Mince Pies are, for me one of the joys of the Christmas season. 1st December heralds the green light to start baking batches both for the freezer, ensuring that we won’t run out over the big day but also for myself and anyone who shares what could be described as a minor addiction to something not entirely healthy but oh so delicious.

If you are going to go the trouble of making your own then please do make your own mincemeat. Nothing in the shops can ever compare to the flavour and fragrance of a good homemade; I find the commercial brands far too acidic and faintly unpleasant in comparison. Mincemeat is surprisingly easy to make; some recipes call for it to be gently heated before storing in sterilised jars. Some simply stir all the ingredients together. I favour the heating option; I feel the flavours combine better and the mincemeat stores better due to the fat clinging around all the fruits. A good dollop of alcohol will help with the preserving but it is not absolutely necessary. If you prefer not to use brandy or rum then just replace with extra orange and lemon juice; the former is less acidic but I like the tang that lemon adds and so tend to hedge my bets and add some of both, in my case along with a good soaking of both brandy and amaretti liqueur.

The quality and freshness of your dried fruits is imperative. Old bags of stuff that have been open for a while won’t really cut it – like spices, best to buy just before you make your mincemeat or use from unopened packs!

Mincemeat should keep well for at least six months and improves with keeping. I often use jars that I made the year before and have never experienced any problems; on the contrary these left over jars tend to have even better flavour and a lovely mellowness about them.

Makes about 4 or 5 jars

5 sterilised jam jars

200g currants
200g plump raisins
200g sultanas
125g good quality mixed peel
125g chopped apricots/dried figs/prunes/dried cranberries/sour cherries
1 Bradley apple, peeled and finely chopped
250g dark brown sugar (or a mix of light and dark)
75g blanched almonds, finely chopped
150g suet (vegetarian or beef)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons mixed spice
Grating nutmeg
Dash of vanilla extract
2 lemons, rind and juice
1 orange, rind and juice
50ml amaretti liqueur
150ml brandy

Mix everything together in a saucepan except the brandy and amaretti. Heat gently and then cook, stirring every now and then for about fifteen minutes. The fat will melt and coat all the other ingredients. Leave to cool.

Add the brandy and amaretti, or whatever alcohol you prefer and then spoon in to sterilised jars and seal. Store in a cool place until you need it.

When ready to use, add another good grating of orange rind and some more amaretti or brandy.