Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Most Expensive Mincemeat EVAR - Coming to a Tolkien Marathon Near You!

"'And mince-pies and cheese,' said Bofur.

My father and I are a couple of those rare birds who still like mincemeat. For the past several years, I've thought about making some to give him at Christmas; this past year, I finally, actually did it.

I usually depend on Allrecipes to look up recipes to try. I've depended on it for more than a decade, and I've had few disappointments because of its rating and review system. So that's where I went to find the right mincemeat recipe, too.

I settled on this one because of the wide variety of fruits involved. If you read the jars in the store, you'll see that most include just apples, raisins, citrus peel, and spices. That sounds like slacking to me. So I decided to go for a little bit of biodiversity in a jar.

But I immediately faced problems getting all the ingredients. Had I thought this out ahead of time, I could have canned some things over the summer and gotten them less expensively and also locally. It was weird how many stores had a space on the shelf for canned sour cherries, but no inventory. And I never did find cans of gooseberries, except online, where it would cost me more than $40 to get them. I eventually substituted gooseberry jam instead, after toying with - and rejecting - a number of other possible substitutes. I wiped out the entire supply of the stuff at a local farm store.

Without further ado, I offer you the recipe below - with descriptions of what actually happened as I went through the steps.

Mincemeat III

(brought to us by Allrecipes user Linda Correia)

2 pounds cranberries (the bags in the store ARE NOT A POUND but 12 oz.)
1 quart water
9 apples - peeled, cored and ground (I grated them instead)
2 pounds raisins
3 (16 ounce) cans gooseberries (I subbed in 6 8-oz. jars of jam)
3 (16 ounce) cans pitted sour red pie cherries (found 2 24-oz. glass jars)
2 cups brandy (om nom nom nom nom)
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 cups distilled white vinegar
4 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground allspice
Place cranberries in a large saucepan and pour water over them. Simmer on low heat until cranberries begin to split. Remove from heat and pour into a big giant pot.
To cranberries add apples, raisins, gooseberries, cherries, brandy, lemon rind, orange rind, vinegar, sugar, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. Stir this mixture thoroughly. It will look like red vomit and smell like sangria. (I tried not to be too discouraged at this step, but it was hard.)
Divide mincemeat between as many crock-pots as necessary and turn on low; cook overnight. Mine still looked disturbingly red and also thin and watery; the recipe doesn't say to drain any of the ingredients, so I didn't. I tried to thicken with cooking, propping the crock-pot lids open partially, but all that happened was that it finally turned brown (prompting renewed panic - OMG did I OVERCOOK now?!?!) but stayed just as watery. I decided maybe I'd thicken it with cornstarch if I ever finally got to the pie-making step - you can't fiddle with the recipe before canning because you might poison yourself if the acid balance isn't right. 
Sterilize enough canning jars and lids to fit all mincemeat. Can in quarts or half-gallons; it makes 8 quarts if I remember correctly, but two of them blew up in the water bath. I think I wasn't careful enough about the amount of head space. I always follow directions from PickYourOwn when canning; the instructions given in the original recipe do not meet modern standards of safety for canning.

Now here we are having a Tolkien party with Britishy Tolkieny foods, and mince is one of those things specifically mentioned in the books. Isn't that a handy coincidence? Given the fact that Bofur asks for "mince-pies," plural, I'm thinking little hand pies are what's called for here. It looks as though you can put them together in muffin tins, making the process that much simpler; I'm toying with the idea of making my own pastry and flattening it with my handy-dandy tortilla press. Awww yeah.

I'm also going to make little blackberry pies, because blackberry tart is served to Frodo & co. at the Prancing Pony, and I'm extrapolating so that non-mince-lovers can have little pies, too. Because everyone should have pie.

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