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Having decided on the spur of the moment to make Mince Pies with home-made mincemeat (a mixture of chopped fruit, distilled spirits, spices, and fat), I'm wondering if I really should leave the fruit to mature for some time before I make them?

It's been soaking for a couple of hours, and all the recipe said was that it could be frozen, and if I did I should defrost it and leave to mature for 1-2 weeks. Does this hold for fresh mincemeat too?

On the basis that I'm not dead yet, and the pies were quite tasty, I'd say that I clearly can make them without maturing the mincemeat (the initial question), but is there an optimum length of time I should leave it for?

To clarify, this is about mincemeat as in "a mixture of chopped dried fruit, distilled spirits and spices, and fat, traditionally beef suet" rather than ground or minced meat.

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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Mincemeat originally had meat in it along with suet and a small amount of fruits and spices.

As the cost of the fruits and spices dropped the quantities started to shift until now, you never see any meat at all besides the suet in traditional mincemeat. Victorian times they would make the mincemeat in the late fall and set it aside in the root cellar for about 8 weeks but evidently could be held for upwards to 6 months. The cool cellar and the high percent of spirits didn't cause much harm to them back then. The longer the better as the fruit and suet would absorb more flavours.

Here's a link to a Google book that has a recipe from 1786:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=zZIEAAAAYAAJ&dq=mincemeat&pg=PA423#v=onepage&q=mincemeat&f=false

It doesn't sound that great but then the really old dishes never were.

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A mixture intended for UK-style holiday-season Mince Pies should never be "matured" or let sit at room temperature. It would go rancid.

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Thanks for your answer, I've updated my question to include a link to Wikipedia's definition of mincemeat: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mincemeat It's a mixture of dried fruits, alcohol, spices, sugar and fat - traditionally beef suet but butter or vegetable suet can be used. Originally the recipes did call for ground meat, but that hasn't been the case (beyond the suet) for many, many years now. –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Dec 12 '11 at 2:33
    
Notice that the wikipedia article says that in some countries "mincemeat" means minced meat. I'd suggest never using the word "meat" in a discussion of safe food prep for fruit. Otherwise, folks from countries that mean meat when they say meat might get confused (or sick) based on what they read here. –  hobs Dec 12 '11 at 9:42
    
Sadly the article doesn't give any alternative name for this product, and I've only ever seen it called Mincemeat. I know that it causes confusion even here in the UK :S –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Dec 12 '11 at 9:49
    
How about calling it "minced dried fruit"? Or "fruit cake mix"? Or "Christmas cake mix"? ... for the international audience. More festive and less ambiguous that way. –  hobs Dec 12 '11 at 9:56
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That's the name that it goes by, though, and trying to invent new names for things makes searching difficult. I'd suggest a simple compromise, write it as: mincemeat (a mixture of chopped fruit, distilled spirits, spices, and fat) or similar the first time you use it in a post. Same could go for other words with unintuitive meanings (can't garlic bread out of sweetbreads, for example). This discussion really belongs on meta. –  derobert Dec 12 '11 at 16:48
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