recipe comes from River Cottage Handbook No 2, by Pam ‘the jam’ Corbin, queen of all things jarred, bottled and preserved.

Makes approximately 4x450g jars

1kg Bramley apples
Finely grated zest and juice of 2-3 oranges (you need 200ml juice)
500g firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1cm cubes
200g currants
200g raisins
200g sultanas
100g orange marmalade
250g demerara sugar
½ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ nutmeg, grated
50ml ginger wine or cordial (optional, I had neither so I used the syrup from a jar of stem ginger)
100g chopped walnuts or almonds
50ml brandy or sloe gin

Peel and core the apples and chop them into large chunks. Put them into a saucepan with the orange juice. Cook gently until they are soft and fluffy then blend into a smooth purée.

Put the purée into a large bowl and add all of the other ingredients, except the brandy or gin. Mix thoroughly, then cover and leave to stand for 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 130°C/Gas Mark 1/2. Put the mincemeat into a large baking dish or roasting tin and bake, uncovered, for 2-2 ½ hours. Stir in the brandy or gin, then spoon into warm, sterilized jars, making sure there aren’t any air pockets. Seal and store in a dry, dark, cool place until Christmas. Use within 12 months.


  1. Lovely. Making mincemeat is one of my favourite things. The kittens are gorgeous. I keep showing Mr OC pictures of kittens that keep appearing, far too often, in the local rag that have been abandoned. I think I am beginning to wear him down. It's only a matter of time before it's his idea to get the girls a kitten to keep Merlin company.

  2. This looks lovely - but I'm just wondering if you could use it straight away, or whether you need to leave it a certain amount of time for the flavours to develop?

    P.S. the kittens look so lovely!

  3. Hi Kath, Do try this recipe - it's my favourite of all the versions I've made. All of Pam's recipes are great. Good luck with your kitten quest.
    Anon, I would leave it for at least a couple of weeks, preferably four, for the flavours to develop. And thanks, the kittens are just heaven.

  4. KITTEHS!!!!!! I have to come visit soon-they look delicious and completely loveable.

    xoxo marty

  5. How nice to see Barney as a surrogate cat-mother. Lovely kittens. Characters already. Epaulettes rule...

  6. I've made lots of Christmas cakes this year for present hampers and had already decided not to make mincemeat. But now you woo me over with the cutest kittens in the world and I see your recipe and realise that Christmas will simply not be right unless I have mincemeat. Curse you! Have I not got enough to do?

  7. Mincemeat and kittens: a winning combination if ever I saw one. Having just adopted a stray cat, I'll have to try the mincemeat recipe.

  8. Absolutely gorgeous kittypics and the dog ain't bad either! Mincemeat crumble tart... what a shame I am starting my pre-Chrimbo diet. It may have to be one of the many occasions I lapse.

  9. Oh! I just came on here to get the carrot cake recipe, but those kitties! I love them picture of them with Barney, proper old grumpface. Excellent.

  10. Marty, Oh, we'd love it if you'd come and visit.
    Mum, Yes, we have 'character' in abundance, and 'patience' in Barney's case.
    Jane, Ha! Sorry about that. It is incredibly easy, I promise.
    Alix, Yes, yes you do. It's the law.
    Arabella Sock, It's worth lapsing for. You'll be glad you did.
    Claire, Isn't it divine? They just love him to death and he is being beyond patient as they leap into his basket and wind themselves around him.

  11. Could they be cuter?? I doubt it and have they burst into song yet? "We are Burmese, if you pleeeease (buh bum-bum-bum): We are Burmese if you don't please (buh bum-bum-bum)..." I can JUST hear them yowling that. Lucky duck you! Hugs to you and mincemeat it is! Huzzah!!!!

  12. Karen, I am going to start training the kitten chorus right this very minute - we could take this show on the road. Do, please, try the mincemeat - you will LOVE. Dx

  13. I love your mincemeat...I love your chair cover...I love your dog and I love your kitties, but most of all I love your writing...big time.

  14. Love the recipe, love the kittens, love the blog. Good to meet you at Don's the other night!

  15. I'd be happy to try the Mincemeat. You have my mailing address, right? (Tee hee...buh-bum-bum-bum...)
    XO K.

  16. Laetitia, Coming from you, that means a lot. You're lovely, thanks.
    Liz, Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I loved meeting you two too. Must get together again to talk books, recipes and silly nonsense.

  17. Those photographs are just lovely. How adorable they all are.

  18. Karen, It's HEAVY. You're going to have to come and collect it.
    Ample Cook, Thank you. They are, all of them, beautiful and naughty in equal measure.

  19. Hello! Have just stumbled on your blog - two days overdue and can't sleep so it was a great way to kill some time! Gorgeous recipe - looking forward to making it! Wanted to leave a comment just in case you're still checking old comments as it mentions crystallised ginger in the top comment, but not in the ingredient list - was that an error?

    Thanks in advance - your writing is lovely!


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