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Mincemeat Mistake

Posted by --- on Friday 30 October, 2015

I posted on one of my favourite forums about having a glut of pears. I don’t have a huge tree full but I did have several kilograms to use up. The suggestions were wine, with a secondary ferment to make it sparkling, jars of mulled pears, mincemeat, muffins, bottled in brandy, pear and pineapple jam, pears added to savoury dishes, poached in orange and spices, and chutney.

At the time, I wasn’t drinking so I dismissed all of the alchol suggestions. I wasn’t going to make the mincemeat either thinking I could pick up cheap mincepies in the supermarkets anyway but the lady who posted told me that homemade pies are much better.

The recipe is

4 x 450g jars

  • 1kg pears , peeled , cored and chopped in to 1cm cubes
  • finely grated zest and juice of 2-3 oranges (you will need 200ml juice)
  • 500g apples, bramley or other that cooks down to a puree.
  • 200g currants
  • 200g raisins
  • 200g sultanas
  • 100g orange marmalade
  • 250g demera sugar
  • 1/2tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 nutmeg, grated
  • 50ml ginger wine (optional)
  • 100g chopped walnuts (i tend to leave these out)
  • 50ml brandy or sloe gin (I usually forget about this step  )
  1. Peel and chop the apple and put into a saucepan with the orange juice. Cook gently until tender, about 15mins. Blend to a purée in a liquidiser or push through a sieve. You should end up with about 700g of purée.
  2. Put purée into a large bowl and add all other ingredients except brandy or gin. Mix thoroughly, then cover and leave to stand for 12 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 130oC/ gas mark 1/2. Put the mincemeat in a large baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 2-2 1/2 hours. Stir in brandy or gin, then spoon into warm, sterilised jars, making sure there are no air pockets. Seal and store in a dry, dark, cool place. Use within 12 months.

Which, on searching for mincemeat recipes, I found was the River Cottage recipe.

She also suggested that you could replace 100g of raisins or sultanas with crystalised ginger for a twist. You can try other variations as long as you aim for 700g puree and 600g dried fruit i.e plum and russet.

I already had apples and pears thanks to the trees we planted on the lotty, I had brandy left over from something I made last year,some demerara sugar in the cupboard, and I had all of the spices in my spice box but had to buy the rest of the ingredients. The currants were pre-mixed and soaked in brandy from Aldi for £2.99 for 800g, the oranges were £1.49 for six and I also bought two jars of marmalade because I bought one from Aldi and another from Asda because I forgot I’d bought the first one! Only myself and DSK like mince pies so I just buy one box so this is working out expensive and I haven’t costed for the pastry yet… But, it’s Christmas and it’s using homegrown produce and of course, anything home grown/made is far better than anything mass produced isnt’ it?!

I ended up making it as a spur of the moment thing. I watched the end of Paul o Grady For the love of Dogs, decided to look him up (no idea why), saw that he had a radio show on BBC2 (I’ve never listened to BBC 2 before) everyone was in bed so I thought, I’d listen to him on my ipad and make the mincemeat. I also decided after a little research to put the mincemeat into the slow cooker overnight. I have no idea what radio 2 is normally like and I normally listen to captial which is more dance stuff but I did enjoy listening to Paul. It was duets night and to be honest I can’t say I enjoyed the music except No More Tears with Barabara Streisand and Donna Summer which I haven’t heard for years.

Anyway I sort of followed the recipe. I swapped the pears for the apples as per the river cottage recipe, I chopped the pears into tiny matchstick pieces so they looked like the suet you see in mincemeat normally. I used 2 tsp mixed spice (which is a mix of all the spices listed) instead of the seperate ones and added 1tsp extra cinnamon. I also changed the walnut for almonds and used up the last of what was in the bag (160g). I ground in too because my fillings have fallen out and I’m too scared to go to the dentist!

I didn’t purée the apples thinking they’d purée themselves when they  cook in the slowcooker. Anyway, it took a while but I really enjoyed it.  It was quiet with everyone in bed and the smell was lovely. I also kept tasting it and it tasted gorgeous! I couldn’t wait for the flavours to develop overnight. I could see me eating it out of the jars! At 11:45 I put the lid on the slow cooker and turned it to low with a final spoonful before bed. The smell of boozy oranges and spices wafted up the stairs so I could still smell it when I went up.

