Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making Mincemeat Out of Snow!

     Just in case you haven't heard, the Pacific Northwest is now the home of Mother Nature's deep freeze... I'm not sure why, because she could have just left it up in the Artic, or the Himalayas, or the European Alps... but just like most women, she isn't content unless she is rearranging the furniture.

Pottery studio in snowstorm 11/21/2010
     Of course, she chose to bring us the deep freeze on the day that  I had set aside to do a little late autumn tidying of the exterior premises and catch up in my studio! The snow just didn't want to stop, the temperatures have plummeted into the teens, the roads have been turned into skating rinks, and on top of all of that we've had blustery winds and today's windchill factor has our thermometers hovering around the 10 degree mark!
     Extreme weather calls for extreme action! Spirits need lifting - check. Cooking lifts my spirits! House needs warming- check. Cooking warms the house. Thoughts need organizing- check. Peeling, dicing, juicing, and measuring organizes my thoughts.
     So what to cook? The holidays are coming and a traditional delight for me is mincemeat. No, not that horrible stuff you buy in the little box and reconstitute, or the nasty  filling sandwiched between two layers of soggy crust from the freezer case. Growing up I always liked the idea of mincemeat, I liked the smell of it and I sort of liked the taste.. but there was just too much of it! And THEN, in 1982 we moved to England.
     Our first Christmas there, we were invited for a  holiday drink to the home of some folks that over the years became close, dear friends. In a typically, traditional English Country Christmas way, they served us a beautiful tawny sherry and the most luscious little mincemeat tarts that have ever melted in my mouth. Eureka! Mincemeat isn't supposed to be serve an inch thick in a 2-3 inch wedge! it is supposed to be  served in little 2-3 bite tarts, nestled in buttery crust and sprinkled with sparkly sugar crystals!
     My quest for the recipe began that afternoon. Flipping on the "telly", I caught a cooking show presented by Delia Smith.. (English version of Rachel Ray). Promptly went to the bookstore, bought the companion book to her tv show, and lo and behold, found the recipe for "Old Fashioned Christmas Mincemeat".
From that day forth, mincemeat making happens around here a little before Thanksgiving. People who dislike mincemeat find they can't eat "just one" of these little tarts, and those who like mincemeat devour them...
Clockwise from upper left: apples being chopped into tiny dice/ lemon and orange zest / finished mincemeat. Left: going into the oven for "sterilizing", and Right: finished and ready to put into a jar.
     So, Mother Nature, you may bring us an icy blast if you wish, but our house is warm and toasty and oh! so fragrant. We made mincemeat out of snow, and got the added benefit of natural room fragrance to boot! There's nothing that gets us in the mood for the holidays like the smell of apples and lemons and oranges and raisins and cinnamon and nutmeg and allspice. Mingled together and shining like jewels in the little tart shells, our table will be graced by fragrant, tasty, tradition.

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