Mince Pies Anyone?
With the glut of cooking apples all around there is no better time to get making some mincemeat. 'Oh I just buy my pies in Tesco Rosie' you cry - 'no need for mincemeat - all that faffing about, I don't have the time.'
If this is how you feel, I would urge you to think again. Home made mincemeat is nothing like shop bought and it also keeps for at least two years once made so you don't even have to make it every year! I like the tradition of it though, children back to school, everything settles down and then you can get the mincemeat made first, before the Christmas cake and the Christmas pudding. There, I've said it. Christmas. It won't happen again.
(It is, actually, the perfect thing to make with the children during half term and then they can help with making the mince pies when they finish school at Chmn*h@lh )
If you don't like the dark unctiousness of the traditional mincemeat Pam Corbin has a very different but delicious recipe for a mincemeat based on plums. This is a two day process, mix one day, cook the next.
PLUM & RUSSET MINCEMEAT
Makes 4 x 450g jars
I kg plums
Finely grated zest and juice of 2-3 oranges
500g russet apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1 cm cubes
100g orange marmalade
250g demerara sugar
half tsp ground cloves
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp grated nutmeg
50ml ginger wine or cordial
100g chopped walnuts
50ml brandy or sloe gin
Wash, halve, and stone the plums and put into a saucepan with the orange juice. Cook until tender then blend in a liquidiser until smooth or push through a sieve. You should have around 700ml of puree.
Put into a large bowl and add all of the other ingredients except the brandy. Mix together then cover and stand for 12 hours.
Preheat your oven to 130 deg C, put the mincemeat into a heatproof baking dish, and bake uncovered for 2 - 21/2 hours. Stir in the brandy or gin then pot up into warmed, sterilised *jars. Remove any air pockets with a knife or skewer, then seal immediately.
Store in a cool, dark place until Christmas and then use within one year.
* I like the 12oz Oval jars for mincemeat - they look pretty if I want to give some as a gift - or the Dodec is very smart as well.
APPLES - PART TWO
Lots of apple recipes to try with the children during half-term
As you know I was speaking and demonstrating at Brogdale Farm last weekend - the home of the National Fruit Archive.
It was a lovely day and the facilities and presentation at Brogdale were superb - if you have a chance to visit I urge you to do so.
With over 2000 varieties of apple let alone all of the other types of fruit it is quite mesmerising to look around and I was quite glad we were concentrating just on the apples!
I took along lots of ideas for making preserves with apples - apple curd, cordial, juice, leather, dried apple rings amongst others. If you would like to try making some of the things with your children during the school holidays you can download the recipe sheet here. ( Scroll down to page two for the recipes )
I would love to hear any of your favourite apple recipes - I'll post the best here - if I get any!
This week I have a special holiday discount code for you to use for any products on the lovejars.co.uk website - just enter APPLES10 at the checkout for a 10% reduction. Have fun!
APPLES - JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED
It is that special time of year when there are apples everywhere, especially cooking apples. We have a large old Bramley tree in our garden and it is so tall that we just have to wait until the apples fall and then use them as soon as possible.
When I was a little girl apples were not available all year round - I know, what kind of crazy is that? Apples,like everything else, were seasonal, so most families would store as many as they could, for as long as they could. We had a cellar, and my father would set up old doors on trestle tables. My parents knew how long each variety would keep for, in the right conditions, and the apples would be set out in rows - not touching - in order of use. Cooking apples would be kept separate and any that were bruised were picked over and bruised bits cut out. We had pies and crumbles, made blackberry and apple jam, and any remaining would be bottled for later.
We had to check the stored apples regularly and any that were deteriorating were removed and used immediately - maybe stewed to eat with our morning porridge.One thing we never made - but I am certain that we would have done if we had known that you could - was fruit leather.
It is very simple to do - prep cooking apples by taking out the core and and removing any bruised or damaged bits. Apple leather is ideal for using up windfalls. Chop the apples, including the skin, and place in a large pan with a small amount of water, to prevent sticking.
Cook the apple until soft and then leave to cool - it needs to be put through a food processor/liquidiser, and if you do this when still very hot then it may splash out through the lid.Process until smooth and there are no big bits of peel left.If you don't have a processor then just push the pulp through a sieve, you probably won't be able to sieve all of it but do your best.
Now, I have a dehydrator, and because it is for work, I got the biggest I could find. It has nine oblong trays and I have never regretted buying it. The one I have is probably a bit over-sized for most homes but there are plenty of smaller ones to choose from. I spread the pulp onto silicon paper in a thick layer and then set the timer for about 8 hours. Follow the instructions with your own machine. You can also put the paper onto baking trays and place in the oven on the lowest possible setting. Leave over night and assess in the morning whether or not the leather is dry enough or needs a little longer. Funnily enough, it will be like leather! It will easily peel away from the paper and I then roll it up like a swiss roll, before slicing across ready for storing. I keep some in a clip top jar for the grand children when they visit.
The leather keeps indefinitely if kept dry and cool and is ideal for taking on walks, for climbers, campers and sailors - and very healthy for children. Do not be tempted to add sugar or honey as it is hydroscopic and will attract moisture. I love making the labels for the packets - 'ingredients: apples'.
That is the miracle of food preservation.
I shall be at The National Fruit Archive, Brogdale Hall, Faversham this Sunday. It is their annual Apple Day and there will be lots of fun activities for all ages. I shall be doing one of the talks in the kitchen so do come along and say hello if you are there.