Bonfire Night and the fireworks are over now, and I’m on countdown to Christmas. I’ve uploaded The Ultimate Christmas Album to my iPod and last night I drove home from a class singing along to my favourite tracks.

 I have three jars of mincemeat in the cupboards, ready for creating marzipan topped mince pies and mincemeat muffins. A friend and I made our own one year – in fact we made so much it lasted three years – and it smelt divine. It took us a whole evening as we had a tiny hand mincer and we had to feed through about four currants at a time, and tiny handfuls of chopped apple, but it was a really fun, sociable evening. I found a recipe in an old cookbook called Farmhouse Fare which was published in 1946 and consists of recipes ‘from country housewives collected by The Farmers Weekly’. It’s a lovely book – I’ve just caught sight of a recipe for lemon curd dumplings and my mouth is watering – and the preserves, as you would expect from farmers’ wives, are particularly good. It tells you how to make your own pectin, which I should do as both my mother-in-law and sister have very productive apple trees; marrow cream which is claimed to be equally as nice as lemon cheese; orange and apple curd (oh yes! mouth is watering again), and spiced bramble jelly and cheese, for which you add nutmeg, mace and cinnamon to the fruit. Sounds mighty fine to me. Ooh, and carrot jam – a veg farmer’s wife, maybe? – which contains carrots, sugar, cooking brandy, lemon and sweet almonds.

Oh look at this one – cockie leekie. The recipe starts: An old hen…

Anyway, this is the recipe for mincemeat with raspberry jam, which we used. We did add a load of alcohol – I think we sloshed in apple schnaps and brandy – which is probably why it kept so well, and probably played with the fruit quantities as well depending on how much of each we had already.

Ingredients: 1lb raisins (stoned), 1lb sultanas, 1lb currants, 1lb castor sugar, 1lb suet, grated rind of two lemons, 2lbs cooking apples (after peeling), 3/4lb mixed peel, 3/4lb raspberry jam, juice of three lemons, 1 nutmeg (grated).

Method: Mince finely the fruit, apples, peel and suet. Stir in sugar, lemon rind and juice, nutmeg and jam. Add a few whole currants and a little brandy or whisky. Mix well, put into pots and cover closely. From Miss Margaret Sheffield, Birmingham.

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