I don’t know where this year has gone, but Christmas is almost upon us once again. It seems that the older I get, the quicker each year seems to go! This year I’m actually a bit more prepared than usual. I’ve already got quite a bit of Christmas shopping done, which is great. I’ve been buying things when I’ve seen them, which should hopefully mean I will avoid the last minute rush just before Christmas, making things less stressful and much more enjoyable. I will be working over the Chritmas/New Year period (except for public holidays/weekends) so anything that I can do now rather than later will make the holiday time more relaxing. That is the plan at least anyway.
Of course, there is all that wonderful Christmas baking to be done. Last year I was up to midnight a few nights in a row madly baking for work and Christmas gifts (and I still have the scar from a bad burn that resulted). I’m going to try and avoid the mad rush and late nights this year by doing what I can ahead of time. So on that note, last week I started another cooking class with Sarah Brigden (babyCakes) on Christmas baking. In our first class we made Fruit Mince and Frangipane tarts, with a cinnamon pastry. Fruit mince is best made at least a week before you want to use it (although it will keep for months), and so that is what I did today. I have to say that by the end of the day my kitchen was smelling very Christmassy! You can make the fruit mince to suit your own tastes, I used dried cranberries and blueberries in my dried fruit, but you can use whichever you prefer (just don’t use anything too wet like prunes etc). If you don’t like glace cherries, use something else. Like candied fruit peel? Add it in (I don’t, hence there isn’t any here). So now I’m even more prepared, with jars of fruit mince in my fridge ready for Christmas baking in December.
I also made the frangipane tarts today (but with raspberries rather than fruit mince) and I will put those up during the week (pastry is great to make ahead and freeze until you need it as well, I think I’ll have to do that next weekend). But for now, here is the recipe for fruit mince. Make it now and by Christmas the flavours will have developed and it will be ready for whatever you want to use it in.
Makes enough for two 500ml jars and two and a half 300ml jars
- 1kg diced granny smiths apples (this is the final weight, peeled, cored and diced into about 1cm square dices)
- 250g brown sugar
- 250ml dry cider
- ½ teaspoon mixed spice
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 500g dried fruit (I used sultanas, currants, dried cranberries and dried blueberries)
- 150g glace cherries – roughly chopped (½ green and ½ red or a mix of colours)
- 75g flaked almonds
- 1 lemon – zest and juice (I added this to the apples while I was dicing them to stop them going brown)
- 90ml rum or brandy
- Add the brown sugar and cider to a large saucepan and place over a medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the apples and stir, and then add all of the other ingredients except for the rum (or brandy).
- Simmer (stirring occasionally) for 30 minutes to an hour until the apple has cooked and the mix is becoming ‘mushy’. The time it takes will depend on the size (and type) of your apple dice. If you want it to be quicker, you could use tinned diced apples.
- Set aside to cool and then stir through the rum (or brandy). Place in sterilised jars and place in the fridge (or a cool dry place) until you want to use it. It is best made at least a week before you want to use it, however it should keep for at least 6 months.
Note – to sterilise the jars, wash them in soapy water, rinse and dry, and then place on a tray and in an oven which has been preheated to 160C fan forced (180C) for 5 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Fruit Mince – Sarah Brigden (babyCakes)