Mincemeat is one of the best ways to preserve an abundance of Fall pears. This delicious conserve makes a New England traditional spicy holiday pie. But it’s not just for pie — the chef of a Bon Appetit Top 50 Restaurants asked me for a quart of this to use as a garnish for a very special dinner. Consider a spoonful to garnish any pork or game entrée. Yields 3 quarts.
• 1 orange
• 1 lemon
• 1/2-cup white or organic cane sugar
• about 12 large pears, hard ripe
• 14 oz golden raisins
• 14 oz dark raisins
• 2 cups brown sugar
• 1 tbsp cinnamon
• 2 tsp ground allspice
• 2 tsp ground nutmeg
• 1 tsp ground cloves
• 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger*
• 1 quart apple cider
• 2 cups dark rum or brandy
• 1/2-cup brandy or dark rum
• Additional liquor to top jars
1. Peel one orange and one lemon with a vegetable peeler. Completely remove all the white part of the peel from the orange and the lemon.
2. Cut fruit in half and remove all the seeds. Chop the fruit. Slice the peel into 1/2-inch pieces (scissors work well here)
3. In a small pot, bring to a boil 1/2-cup sugar and 1 cup water. Cook the peel slowly until it is tender. Watch carefully that it doesn’t burn.
4. Drain, discarding the syrup (or save to flavor water).
5. Peel, core and dice about 12 pears. As you peel and chop all the pears, just pile them into a bowl; don’t worry about browning as they’ll be mixed and cooked with a lot of spices and will be brown anyway. No worries.
6. In a large preserving kettle, such as your jam pot, combine the diced pears with the raisins, brown sugar, spices, peels, and cider. Bring the mincemeat to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for about 1 hour. The pears will be completely tender. Stir often and watch carefully to see it doesn’t stick or scorch.
7. After the hour is up, add 1/2 cup of brandy or dark rum. Simmer on low very carefully for another 30 minutes. The mincemeat should be very thick, just right to fill a pie.
8. Ladle hot into hot jars. Run a knife down the inside of the jar to remove all air bubbles. You should fill almost to the 1/4-inch mark.
9. To each jar, add a little more brandy or rum, letting it stay on top to protect the fruits. Seal the jars and process in boiling water bath for 30 minutes for pints, 40 minutes for quarts.
Makes about 3 quarts. Use 1 quart for a full-size mincemeat pie.
*Quick tip: To have grated ginger on hand, peel pieces of fresh ginger, cut into ½-inch pieces and process to a paste with about an equal amount of sugar. Keep this in the freezer to have on hand. The tiny amount of sugar won’t have much effect on your recipe.
Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.