When I made this cranberry, orange & ginger mincemeat, the house was instantly transformed by the festive smells. People were trickling into the kitchen and even the collection of ingredients piled on the table spoke of the warmth and familiarity of a traditional Christmas. This recipe is, however, a twist on a classic, using the tart cranberry flavour in fresh and dried forms to offset the sweetness of the orange and other dried fruits. Cranberries are so delicious and I need to use them as much as I can during their short season! I can’t resist dried figs either – they are such a luxurious touch, especially when they are all bathed together in cherry brandy. The Christmas smells really come from the aromatic fresh ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Making mincemeat is really easy and yet gives you a real sense of satisfaction that you have made something really delicious that speaks of Christmas. Christmas can be a really busy time but taking an hour to chop (not too much I promise!) and mix and simmer is just what we need amongst all that chaos. This recipe also stores really well so is a great way to get ahead (and feel smug!) but can also be whipped up at short notice. Mincemeat is the ideal gift for when someone calls in unexpectedly, or when you don’t want to burden someone with yet another box of roses.
Mincemeat has many uses. Naturally it’s great in mince pies topped with pastry or crumble, delicious served with ice cream or adds a festive twist when spread on swiss rolls or layered in trifles. This recipe has quite a light and fruity taste compare to the darker mincemeat we might be familiar with. It’s a recipe that can be varied to your preferences but my sister who doesn’t even like mincemeat was eating it with a spoon from the saucepan! I take that as a sign that I did something right! I’ve included some notes in the recipe for substitutions and it definitely is a recipe that can handle some changes and variations.
This mincemeat can be stored in sterilized jars in a cool place for up to six months. You can buy jars or use empty ones left over in your kitchen. Some ribbons and tags can really dress these up as gifts. I sterilised mine by rinsing them in boiling water but a cycle in the dishwasher at a high temperature works too. I used vegetable suet here, which makes this dairy free and vegetarian, but you could easily use beef suet or butter if you prefer. This recipe can be made gluten free by just ensuring that all your ingredients are labelled as gluten free. Some dried ingredients are made in environments that also deal with products with gluten and some alcohols contain gluten so it’s worth being extra safe.
– 125 grams of suet (vegetable or beef) or unsalted butter
– 175 grams dried figs chopped to roughly the same size as the raisins
– 100 grams dried cranberries
– 200 grams fresh cranberries
– 1 medium sizes cooking apple, peeled and diced
– 175 grams raisins
– 175 grams sultanas
– 225 light muscovado sugar
– Zest and juice of an orange
– 2 teaspoons of freshly ginger, grated or finely chopped
– 2 teaspoons of dried cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, freshly grated if you can!
– 175 ml of cherry brandy
– Essentially you can use any dried fruits that you like, but just keep the weights the same. For example you could add dried tropical fruits or currants if that’s what you like.
– Mix up the spices to your favourites – half a teaspoon of ground cloves or star anise would add a lovely quality
– I use light muscovado sugar but use dark sugar if you want a richer mincemeat or soft brown sugar would make it even lighter
– Use any brandy you like, or you could even mix in an orange liqueur or whisky for a different twist.
– I don’t add nuts because I prefer to add them when I am baking with mincemeat, but chopped nuts can be a lovely addition.
1. Place all the ingredients except the brandy in a saucepan and mix over a low heat until the butter or suet starts to melt.
2. Turn up to a medium heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes until the fruit looks shiny and plumped up. If there isn’t enough juice coming from the fruit add about 50 mls of hot water or the juice of half an orange. It might look very liquid but all the dried fruit will soak it up.
3. Take it off the heat and stir in the brandy. (Take a moment to enjoy all the smells. Also, taste a little and check if it needs any more spices)
4. Store in jars or use straight away.
5. It can look a little cloudy in the jars but this is just the fat setting hard once it has cooled down.
This can be used in mince pies or is lovely warmed up with ice-cream.
I have baked for as long as I can remember. I grew up on an organic farm in County Wicklow and Maura Laverty’s ‘Full and Plenty’ was my guide in developing the basic skills and knowledge around food. It was this manual and my surroundings that nurtured an interest in local foods and a desire to use familiar ingredients in a creative way.
I work as an Occupational Therapist in the Mental Health services and have always valued the relaxation and pleasure that baking can bring. Since competing in the Great Irish Bake Off 2013, I have had new opportunities to bake for a café and write my blog, The Search for Delicious. Baking is still an important part of my personal life, but since doing the show I have a great opportunity to share my recipes and food with people outside my circle of friends and family. I hope to develop recipes that are familiar but different, comfortable but still exciting, and am always delighted when someone tries one of my recipes!