For those of us that like to pretend we know what we are doing in the garden, it seems to have been a great year for fruit. Whilst our bumper blackcurrant harvest is split between the freezer for puddings, and the other half is tucked away happily swimming in gin, another harvest we could only just about keep on top of this year was apples. Our little ancient apple outdid itself this year with the amount of fruit it produced seemingly after a somewhat brutal "hair cut" last year.
To be honest, whilst I like the idea of wrapping apples in paper and storing them over winter as my Grandmother used to, I am never that organised, and there are only so many apple cakes, crumbles and purees you can get away with before everyone else in the house starts eyeing things suspiciously and asking whether it's "something else with apples in"... The following is a great way to use up a good few apples, plus now's a great time to make mincemeat to allow the brandy to infuse all the fruit in time for Christmas...
Obviously living back in the UK means there's no longer any need to make my own mincemeat (and therefore no longer any need to constantly explain to people that it doesn't actually have meat in it!!), we are positively spoilt for choice with the stuff on the supermarket shelves and beyond, but as I typically need to make something to donate for a school fair or two, this is a great solution to that and an apple glut. The addition of cranberries makes a nice change too...
450g Bramley apples, cored and finely chopped:
225g Suet, vegetarian or otherwise (we had vegetarian to hand);
500g fresh cranberries;
225g candied peel;
350g dark brown sugar;
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges and 2 lemons;
50g sliced almonds chopped;
4 teaspoons mixed ground spice;
half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon;
8 tablespoons of brandy.
Combine all of the ingredients in an ovenproof bowl, and leave covered with a cloth overnight for the flavours to infuse. Preheat oven to 120 °C , cover the bowl with tin foil and cook for 3 hours. As it cools, give it a stir occasionally. Once completely cool, spoon into sterilised jars (the best way to do this is to wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse them, then place the wet jars on a tray in an oven pre-heated to 160 °C for ten to fifteen minutes until jars are dry) , and top with a healthy glug of port or brandy (or even black currant gin!) before screwing the lid on tight...