Eliza Actons superlative mincemeat – 1845

It’s christmas time! My favourite season of the year. I love when it’s dark and cold and can stay in my PJs all day, drink tea and read new books.
And just think of all the christmas decorations in the city, the smell of cinnamon, cloves and freshly baked cookies and steaming hot tea! There is nothing more beautiful than this.

So this week I finally got my hands on suet which I will use to make 18th century pomade and since I don’t need all of it I decided to try to make a 19th century mincemeat to later make mince pies.
In austria we don’t have mince pies or anything similar. As far as I know, it was a very traditional food in england and later also in america.
Very early on mince pies had pretty much meat in it but when prices for candied peel and dried fruits went down in the 18th and 19th century the meat contents went down.
In traditional mince meat you still use suet, a kidney fat from cows.
You still can use meat in the mince meat but I decided to go with a recipe without meat but with fresh suet.

I chose to use a recipe from Eliza Acton. I found the recipe in Modern cookery in all its branches on page 357.

Take four large lemons, with their weight of golden pippins pared and cored, of jar-raisins, currants, candied citron and orange-rind, and the finest suet, and a fourth part more of pounded sugar.
Boil the lemons tender, chop them small, but be careful first to extract all the pips; add them to the other ingredients, after all have been prepared with great nicety, and mix the whole well with from three to four glasses of good brandy.
Apportion salt and spice by the preceding receipt.*
We think that the weight of one lemon, in meat, improves this mixture; or, in lieu of it, a small quantity of crushed macaroons added just before it is baked.

*nutmeg, mace, ginger or other spices like cloves or cinnamon. I studied a lot of recipes of the time and found all those spices.

I decided to convert the recipe to modern measurements and came up with the following:

  • 200 g lemons
  • 200 g apples (cored)
  • 200 g raisins
  • 200 g currants
  • 200 g candied citron and orange-rind
  • 200 g suet
  • 250 g sugar
  • 250 ml good brandy
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp mace
  • (1/4 tsp cloves)
  • (1/2 tsp cinnamon)

I decided to add cloves and cinnamon to the mix because they are my favourite spices for sweet goods and they are found in a lot of recipes of the time!

I started with the lemons. Make sure to buy untreated lemons because you want to use the peel too!
I put my lemons in a pot with two cups of water and boiled them for about 15 minutes and removed them from the water immediatley. In the meantime I cut up the apples, chopped the raisins very roughly and mixed all dry ingredients.
Not I chopped the lemons very fine but removed the seeds beforehand. I also added the liquid to the mix.

And them I came to my part I worried a lot about, because I never worked with it. The suet.
I got fresh suet from the butcher and started breaking it apart. I tried to get rid of all blood spots and also of most of the connective tissue. Then I chopped it very fine and added it to the mix.
I couldn’t take a picture of the chopped suet only because my hands were super greasy and I wanted to get the greasy part done. 😀

And now I came to the fun part: Brandy!
I used roughly 250 ml and added it to my bowl and started mixing it together.
It starts to get super juicy and it smells delicious. Now it was time to put it in a jar. I only had a glass container and put everything in, added a splash more brandy and closed it.

Now I have to wait for the mince meat to get good and suck up all the juices.
To be honest I’m a bit scared that the fat will go rancid but I hope that the sugar and brandy act as a preservative.

If you also want to make mince pies before christmas you should make the mince meat very very soon so that it has time to stand. I’d say it should stand at least 10 days.

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