Updated: May 26
Here at Red Robin Pantry we don't just love cake, we love food. Personally, I have a slight obsession with festive food. I feel this is probably bordering on an addiction, worryingly. It's November now, so I am a little behind this year, though my Christmas cake (this year a wonderfully moist plum and walnut with lashings of Cointreau) has been stewing away for at least two months.
Now I am in the midst of making this years mincemeat. Anyone who knows me and Red Robin Pantry, knows that we are famous for our unusual inspirations when it comes to mincemeat. My dad loves his standard apple and brandy mincemeat, with all the usual dried fruit and spices, but I like to mix it up a little. From the not so strange cranberry and port, to sticky plums, walnuts and lashings of sloe gin; or dark Belgian chocolate with fresh dark cherries and cointreau and sweet sweet cinnamon, which is great for kids who need to be introduced to the wonders of the marvellous mince pie (the booze does get cooked off during baking remember). Oh and lets not forget our American inspired pumpkin mincemeat, with pecans, cardamom and a good helping of Bourbon. Hands down far superior to any pumpkin pie i've ever tried, but maybe that's just because i'm English.
This year I have opted for two flavours, one of which is sadly not hitting home with my father. I am sure he will love it once it is baked into his favourite, frangipane mince pies. This first flavour is a little more adventurous than my previous experiments. Pomegranate, pecan and dark spiced rum. Now, I spent a good few weeks pondering how i could make a pomegranate mincemeat, and what should go with it. What spices this year? And what dried fruits? As i wanted to use something a little more interesting than currants, raisins and sultanas. I bombarded fellow baker and university friend Mike for ideas. This year I've moved away a little from the usual spices you find in mincemeat (oh they will still play a small part), I've added a little black pepper and star anise, to give my mincemeat a little kick, a good helping of pomegranate molasses, and some dates for good measure.
The second flavour is one that I have made before, at least in part. This is a pear based mincemeat. Now last time I coupled this with plenty of apricots, ginger and almonds. Perhaps too much ginger for my family, but everyone else who tried it loved it. I myself love ginger. So this time, in order to keep my family happy we're going for a pear, hazelnut with good old brandy, oh and a little frangelico too.
My mincemeats are all tucked away ready for the night, stewing in orange and lemon juice. For those that don't know, there a two types of mincemeats out there, these are cooked and uncooked. Now I use the cooked method, as I like adding lots of fresh fruit to my mincemeat, and jam pack it to the brim with other goodies such as all kinds of dried fruit. This method involves placing all of your ingredients in a bowl (except the booze) and leaving it overnight to soak up all those juices. You then cook the mincemeat in your oven on a very low heat, about 100-120 degrees C. This cooks your fruit a little, but most importantly you melt the suet. As your mincemeat cools, you can then stir it regularly, coating all the ingredients in a nice layer of sugar, spices, citrus juice and suet, which helps to preserve your mincemeat while it matures. As does the final addition of plenty of strong spirits.
Uncooked mincemeat, which can easily be spotted by the visible stands of suet in the jar, is what is often found in the supermarkets. Because it is not cooked, the amount of fresh fruit is often quite low, if any at all. The reason for this is that as it matures fresh fruit ferments, and fruit that is not coated in a layer of fat such as suet or butter produces gas during this process, and as you can imagine, can go off with a bit of a bang. For this reason I opt for the much more time consuming, though much more tasty cooked mincemeat. It's well worth the effort. Tomorrow each bowl will sit in my oven on low for most of the morning, ready to be jarred up and sent off to all those that begged me for a jar. All i can say is i'm glad i am not making it on mass for sale this year!