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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!

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  1. Diane Rivero-Wain

    Hope you can help me! I have been making mincemeat for about 19years,its always been fine, no problems at all. I mix everything together, leave it for a day then cook it for 3hours on a very low heat, when cool add cherry brandy then put into jars, but for the last three years after 3 days it’s fermenting and the juice is oozing out!!! should I reheat it? I don’t know why it’s started doing this after all the years it was fine !! can anyone help!! Thank you .

  2. I always know Christmas is coming when I start to see new comments on this thread! I’ve been making Delia’s mincemeat for a couple of years now (since following the advice from this page) and I don’t see how the amount of alcohol will make any difference. The first batch I made with the recipe’s amount I found too boozy, so I put less in the next batch and it still kept just fine. Once I accidentally added it before cooking and it still kept fine but that might just be good luck on my part!

  3. Marilena, do you mean this recipe?

    I can’t see you’ve done anything wrong. It’s never occurred to me to wash the fruit for mincemeat, and Delia doesn’t say to do so. More booze = better preserved. Unless the alcohol boiled vigorously for several minutes, you didn’t kill it. I don’t see why it should ferment — especially if it’s for use this Christmas.

  4. Just made Delia’s recipe and from the comments I’ve read so far, I think it may have been a waste of my time.

    I added too much booze (7 tbsp brandy, 1 tbsp port), did not wash the dried fruit beforehand, then put the cold mincemeat into warm jars (suet started melting).

    Will the warm jars kill the alcohol, meaning my mincemeat will ferment?
    Should I have let the jars cool and kept the alcohol to 6 tbsp, per the recipe?
    Was it really a big deal that I didn’t wash the dried fruit?

    So confused. The steps sounded so simple.

    • I think this must be a different recipe to the Delia one I use, which requires the mincemeat mix to “stew” (for want of a better word) for a couple of hours at a low temperature in the oven. This definitely melts the suet, which coats all the fruit and helps protect it from the air.

      I fear that putting cold mincemeat mix in warm jars won’t get the seal you need to preserve it… and “just” 7 tbsp of brandy isn’t sufficient to preserve the fruit either. To get a seal, you either need to put a hot mixture into a warm jar and the vacuum seals it as it cools, or put mixture in jars and then set them in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes or so to force the excess air out and again create a vacuum as the jars cool.

      Washing the fruit very much depends on the fruit you’ve got. Most British supermarket stuff is already washed, but if you’ve bought it in bulk or from a market, then it’d probably need a wash.

      • I don’t believe mincemeat really needs a “seal” in the way that jam does. There’s no need for a boiling water bath; the sugar content is so high (bearing in mind that dried fruit has a much higher sugar content than fresh) that along with the alcohol, the likelihood of it going off is extremely remote. At any rate I have never done this, and I haven’t poisoned anyone or had my mincemeat ferment. As Lydia says, Delia’s recipe involves melting the suet to coat everything thoroughly and this probably helps too.

  5. You’re right Lydia — I made mine at the weekend, and couldn’t resist eating some out of the pot! I used Delia’s recipe, but as I’m in Spain I adapted it: a mixture of very plump Spanish sultanas, chopped dried Malaga figs (the tiny pear-shaped ones), chopped dried apricots, dried cranberries, chopped candied orange peel, and instead of mixed spice I flavoured it with 4-épices (a mixture of black pepper, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon). Mmmm…

  6. I’ve used Delia’s recipe for the last 3 years and can safely say that it lasts for over a year in a sealed Kilner jar.

    I adapt mine a little bit though, soaking the fruit in brandy the night before and then giving it an extra slug at the end of cooking for good measure. I also use a bag of pre-mixed dried fruit and have been know to add dried cranberries. This year I zested the citrus with my new zester-thing which produced long-ish strips and the result was the best yet.

    The only real problem with it though is that it’s way too tempting to eat out of the cooking pot!

  7. Kathleen

    I made some mincemeat two weeks ago and it is now in the fridge waiting for me to find out how to preserve it (I made more than I had intended. In my search I came across this sight and hope you can help me out. My mincemeat is already made and cooled – which is perfect for Delia’s instructions to put cold mixture into sterilized jars, but my problem is that I used meat in my recipe and I don’t know if I can still store it the same way because of the meat. I put plenty of brandy in it and I put sugar in while it was cold (maple syrup, white sugar and agave) Thank you

  8. I have made a few batches of homemade mincemeat and have used an uncooked recipe with apples and brandy. My last batch made, seems to be bubbling from th jar. Can I still use this? What could be causing this?

    • It sounds like it’s fermenting!
      I’d put it in the fridge right away. You could taste it or cook it again and then taste it – but be prepared for the worst. If you’re keen on the uncooked recipe, I would freeze it (a new batch), certainly if you were thinking of gifting it.

  9. It’s been interesting reading all the comments on here-I’ve been making my Mum’s recipe for years, have never cooked it and stored it in a plastic tub, it seems to keep fine! I thought you may be interested in trying a recipe I was given for a Strudel topping instead of a pastry lid for your mince pies. (Obviously this is for when you make your own pastry.) It’s yummy and makes a nice change!
    Take out 140g of your pastry mix before you add the water. Mix in 55g of demerara sugar, 25g chopped nuts and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of the mince pies before baking.

  10. Here’s the vodka recipe, it’s for a big batch, but if it turns out well I’m going to use it for Christmas presents. After a week it’s smelling and looking good, but the flavour isn’t very strong yet.

    2 litre vodka
    3 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
    2 tbsp honey
    2 tsp vanilla essence
    400g raisins
    100g almonds, roughly chopped
    10 cloves
    1 tsp nutmeg
    2 tsp mixed spice
    2 large oranges, peel and juice
    2 large lemons, peel only

    1. Combine all the ingredients in a suitably large bottle or containers. Ensure all containers are sterilised by running through a dishwasher cycle or washing thoroughly then warming in a low oven.
    2. Shake or turn the containers once a week for about six weeks.
    3. About two weeks before drinking, strain through a fine sieve and/or coffee filter paper/muslin.

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