Thursday, November 6, 2008

Autumn Baking and Mincemeat

I really love fall. The changing leaves, pulling out my sweaters, burning candles, making dinner in the crock pot, Halloween, Thanksgiving....Autumn time is synonomous with home to me.

Every year about this time I start to think about baking...and I have a few standards. One is Mincemeat. I really never liked Mincemeat until I made it with my mom several years ago and actually saw what went into it. It is a fabulous concoction of apples, brown sugar, spices, walnuts , and raisins soaked in brandy. Served warm in a good pastry with a dollop of brandy butter and what is not to like about that?

During the past decade we have spent many Christmas holidays in England and small mincemeat pies are a staple there. I really cannot think of Christmas in England without thinking about these little pies, and vice versa.

To make mincemeat the traditional way, you need suet. This is a fat that is rendered from beef kidneys. It does not sound pleasant, but the benefit of using suet is that it melts slowly and that is key to making good mincemeat. When you ask the butcher at your local grocery store you will usually be sent to the garden department. This is a sign that the butcher is new and inexperienced and most likely not English. A good butcher knows that suet and holiday baking go together like mincepies and English Christmases.

Fred Meyer is the only store in town that carries suet and only during the holidays. I learned through my suet shopping that Safeway carries blocks of pig fat...and they store it out in the open freezer case- not sure if it is a hot seller or not....I have no idea what that would be used for, but it is not suet.
When I asked at Fred Meyer if they had it, the butcher asked me what I was going to use it maybe he wasn't going to give it to me if I came up with the wrong answer. I got the impression that this man doesn't give up suet to just anyone. I told him that I need it for mincemeat and apparently that was what he wanted to hear because he asked me how much I would need and told me he would have some in next week. So tomorrow I pick up my suet...shredded and ready for baking.

Here is a link to my favorite mincemeat recipe. Delia Smith is the Martha Stewart of England (although her expertise is limited to just good cooking)

You will need the mincemeat recipe to make this recipe for traditional mince pies:

And to top it all off... a link to a recipe for brandy butter.


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