Posted 20th November 2014 by Fong Chau
Stir-up Sunday takes place on the last Sunday before Advent and is traditionally the day when families get together to make mincemeat to form the basis of Christmas bakes, like Christmas pudding and mince pies. We asked some of the country’s leading chefs how to get the best out of your mincemeat mix.
1. Make it ahead
This year Stir-up Sunday falls on 23 November, but why should we all start preparations for Christmas fare when it’s still more than a month away? Britain’s premier baking expert Mary Berry CBE explains: “It is best to make it ahead, so the spice flavours infuse into the mincemeat and all the fruit soften down.” The time between getting started on the mixture and Christmas Day means the flavours have time to mature and blend together.
Writer and chef Annabel Karmel MBE agrees: “You need to prepare mincemeat in advance to give the flavours the maximum amount of time to mature. This means that all the flavours will soak together, giving it a rich taste and texture when you come to eat it.”
2. Give it a kick
Typically, a mincemeat mix is made up of dried fruits and spices, brought together with alcohol. Mary shares her recipe with us and advises: “I always like to include chopped apple, raisins, sultanas, light muscovado sugar, booze and spice. As long as these are included, you can add other chopped dried fruits or citrus.”
MasterChef finalist Stacie Stewart also has her own Stir-up Sunday mix. She tells us: “I love orange and glacier cherries and my nana has always insisted on almond slivers lightly toasted.”
Annabel, for her part, uses a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants and ground almonds.
3. Add a personal twist
Here’s where it gets fun! Everyone has their own personal spin on mincemeat. Mary says: “I add chopped dried apricots, which give a fruity change.”
Stacie also has a few ideas to add to the mix. She tells us: “Dried cranberries are lovely. And stem ginger too. Chocolate chips also work well.”
Annabel likes to stay true to her mincemeat mix, but gives her pies a new twist. She says: “I often like having an unusual topping, such as marzipan, or mince pies with a crushed meringue or crumble topping. This gives the overall pie more texture and extra flavour.”
4. Vegetarian suet will do nicely
Traditionally mincemeat mix contained suet, which comes from cows – bad news for vegetarians. But all three cooks agree that vegetarian suet, which is widely available, can be used as a substitute – and Stacie says the suet can even be left out completely. And if you’re avoiding gluten, you can still give Christmas pudding a go with our gluten-free recipe.
5. Keep the mincemeat from spoiling
There’s no need to worry about your mix going off so long as you take some simple precautions. “Make sure your jars are sterilised,” says Stacie. “I do this in the dishwasher, but they can also be done carefully in a sink of hot water and allowed to steam dry. Make sure the lids are sealed properly, fill the jars to a centimetre from the top and place a ring of greaseproof paper directly on the mincemeat before sealing.”
Mary reassures us that the sugar and the alcohol preserve the mincemeat and stop if from going off, but has this word of warning: “If you add too much apple it could go mouldy, so store the mincemeat in the freezer if keeping it for a long time.”
6. Make a wish!
The final and most important ingredient in your Stir-up Sunday mix is your wish. Traditionally when families made mincemeat together, children would add their wishes as they stirred. So, if you’re taking part this year, make sure you don’t forget this vital part of the ritual!
Are you taking part in Stir-up Sunday this year? Let us know what your wishes are in the comments below.