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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. Delia’s recipe says:
    “When the mincemeat is quite cold, stir well again, adding the brandy. Pack in jars that have been sterilised (see below)”.

    So that’s what I did (added the brandy _after_cooking). If you add it before, I think it will evaporate and no longer act as a preservative (or not to the same extent).

  2. Hi Marie I have just made this recipe and followed the instructions, except that I mixed all the ingredients together and left overnight. Next day I reread the instructions and it said to put the brandy in after it has stood all night. So before I put it into the oven I added a bit more brandy. I have to say it tastes lovely. Hope this helps.

  3. Hi,
    I am wanting to make the Delia mincemeat recipe but am a bit confused because it misses out a couple of instructions!
    1. It says to add all the ingredients to soak overnight except the brandy but then never mentions the brandy again! When do I add it?
    2. Do I add the suet when the fruit is soaking or just before cooking?

  4. Hi Lucy. Any chance of a recipe gor that vodka?

  5. Hello,

    Last night I started brewing a batch of Christmas pudding vodka which has most of the ingredients needed to make mincemeat. When it’s time to filter the vodka (the week before Christmas) I thought it would be a shame to throw away the fruits/peel/spice byproduct. Do you think using vodka soaked fruit could work?

  6. I agree with suzik. The whole point of mincemeat is that it keeps 🙂 Traditionally it wasn’t cooked at all before it was put in jars. Delia’s method just helps to ensure the apples don’t ferment; the sugar and the alcohol preserve it, whether you cook it before putting in jars or not. Actually, the alcohol alone should stop the apples fermenting, but it may depend on how much you use.

  7. It should be fine. The recipe I use isn’t cooked. I prepare and mix the ingredients, leave for 2 days for flavours to improve and then put into sterile jars. It keeps for months.

  8. Hi
    I made mincemeat for the first time over two weeks ago while I was making christmas puds, the recipe was given to me without cooking insctructions so I presumed I had to store it until I was ready to make the mince pies. I did add the alcohol and stored it in a air tight jar in a cool,dry cupboard. Should I cook it now or throw it out and start again?

  9. Hi Pat

    I live in France and have the same problem, so unless my husband can bring me Bramleys, I use granny smith or canada gris, which both seem to work OK. i am sure there is some equivalent in Spain.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Kay and Pat

      If you add fresh lemon juice. The juice of one large lemon to about 500g of apples you can add the acidity that’s needed and speed up setting time.

      Do let me know how you get on!



  10. I am going to try making mincemeat this year for the first time, but live in Spain and I still do not know if you can buying cooking apples here. They all seem to be eating. Any ideas as to what I should be looking for.

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