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Best mincemeat recipe for mince pies and puddings

homemade mincemeat

Mince pies are the quintessential Christmas treat. But every year loads of us bite into a proffered mince pie and resolve never to accept one again. it’s a shame as nothing beats a homemade one, bursting with mincemeat and a slug of brandy. I always make a few on Christmas Eve. I was pretty smug about them until Anne Mary mentioned that she always made her own mincemeat. I’m embarrassed to admit this but five years ago I didn’t know that you could make your own. I rushed home and thumbed through our cookbooks, convinced that it would be a complicated grinding, sieving, mincing process. It’s not. It’s really easy.

There was one major drawback, most of the recipes that I found produced mincemeat with a short shelf life. The apples often start to ferment after a couple of months. I didn’t want to make just the one jar or a batch to give away labeled “Unstable contents. Eat me within two months as I might explode”.

Then I struck gold, Delia Smith’s ‘Complete Illustrated Cookery Course’ includes a recipe that solves the fermentation problem. We have tweaked it over the years and now just stick to the original with one exception. We replace the candied peel (we are not fans) with halved glacé cherries (we’re addicted to these). We add the cherries with the brandy when the mincemeat comes out of the oven and has cooled down. Delia’s mincemeat recipe is simple to make and absolutely delicious. Luckily she has published the recipe on her website and the link is here.

Great mincemeat is not just for mince pies at Christmas. Delia has a lot of recipe ideas for puddings on her site that are worth checking out. Danny stuffed cooking apples with a jar of mincemeat that he found loitering in the fridge. Baked for for 40 minutes in a moderate oven they have become one of our favourite puds at this time of year.

Tips and tips:

  • If you are pressed for time you can adapt shop bought mincemeat by adding a small handful of halved glacé cherries and sultanas soaked overnight in brandy. Always add a teaspoon of brandy to shop mince pies. The best shop bought mince pies are the luxury ones from M&S and Waitrose.
  • Update November 2009:
  • As Delia says the mincemeat has a really long shelflife. I opened a jar from our 2006 batch tonight and it’s fine!

  Leave a reply


  1. I’m weighing out the ingredients for the first stage of Delia’s mincemeat, but am a bit concerned about whether to put it in jars when still hot. Your recommendation (above, to Sarah) is to put it in jars when warm, which is what I’ve done on the few occasions I’ve made jammy things in the past. Delia says to put the mincemeat jars when cold, but surely that won’t make the vacuum that is needed to preserve it?

    In Delia’s picture, she seems to be using those jars with the orange rubber ring. Do you know whether that makes a difference to the sealing/vacuum business, compared with normal jars?

    Thanks in anticipation!

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Mel

    Mine looks the same but it changes when it’s cooked and is fine.

  3. Help,

    I made the delia mincemeat recipe (the slow heated one) three weeks ago and im not sure if ive done something wrong. The mincemeat looks emulsified / cloudy in appearance. Should it look like this and will it change when it comes to cooking ?

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Nina

    If I was you I’d add some more brandy when it cools down as this will preserve it well.

  5. Hi, I made this recipe today but I put the brandy in the mixture before cooking it. Tomorrow when I take it out of the oven and it cools down should I put some more brandy in so that I preserve it longer? Regards xxx

  6. kate (uk)

    Hello Lin- as mincemeat is made well in advance of christmas and was used to cook with other fruits and meat for the rest of winter, it has to be preserved. The sugar and the alchohol preserve it in good condition for months or even years. If you make mincemeat without alchohol and try to store it, it will ferment and the tops will blow off your jars- I know this from experience…if you want to make alchohol free mincemeat you need to make it when you are going to use it, use it fast and store it in the fridge while it awaits use.It will still be delicious, it just will not keep. Use any mincemeat recipe you like the sound of, just omit the booze and make it within, to be safe, three days of when it will be used. Hope that helps.
    Personally, I don’t mince the dried fruits, I only grate the apple: soak them in a little hot tea overnight so they plump up, stir them into the mincemeat, then as they cook they will release their juice into the mincemeat, means you can reduce the suet and the sugar and they will be lovely and tender to eat.

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lin

    I’m sorry but I can’t help you as this is the only recipe for mincemeat that I have tried.

  8. Hi, my mum used to make her own mincemeat every year, and I have managed to loose the receipe. From looking at most of the receipes around alcohol of some kind is added, but my mum’s never had any and she used a hand mincer to put through all the ingreidients apart from ground almonds, suet and spices. Could you give me some hints on recreating this receipe? Hopefully yours, Lin

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Sarah

    Put the warm mincemeat into hot sterilised jars and screw on the lid tight. This should seal it. Once opened keep in the fridge.

  10. I am making mince filling and am adapting Delia’s recipe and this recipe to my own liking. Basically – I have to use butter as I live in Ukraine and suet comes salted here.
    My question – does sealling mean that I have to can/ bottle it? Or can I just throw it in a jar and screw the lid on tight? Thanks

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