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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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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.

  • I would think the spirits would assist in the preservation rather than causing harm. More harm would come to the spirits themselves through evaporation. – JAB Feb 15 '17 at 21:41
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I'm reasonably sure the long holding time is there for two reasons - one is that mincemeat was originally a preserved dish, with the alcohol and spices and fats used to preserve the meat (when it was included) and fruit in the dish. So recipes may mention how long the pies can be reasonably held, for preservation or for the convenience of cooking early or making a large batch once instead of several smaller. The other reason, perhaps more recent, is that the flavors change over time, as the alcohol seeps in and the flavors meld and marry in the mincemeat (think pickles or alcohol preserves, it takes time for the flavors to change). The time the recipe mentions for maturing might be the time over which the flavors are still improving as they are stored, or the compromise time between when it reaches a state the recipe-makers find most pleasing, and when the recipe-users find convenient (that is,it might not improve if matured longer, it might get worse, it might keep improving but most people get impatient).

In neither case should eating the mincemeat early be unsafe. Maturing it significantly longer than the recipe allows for might be less safe, since the preservative qualities will depend on proportions of alcohol and spices, storage conditions, and other things the recipe depends on to make that calculation in the first place. And eating it early might give a less than ideal flavor, if the flavors haven't melded or mellowed or changed over time to reach the state the recipe makers intended.

So if you like the mincemeat as it is, and if you're impatient, there is no harm in eating it early; while if you thought the flavors were less than you hoped, perhaps harsh or dissonant, or you just have the extra time and patience, you may find the extra couple weeks of waiting worthwhile.

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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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    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
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    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
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    I go by the name on the jar. – Zhaph - Ben Duguid Dec 12 '11 at 9:57
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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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    Mincemeat is full of alcohol and sugar, so it doesn't go "rancid", particularly if it's bottled correctly. Ideally mincemeat should be made in October, but I've often used mincemeat bottled the previous year, it's absolutely fine. It's called mincemeat, there's no point arguing about it. It's an English word referring to an English thing. – user41703 Dec 17 '15 at 15:49

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