This will be our third Christmas in this house and in the US. The first year we had only been in our house a few weeks and I was pregnant with Magnus, so there wasn't much spare energy around for Christmas preparations. My parents were here and my Mum did all the cooking. Last year Peder's parents came over so we celebrated Swedish style, which again meant that I didn't have to do much. This year my parents are coming again, but I thought it was about time I put a little bit of effort into establishing some Christmas traditions of our own. I thought mincemeat would be a good place to start for two reasons, you can only really buy one pretty ropey brand here and two, I don't like orange so won't eat it anyway. I decided to give Delia's recipe a go with a few tweaks to remove the orange. I chose this one because you heat it up to melt the suet and coat all the ingredients so I'm hoping that will help the apples keep well.
So, recipe in hand I went off grocery shopping and managed to find most of the ingredients apart from the suet and the mixed peel. I think I found sultanas, although they were called white raisins and actually just looked like very big normal raisins. The peel was easy, I used a Jane Grigson recipe and made some candied lemon peel myself. The suet was a bit trickier. People don't eat animal fat here you know, it's too unhealthy :) All the Googling I did suggested that suet is used to feed birds and could be obtained from butchers. I called a local butcher but he said it was a seasonal product and it was still too warm for them to stock it. Not much use if I wanted my mincemeat to have a bit of time to mature before Christmas. In the end I discovered, from the Cincy Localvore Yahoo group that Greenacres Farm had some.
I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, I suppose a nice little foil wrapped block like butter, but no, this was a big hunk of frozen raw animal fat. Nice. Definitely not in a state to be put directly into mince pies. Anyway, as you can see from the picture I found out how to melt the fat and strain it so it was nice and clear, and a much better state for mincemeat production. The tweaks I made to the recipe were to use apple juice instead of orange, and only put in the candied lemon peel. I also had to play around with the spices a bit as I didn't have Mixed Spice. I think I used fresh nutmeg, cinnamon and a litle bit of ginger. I doubled the recipe so was expecting about 6 jars but ended up with 4, each weighing about 1.25lb. They are now sitting in a cupboard waiting for us to get Halloween and Thanksgiving out of the way.