It’s day 6 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent calendar and it’s time to make some mincemeat. Now, you may throw your hands up in the air in despair – what’s wrong with using shop-bought mincemeat for goodness sake? Nothing, unless you are a sensitive eater! It’s the things that are added in that could prove to be a problem.
Traditionally mincemeat is made with suet, a form of fat taken from beef or mutton. It’s highly saturated and useful for making pastry, puddings and holding mincemeat together. Vegetable suet looks similar to animal-based but is is usually made from a highly saturated fat like palm oil and works well as a direct substitute. Indeed, I used to use it for making pastry when I first went plant-based, but stopped once I moved towards a whole-food way of eating and had to change my fat intake following my MS diagnosis. Another thing to bear in mind is that suet contain wheat and therefore gluten. You can buy gluten-free suet, but if you don’t need it, why bother?
Most shop-bought mincemeats and many recipes for making it at home include a shed-load of sugar. I never used to question that, but if you think about it, dried fruit is already super-sweet, so why add more? Once answer could be for the preserving effects of sugar; mincemeat is often made in advance so the flavours can develop. Sugar helps to stop it going mouldy. But mincemeat utilises other natural preservatives like lemon juice and alcohol, so it shouldn’t be a problem. But to be on the safe side, I keep mine in the fridge once made.
The other benefit of making your own mincemeat is that you can personalise it, so that if you have an intolerance to one thing, like oranges for example, you can leave it out and still enjoy a mince pie or two. You can leave the brandy out if you either don’t drink or like alcohol, just replace it with some more orange juice.
Whilst there is still a lot of sugar in this recipe just from the presence of the dried fruit, there are some positives as well. Firstly, the dried fruit and apple still have their lovely healthy fibre; friendly gut bacteria particularly enjoy dining on cooked apple. The cinnamon helps manage blood sugar levels and the citrus contain antioxidants that can help support your body.
This recipe won’t fill huge amounts of jars; if you are catering for a large number or just love eating it, then double or even quadruple the amounts. It doesn’t take long to make either, which is good news when there’s lots of pre-Christmas prep to do. Plus the house will be filled with lovely seasonal aromas to get you in the festive spirit. A warning though; as there is not much to bind the mix together, the texture will be looser than traditional mincemeat, so be prepared to make a bit of a mess in the kitchen. Also, try and make a couple of days before you want it so that the flavours ping.
I hope you give this recipe a go. If you do, don’t forget to let me know how you get on. Spoiler alert – there’ll be a recipe coming up soon using it!
No added sugar or fat mincemeat
2 medium sized eating apples
400g mixed dried fruit
50g sliced almonds
1 orange, juice and grated rind
1 lemon, juice and grated rind
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons brandy (optional)
You will also need a clean, sterilised jar
Wash, core and chop the apples. Place in a medium sized pan with all the other ingredients, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the fluid has been absorbed and the apple is cooked and mushy.
Stir well to combine, taste and add more spices if needed. Leave to cool then transfer to the prepared jar. Put on the lid, leave to cool completely then store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. That’s it!