Mincemeat in Italy

OK, a non-Marmite post, though it does deal with some odd and frankly disturbing brown English food so I guess it fits in here.

Christmas is coming and I’m craving mince pies. Even Castroni, those overpriced purveyors of foreign muck with a scowl, doesn’t stock them. And of course mincemeat is not available in the ‘exotic’ section of the supermarkets (and why would it be – it’s a horrible substance if you stop and think about it). However, undeterred I decided to make my own.

Just like Delia, her recipes are basic, English, reliable and stodgy, and I Googled up this recipe of hers. Problem is, a lot of the ingredients aren’t available, so I took her recipe and adapted. Her ingredients are in italics, and below is the substitution I managed:

Ingredients

8oz (225g) Bramley apples, cored and chopped small (no need to peel them)

1 apple and 1 pear.

4 oz (110 g) shredded suet

110 g strutto (lard)

6oz (175 g) raisins
4oz (110 g) sultanas
4oz (110 g) currants

All the above are in fact available in Castroni. But at a hellacious price – €3-4.50 for 100g. Instead I was able to find a bag of 250g juicy sultanas in Auchan for about €3. More about this at the end of this list.

4oz (110 g) whole mixed candied peel, finely chopped

They had this in Auchan too but I forgot to buy it. Sod it, it’s probably not necessary and it would probably be way too sweet.

6oz (175 g) soft dark brown sugar

Now here’s a problem. You can’t get muscovado anywhere in Italy that I’ve seen. You can get demarara, listed as ‘zucchero tropicale’ in  Auchan but it’s very pricy. Back to Castroni where they have own-brand demarara for a not-too exorbitant price. And here’s the trick: they also sell jars of molasses. So I used 150g demarara and 50g molasses to give it that dark, sticky taste.

grated zest and juice 1 orange
grated zest and juice 1 lemon

No problem, get them anywhere.

1 oz (25 g) whole almonds, cut into slivers

40g for 99c whole shelled almonds in Auchan, passed through a food processor.

2 level teaspoons mixed ground spice

‘Mixed ground spice’ is a bit general, so I used a teaspoon of ginger.

¼ level teaspoon ground cinnamon

I get my spices from Chinatown. The difference in price is astonishing. You can get 100g of all sorts of spices in a bag for less than €2. I stocked my entire spice cupboard a couple of months ago for less than a tenner. Don’t bother going to the supermarket for this stuff. Except:

good pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Todis sells lumps of nutmeg with a grater for a very good price.

3 tablespoons brandy

I can’t get a naggin of anything here and the cheapest nasty-ass brandy I’ve seen was €9 for a whole bottle. No worries – Castroni to the rescue again with a jar of raisins soaked in grappa.

Method

Mix everything except the grappa raisins and leave overnight in a bowl. Strain the grappa raisins and add them then bake the lot in an oven at about 200C for three hours. Allow to cool (this will take a long time), stirring occasionally. When it’s finger-cool, add the grappa and stir in. Store in sterilised jars.

It’s in the oven at the moment and smells incredible. In fact, it smells like Christmas.

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6 thoughts on “Mincemeat in Italy”

  1. We believe you “sulla fiducia” that it smells good, but can we have a picture to compare the finished thing to the original? PS a reliable source tells me that you might be able to find a sugar very similar to muscovado at Natura sì under the name of Panela (but not sure about the cost!)

  2. Mmmmmmmhhhh, I can smell how delicious it is from here ! And a fair amount of booze too. Delia would be proud of you; I’ve recently watched her making her signature Christmas pudding and I got almost drunk only thinking about how much alcohol she was using.

  3. Funny, I just started investigating how I might make mincemeat in Italy too. I have wanted to recreate the Pret Crimble Crumble squares you can get at xmas time.

    I have seen Muscavado in a few places, Natura si and Curore Bio are 2 chains you can get it at. I am also lucky that we have a small spice/flour/grain shop in our town. It sells pretty much everything you could ever need when it comes to cooking, well except maybe marmite.

    My biggest problem with the ingredients is the alcohol. I did some baking a while ago and needed a little bit of rum. I ended up going to our local cafe with a jar and buying a small shot of it. Might have to do the same with the brandy.

    1. Hi Peter,

      It’s that time of year again! Did you manage to make any in January, or are you trying again this year?

      I kept a jar in the fridge which I will try – not sure how well the strutto will have kept after all this time though.

  4. ‘Mixed spice’ is not a general description, it’s actually the name for a very common British spice mix, also sometimes called pudding spice. It includes cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace, cloves & sometimes ginger. I’ve made Delia’s mincemeat recipe many times before & the candied peel is actually vital. And I’ve always substantially increased the booze content. I may not like Marmite as much as you, but perhaps I’m more British in other ways?

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