Apple, Pear and Ginger Mincemeat

Apple, Pear and Ginger Mincemeat

I decided that we didn’t have enough mincemeat to make it through the Christmas period. As we had some pears left over, I decided to use them to make Apple, Pear and Ginger Mincemeat.

The recipe for this was in the variations section, at the bottom of the page detailing the Plum and Russet Mincemeat recipe in Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2. The method for producing it was exactly the same, so I wont go into details of that, just a couple of things.

I didn’t have any crystallised stem ginger to hand, just a jar of Chinese stem ginger in syrup, so I used that. I also didn’t bake it for quite as long, about half an hour less and I remembered to add the brandy. It did froth and steam at bit when I added it, as per the recipe, which leaves me wondering if all the alcohol was burnt off or not. It’s supposed to be required to aid in the preserving, so you’d hope some of it survived.

Plum and Russet Mincemeat

Plums softening in orange juice...

When we made mince pies last Christmas, I wanted to make some Plum and Russet Mincemeat, but I didn’t realise that it’s suppose to mature for a couple of months. When we were offered some plums and apples last month by a friend, I knew exactly what to use them for.

While the apples we were given weren’t russets, I didn’t think it would make that much difference, so didn’t bother trying to hunt some down. We also hummed and hawed about buying ginger wine and brandy, as neither is something that we have in the house. Plum and (not) Russet Mincemeat melding overnight... In the end we decided to buy both, as if you’re going to do something, you may as well do it properly.

You start by softening the halved plums in orange juice, before either blending the lot, or passing it through a sieve. As I have a Vitamix though, I wasn’t going to bother with the arm ache of passing it all though a sieve. The recipe says that you should end up with around 700ml of purée, I got waaaaaaaay more than that, so I’m not sure if my plums were extra juice or not. I added a bit of icing sugar to the remaining purée to turn it into a kind of plum coulis, it went quite nicely with some apple and bramble crumble.

Once you have your purée, you add everything else to it, bar the brandy and leave it overnight to meld. The following day, it’s into the oven to bake for two to two and a half hours. I decided to go for the full two and a half hours, I can’t remember why now, but I should only have baked it for two, as it was a bit too reduced and cooked for my liking. Plum and (not) Russet Mincemeat after being baked in the oven for too long... All that was left to do was add the brandy and pot it up, so I totally forgot about the brandy and shoveled it into recycled pasata jars and left it too cool.

I have no idea why I forgot the brandy, but as the alcohol is required as part of the preserving process and the fact that I actually went to the trouble of buying some, I’m quite annoyed with myself. Only time will tell if this was a fatal mistake or not. Only time will tell if using pasata jars was the right thing too, as I have not idea how I’m going to get all the mincemeat out of those when the time comes. I might have to buy a really long handled teaspoon or something; I’m not sure what I was thinking when I pulled those from the cupboard.

Sourdough

Sourdough

I’ve been meaning to write about my adventures in sourdough for a while. It was back in January that I first muttered on here about making some, mainly so I could have something to slather my marmalade on, while drinking a mug of freshly ground black coffee. Since then, I’ve made two different sourdough starters, one with Rye flour, the other with Spelt and had a bash or three are making some bread with them.

The Rye starter can't be contained!So far the results have been rather less than successful, with each batch having more resemblance to a lead frisbee rather than a light and airy loaf of bread. So I decided to change what I was doing at the weekend and produced easily my best sourdough loaf so far.

I’ve been following the method outlined in Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3, but my results, as stated, haven’t been very good. I think there are a number of reason for this though. Firstly, I’ve been using some stone ground wholemeal flour from a local mill, which makes for quite a dense crumb. I’ve also just been turning the proved loaves out of their banneton baskets, directly onto a baking sheet, so there’s been nothing to stop them from spreading out and collapsing.

The crumb on this sourdough made with the Spelt starter was great, shame it was almost pancake flat...Enter the sourdough episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread, which I finally got round to watching last week. So on Saturday I decided to follow Paul’s method, albeit with stone ground strong white bread flour, rather than just strong white bread flour. This meant that I didn’t knock back and prove repeatedly, just the once and that I turned the risen loaf out onto a baking sheet with some semolina flour on it.

Paul’s method also calls for a lower oven temperature, rather than the “as high as it’ll go” approach (which for me is 270°C, although I don’t normally go above 250°C). I don’t know if this was a factor, but I got some rise out of the oven for a change, normally my loaves don’t do much other than cook in the oven, so it was nice to finally see one puff up a bit.

My first sourdough, like a lead frisbee...All this meant that on Sunday morning, I had a few slices of my sourdough, with my marmalade slathered all over them and washed down with some freshly ground strong black coffee. While it’s not the first time I’ve managed to do this, it is the first time I’ve stood there and been quite pleased with what I’ve produced.

Bramley Lemon Curd

I love lemon curd, I always have. I used to bug Mum to buy jars of the hard set luminous yellow stuff when I was a kid. I can remember the first time I tried proper lemon curd, it was at my Granny’s house after school one day. After tasting it, there was no going back to the processed stuff, it just wasn’t in the same league.

I’ve toyed with the idea of making it for myself for years, but like most thing, I’ve never got round to it. But once we bought the Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2 I knew that I finally had to give it a go. Since my wee boy had recently enjoyed some passion fruit curd, I asked him if he wanted to help, he said yes. He changed his mind on the day though, preferring to play with his Lego, but then my wee lassie decided that she wanted to help.

It was pretty easy to make if I’m being honest, although it took waaaaaaay longer than the book suggested. I’m not sure why, but I think a combination of a smallish pan and a big thick pyrex bowl, meant that it was sitting quite far away from the simmering water. The book says to stir over a gentle heat, but in the end I had it on full whack and it still took fifty minutes, rather than the stated nine to ten, to reach the required 83°C.

Next time I make it, I’ll definitely be putting the bowl on the widest pan we have, so it sits further in and closer to the boiling water. I’ll also use slightly less apple, as I this batch wasn’t lemony enough for my tastes. Their variation of using gooseberries instead of the apples sounds interesting though, especially as I’ve just planted two gooseberry bushes in the garden.