Friday, December 10, 2010

Let the baking begin

There's just two weeks until Christmas Eve, which means it's time I got into my annual spate of Christmas baking. It'll be a bit different this year though - the usual date balls and lolly cake are off the list, and shortbread, iced spice biscuits, and Christmas mince pies will be made to Edmonds recipes instead of those I usually use.

As usual, I'm beginning with Christmas mince pies. I make dozens of these every year, but the difference this year is that I'm actually making my own pastry and fruit mince (called 'Christmas mincemeat' in the Edmonds book) from scratch. Usually I just do a cheat's version with packet pastry and Earnest Adams fruit mince.

Most of the ingredients for the Christmas mincemeat (p82) were easily found, but I had a little trouble with the suet. I knew suet was a kind of fat, but didn't know where to buy it. Pak N Save offered up dripping and shortening, but nothing labelled 'suet'. In the end I asked a staff member (carefully choosing an older person who might recognise the word 'suet') who informed me that shortening and suet are the same thing.

Though I suspected this statement to be inaccurate, I went back and had another look at the shortening. The result of this was the purchase of a product called 'Shreddo', which at least had suet as the main ingredient. I was a bit worried that it wasn't going to work in the mincemeat, but a little Googling on returning to my desk confirmed that firstly, suet and shortening are not necessarily the same thing, and secondly, that Shreddo can be used for fruit mince recipes.

With all the ingredients on hand, I was finally able to make up my Christmas mincemeat. The first ingredient is apple, which is to be minced or finely chopped. I decided the most efficient way to deal with the apple was to put it through the grater attachment on my food processor.

When all the apple was grated, I took it out of the food processor, wrapped it in muslin, and squeezed the juice out. This is not part of the recipe, but I was conscious that juicy apple in a fruit mince can make the pie pastry soggy.

The dried fruit and nuts also have to be finely chopped or minced, so I bunged it all back into the food processor. Unfortunately, by the time I had the apple, Shreddo, sultanas, raisins, currants, mixed peel and almonds in the processor bowl, it was obviously over-full. It seemed too late to change my mind though, so I squeezed the lid on and started processing.

The bottom layer of the mixture processed very readily; the rest just stayed on top. After repeatedly removing the lid to move the mixture around, I finally had a reasonable looking mixture. Of course, it was more of a paste than the chunky fruit mince I'm used to working with, since most of the fruit had been mulched up quite thoroughly.The almonds, on the other hand, had hardly been chopped at all. I fished around in the bowl for almonds and chopped them up by hand.

The last ingredients added were brown sugar, salt, nutmeg and brandy. I was surprised that there weren't more spices in the recipe, because fruit mince is usually quite spicy. In fact, when compared side-by-side to the bought fruit mince I usually use, it doesn't look very appealing. Still, I'll give it a go, and if I find I don't like the flavour after the first batch of pies, I'll start playing around with extra spices.

So that's my Christmas mincemeat made. Tomorrow morning I'll be making some pastry and turning my mincemeat into pies. They'll be different from the ones I usually make, but I'm hoping they'll still be good: if not, what am I going to do with all that fruit mince?


  1. You're right, it doesn't look terribly appealing, but who knows...
    I'm looking forward to hearing how they turn out :)

  2. Try buying Shreddo in June 2013. I always make my mincemeat from scratch at this time of the year and let it "age" till December but can't find any Shreddo at any supermarket

  3. That's a pretty good idea, given that the whole point of adding the suet is so the mincemeat will keep. Im sure you'd get a better flavour that way. Of course, long after writing this entry, I found a note (in a more recent Edmonds version) that you can leave out the suet, as long as you refrigerate the mincemeat. So for anyone using their mincemeat immediately, like I did, the suet is probably just unnecessary added fat..

  4. where can i get shreddo/suet? my local new world supermarket no longer stock this as their supplier no longer makes it. is their a substitute? say kremelta, beef fat or clearified butter??

  5. I found shreddo at both countdown and pak n save, but that was a while back so I'm not sure if it's still available. Not sure what you could substitute, but when I was looking I did wonder whether I could get suet from a butcher. You could try ringing up one and asking?

    1. I tried sourcing shreddo/suet from Pakn Save, New World and Countdown in West Auckland in April.
      I was also was told it was no longer being stocked. :(


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