Originally mincemeat contained bits of meat as well as shredded suet. Even carnivores might think "yuk" but then we happily eat shredded beef fat in steamed puddings as well as mince pies. You can leave out the meat but not the suet because the fat is what gives it that slightly sweet and savoury rich flavour. Once made, you can store it in sealed jars or vacuum-packed in a cool dry place. John Lewis and other good kitchen shops sell handy little home vacuum machines. They remove the air, so when you store the contents in the fridge or freezer it keeps longer. I lifted this recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's new book The River Cottage Year (Hodder & Stoughton £17.99), a perfect Christmas gift.
500g finely minced, good quality and very fresh beef (optional)
250g beef suet
500g apples, eg russet or Granny Smiths, peeled, cored and finely chopped
200g soft brown sugar
125g blanched almonds, finely chopped
100g drained weight of ginger in syrup, finely chopped, plus 3-4tbsp syrup from the jar
100g mixed candied peel
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
half tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2tsp ground mixed spice
250ml rum, brandy or Calvados
Put everything into a large bowl and mix thoroughly, ideally with your hands. Keep in sealed jars, which you have previously sterilised, in a cool dry place for about a month before using. Make into mince pies using your favourite sweet pastry recipe, or a good quality bought version. If you're buying puff pastry I'd recommend Dorset Pastry which won a Small Producers Award from Waitrose this year. Make individual mince pies - Hugh's are like little turnovers. Or a large mincemeat pie always goes down well with some clotted cream, brandy butter or thick custard flavoured with brandy.
Makes 1-1.5 litres