No Hurry…

  • Posted on November 20, 2017 at 2:58 pm
No Hurry...

No Hurry…

At this time of year the main focus increasingly becomes how much we have to do for Christmas, how much we haven’t yet achieved, and how little time there is left in which to do it. Perhaps it might be better to turn the whole thing around; look at how much time you still have and prioritize what you really like/enjoy about your Midwinter/Christmas preparations. It would be easy for me to sit here and panic, saying to myself, “Oh my godfathers, I only have five weeks to Christmas Day!!!!” But I choose to say to myself, “Wow! I still have a whole five weeks? Wonderful!”

There are those among us who are incredibly well organised and have the mincemeat and puddings made in October and the Christmas Cake baking in their oven by Stir Up Sunday – the last Sunday in November. Unfortunately, for many of us, other things – life – just gets in the way of even our best laid plans and intentions… and that is exactly how it should be; life is for living, for being spontaneous, for rising to unforeseen challenges and generally dipping and diving and riding the wave of your own existence, so don’t for one minute feel guilty about doing it!

You can be just as spontaneous about your winter holiday preparations too. If you suddenly feel like turning your back on tidying the sitting room, sorting out this month’s paperwork,  cleaning the car or getting out the ironing board and doing something ‘seasonal’ instead, go for it, and enjoy it, instead of feeling that everything has become a ‘have to’ chore!

This is exactly what I did last week. Still having an abundance of apples and a spare half hour on my hands, I decided to make my own mincemeat. No, it is most certainly not too late! Here I offer my old family recipe which seems quite frugal now compared to some of today’s exotic mixes, but it is no less delicious for all that. Also, you can bear in mind that you can add anything you like to this basic mixture:- other dried or candied fruits, chopped nuts, etc.. I feel that it depends on what you are going to have in your Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake (whether home made or bought) as I try to avoid all three items from tasting too similar – think about it.

My mother used to make double the quantity listed below. If she was hosting lots of big parties over the Midwinter period, (which she frequently did, especially when I was very small), she sometimes made quadruple the amount. (And, I am amazed to say, we rarely had any left after the festive period!) My mother would assemble it all in a large earthenware crock and leave it standing on a shelf in our ‘buttery’, the smaller shelf-lined room next to the kitchen which we used as a very large larder.

This room always enchanted me… a veritable ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of gastronomic potential! Sacks of potatoes, apples and carrots lounged on the floor; strings of onions dangled from the ceiling, large bowls of fruit ranged along one wall on a low table while regiments of Kilner preserving jars filled with every jam, chutney and bottled fruit stood to attention along the shelves. Demijons of golden summer wine gently bubbled while, on the floor, bottles all ready to decant for the table gathered a genteel patina of dust and the occasional tiny cobweb or two. And after baking day, rows of sugary-topped fruit pies, thick dark-crusted pork and game pies or golden-leaved steak pies would vie for space along the higher shelves with cakes; sticky chocolate, fragrant coffee, eggy sponge and moist spicy fruit, or – my father’s favourites – coconut or cherry loaves. Here also stood the salting crock and the huge bread crock which held a week’s bake of bread, while in one corner, and looking rather incongruous in such dated surroundings, stood our little snow-white camping fridge which ran on calor gas which was stored in a large heavy metal cylinder beneath the fridge. For in those far off days of the late 1950’s my parents had already chosen to live ‘off grid’ and I would often venture into this culinary ‘glory hole’ in the evening, lit candle in chamber candlestick in hand, to go and cut myself an extra piece of cake or pie for my supper.

Traditionally, mince pies were made in a sort of oval shape to mimic the outline of the manger in which the baby Jesus was laid, and in days gone by were sometimes even referred to as ‘manger pies’. My mother had a set of six ancient tins (which are now unfortunately lost to us) but we rarely used them as our family loved eating mince pies and it always seemed much easier to bake them in the trays, a dozen at a time.

Hundreds of years ago, the contents of a mince pie was indeed made from finely chopped or minced meat, heavily spiced and later sweetened to help preserve the meat. The only meat content left in the traditional recipes now is the suet but if you leave it out, it becomes suitable for vegetarians and vegans alike to enjoy, which is one of the two reasons why I make my own… that and the fact that home made is always much better than bought.

And it keeps. Stored in airtight screw-topped glass jars and left in a cool dark cupboard it will easily keep for a year. So if you have some left in January, either make a couple of larger tarts as a treat for all the family and use it up, or keep it until next autumn and use it first before making more.

MINCEMEAT:

Ingredients:

  • Method:
     Peel and core the apples and mince or finely chop them.
  • Mince or chop the dried fruit,
  • Grate the rind from the lemons and squeeze the juice,
  • Place all the ingredients together in a bowl and stir well to mix thoroughly
  • Leave in a cool place covered with a clean cloth for a few days, stirring vigorously each day.
  • Fill clean dry jars with mince meat, firmly screw on the lids and store in a cool, dark place until required.

NOTE: Any home made wines or spirits may be added to the mixture in whatever quantity you wish; just be careful not to make the mincemeat too wet.

ENJOY!

 

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