8am the next morning I was expecting the same strong smell but I couldn’t smell it very much.  When I looked in the cooker the mincemeat was a dark brown. I tasted it and it had lost it’s lovely flavour. It didn’t taste burnt but didn’t taste good either. I’m guessing the slow cooker got too hot. Even though it was on low it was bubbling. I was gutted. I wished I’d just left it. I threw the lot in the recycle bin because no one would enjoy eating it.

I have since bought sultanas and currants to make some more. I wont be cooking it in the slow cooker though!

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ginger beer

Posted by --- on Wednesday 19 November, 2008

I@ve read about ginger beer today. I’ve not really come across it but decided it sounded very interesting so now have a batch on the go. Not sure it will work coz I had the water in the fridge so probably too cold  we’ll see. I used this method taken from the self sufficientish forum:

Sterilise a glass jar with a lid.
Wash a piece of root ginger about the size of your thumb leaving on outer skin.
Chop it into tiny pieces and put it in the jar. – or grate it as I did
Add cool boiled water and a couple of teaspoons of sugar.
Leave in a warm place and after about a week you will see bubbles as the natural yeasts in the ginger root start to ferment the sugar. The mix should have a nice ginger smell. If it smells unpleasant, you have cultured unwanted bugs and you will need to start again.
Add a little sugar every day for the next week and when the mix is fermenting vigorously, strain to remove the pieces of ginger. The liquid is now your starter for making the first batch of ginger beer. I did not divide the plant the first time but for each subsequent batch I divided the plant as described in previous recipes.

but afterwards found  this one:

“Artisanal Home Soda Fermentation

So let’s get down to making lacto-fermented soda–the real thing. The first step is simply to realize that it is very easy. The minimum equipment is a glass fermentation vessel and the minimum ingredients are sugar, water and the culture. Mix them together and fermentation happens. To make it really delicious, though, some pointers are in order.

Step 1: Bring approximately 50 percent of your water to a boil and dissolve 1.5 cups of sugar in it for each gallon of soda you plan to make. If you are boiling roots in the water (see below), remove them before adding sugar. The sweet, somewhat viscous liquid you have now is called “syrup.”

Step 2: Pour the syrup and the remaining water into your fermentation vessel. I like to use the scalding hot syrup to sterilize my vessel, but be careful not to pour it in too fast or it could crack. The resulting diluted syrup is still too hot for the culture. You can either wait, or cool the syrup first by letting the pot sit in a sinkful of cold water before adding it to the vessel.

Step 3: Add any other flavorings, such as lemon juice (see below) to the diluted syrup.

Step 4: Making sure the syrup has cooled to body temperature, add about a cupful of culture for each gallon of water. You could add less culture, but the more you add, the greater the head start your beneficial bacteria have over any opportunistic invaders, such as alcohol-producing yeasts.

Step 5: Cover the vessel (it need not be completely airtight, but it can be) and let it ferment. Fermentation rate is highly variable. If you like a sweeter soda, four or five days might be sufficient. If you want to ferment out most of the sugar, allow at least 10 days. Some additives such as mint and honey tend to inhibit bacteria and drastically slow fermentation.

Step 6: Time to bottle! Brewing supply stores carry siphon tubes to siphon the soda directly from carboy to bottle, but if you are fermenting in a jar you can simply pour it into bottles or scoop it in with a glass measuring cup. You must have some way to seal the bottles, either with a bottle capper or stoppered bottles (both available at brewing supply stores). Do not bottle the thick layer of sediment at the bottom of the fermentation vessel.

Step 7: Carbonation. The soda continues to ferment in the bottles, giving off carbon dioxide gas. Since the bottles are sealed, the gas has nowhere to go. In stays in the bottle and makes the soda fizzy. Depending on how fast it is fermenting, 2-5 days is usually enough time to create the optimum level of carbonation. You can always open a bottle and check.

Step 8: Stopping fermentation. Now we have a problem, because if the soda continues to ferment the bottles will foam over or spray when opened. The bottles might even explode if left out long enough. So when carbonation is sufficient, it is time to stop fermentation by putting the bottles in the refrigerator. Not enough room? A cold basement will work too, slowing down fermentation but not quite stopping it. Usually soda will keep just fine in the basement for a month or more.

Step 9: Drink it! Lacto-fermented soda is an excellent thirst quencher and contains beneficial lactic acid, vitamins, enzymes and beneficial lactobacilli that can inhabit your gut, where they protect you against pathogenic bacteria and yeast.

