Minced

Having never made mince pies before, I thought it was high time I gave it a go.  Particularly because my Christmas baking has been pretty much non-existent this year.  Normally I would at least do a batch of pepparkakor or some saffrony Lucia buns.  But because I got a new job a few weeks before Christmas, my head was full and my energy levels were too depleted to do anything but lie comatose on the sofa watching terrible santa films starring Will Ferrell or Vince Vaughn. 
(As a side note, can I just take the opportunity to rave enthusiastically about my favourite Christmas present- a slanket.  I will never be cold again.  Also, turns out it if you turn it around it doubles up as a monk-like robe.  Useful.)
I thought the one thing I did bake should be a proper challenge.  That and I also promised I would bring them for a pudding at my friend Matilda’s pastry-themed dinner party. 
Because I’m not English, I thought this would automatically put me at a mince pie disadvantage.  As if making them is somehow a genetic trait, passed down from generation to generation or maybe cultivated through more years of tea-drinking and playing croquet than I have managed to amass. 
Turns out this is not the case.  Mince pies are EASY, man.  In fact, too easy.  I had to add an extra challenge by making my own mincemeat.   I understand that most people buy it in jars, something which I am now quite confused by.  Because it turns out making mincemeat from scratch is also really easy.   You are going to have to do better, England, I want to be pushed!
So this is Nigella’s mincemeat recipe and makes about 1.5- 2kg of the stuff, so quite a lot.  Divide to make smaller amounts. It is also suet-free, which is the way I think I prefer it, now that I am an expert. You’ll need your largest saucepan if you are making the full amount.
Mincemeat


You will need:
250g soft, dark sugar
250ml medium-dry cider
1 kg cooking apples, peeled, halved, quartered.
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
250g currants
250g raisins
75g glace cherries, preferably natural coloured, chopped.
75g blanched almonds, finely chopped.
1 lemon (juice and zest of)
90ml rum or brandy.
Method:
Heat the sugar and cider over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. 
Roughly chop the apples and add them to the pan, letting them cook away.    
Add all the other ingredients apart from the booze and leave to simmer and bubble for about 30 minutes, until everything looks soft and pulpy.  You may need to mash things together to help the mixture along a bit.
Take the pan off the heat and leave for a bit before stirring in the rum or brandy. 
Spoon into sterilized jars until ready for putting into your pies, I went with star-topped ones.  

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