​Ingredient Glossary: Mincemeat

​Ingredient Glossary: Mincemeat

Posted by Emily on 1st Dec 2019

What is Mincemeat?

A quintessential component in Christmas mince pies, mincemeat also lends well to year-round baking. Originating as an age-old concoction of dried fruits, ground almonds, spices, sugar, and fat, mincemeat likely made its way to England from the Middle East, courtesy of the Crusaders.

Mince Pies in the making

Historically, it included minced meat and fat, typically lamb. Until the late 20th century, beef suet was a common ingredient, even in homemade versions. Nowadays, many recipes and ready-made mince pies opt for vegetarian suet - do check the label if you're purchasing pre-made ones.

How to Prepare Mincemeat

To modernise an age-old recipe:

  1. Replace suet with grated or chopped butter.
  2. Incorporate lavish Middle Eastern flavours like orange blossom or rose water, and don't forget to grate in some fresh orange zest (highly recommended).
  3. Enhance with a pinch or two of black pepper and your preferred sweet spices. When it comes to alcohol, a modest addition of black rum or brandy is most suitable, though fruit-based spirits like apricot brandy also come highly recommended.

For added richness, apricot jam or chunky Seville orange marmalade work wonders.

For everyday use, blend mincemeat with fresh fruit. Add a layer to an apple pie or crumble, a plum crumble or a plum tart. A pie featuring fresh or tinned pineapple chunks atop a mincemeat layer is a much-loved treat from Norfolk Island in the South Pacific.

Versions containing animal fats should be cooked before use, but those made with butter can be used directly, perhaps even mixed into ice cream - Serve atop warm scones with whipped or clotted cream for a luxurious festive treat. For an alternative to the traditional mince pie, consider mini Eccles mince pies.

baked mincepies

How to Store Mincemeat

Owing to its high sugar content, augmented by fat and possibly alcohol, mincemeat can be stored at a cool room temperature for an extended period. Once opened, refrigeration will prolong its shelf life even further.

Availability of Mincemeat

Homemade mincemeat can be crafted throughout the year, and it will only improve in flavour when adequately sealed and allowed to mature. Commercially canned and bottled mincemeats are generally available year-round in larger supermarkets and benefit from flavour enhancements as described above.