Sidebar Articles

Lacto-fermented sodas can be made commercially on a small scale. Illustrated here are two examples from Down Under. Phoenix Ginger Beer from New Zealand (left) is brewed from water, honey, ginger, lemon juice and yeast. Bundaberg Ginger Beer from Australia (right) is brewed from water, sugar, ginger and yeast but contains “food acid” and “preservatives.” The Phoenix Ginger Beer wins the taste test and proves that quality soft drinks can be made on a commercial scale.


The Vessel: A one- or two-gallon glass jar is fine, but if you want to make larger quantities you’ll need a glass carboy, readily available at brewing supply stores for under $20. The five-gallon size works best. For a few cents you can also purchase a water lock, which bubbles merrily away as your soda ferments. All utensils should be clean, but antiseptic cleanliness is unnecessary. Usually we rinse the vessel a few times with water and sterilize it with the hot syrup for next batch.

Other Equipment: You will need bottles with good stoppers–a strong, tight cork, a beer bottle top, or a stopper held down with a wire. These are available at brewing stores and also at places like the Container Store. You will also need a funnel or siphon for transfering the soda from the vessel into bottles.

The Water: Do not use chlorinated tap water, as this will inhibit fermentation. Most filtered or bottled water works fine. If you must use straight tap water, boil it to evaporate off the chlorine.

The Sugar: We have gotten good results with sucanat, rice malt, maple sugar, jaggery, honey, and apple cider. The flavor from rapadura or molasses is too strong for most people. Honey is delicious but is best used as a flavoring rather than the main sugar source, because apparently honey inhibits bacterial growth. Even at half strength, honey soda can take months to finish. You can use fruit juice, but for some reason commercial canned fruit juice, even organic brands, produce noxious results. Fresh-pressed apple cider produces delicious soda, although it will probably be slightly alcoholic (1-2%) due to natural yeasts on the apples. Remember that most of the sugar will be converted into lactic acid in the fermentation process. Use about 1.5 cups of sugar per gallon of water.

The Culture: You can use a bottle of soda from the last batch as culture, or you can make your own from scratch. Dice fresh ginger root into tiny cubes and put a tablespoon of it into a mason jar 3/4 full of water, along with 2 teaspoons white sugar. Add another 2 teaspoons each sugar and ginger every day for a week, at which time it should become bubbly with a pleasant odor. If it gets moldy, dump it and start over. Even a small amount of culture will start a batch of soda going, but it’s best to use at least a cup per gallon so that these beneficial lactobacilli can dominate before less desirable microorganisms have a chance.

Flavorings: The water used to dissolve the sugar need not be just water! You can use any herbal decoction to make soda with the flavor or medicinal qualities you are seeking. For example, to make ginger beer, boil sliced ginger root in the water, about one thumb’s-length per gallon of soda, for twenty minutes. Peppermint, spearmint, or other mint can also be used to flavor soda. Put the mint in boiling water, turn off the heat immediately, cover and steep. Lemon juice is a good addition to almost any soda flavor and seems to help preserve the syrup before fermentation gets going. Use approximately two lemons per gallon of soda, depending on juiciness. One of the favorite beverages in colonial America was root beer. Any roots can go into root beer, but the essential ones for flavor are sassafras and sarsaparilla. Sassafras in particular lends a pungent aroma and beautiful reddish color to soda, and is readily available throughout the Eastern US. Common medicinal roots like burdock, chicory, dandelion, and so forth tend to impart a strong mediciney “herbal” flavor to the soda. It’s the sassafras or sarsaparilla that make people say “Yum!””

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she shoots, she scores or maybe not

Posted by --- on Saturday 8 November, 2008

Just a quick note. A good while ago DFS bought a used air rifle, then without touching it he sold it to our neighbour whom I found out yesterday, owed us money. So I suggested DFS bargain with neighbour to get the gun, which is a Webley vulcan .22,  back and I will practice shooting and build up to see if I can actually kill, prepare and cook something. Neighbour has agreed for us to have the gun back (plus give more cash) but says his friend is using it. He said he will have it back tomorrow. DFS’s friend L had offered last week to take me game hunting with him next time he goes so if I have my own air rifle I can practice at home on targets! I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it when it comes to it but I’d like to try. If I can’t shoot game how am I going to dispatch, pluck and dress one of our own chickens?

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