Soak dried fruits in liqueur for a few weeks before making a cake, pudding or mince pies for Christmas, or bottle some as gifts for special friends.
Soak dried fruits in liqueur for a few weeks before making a cake, pudding or mince pies for Christmas, or bottle some as gifts for special friends. MAGGIE COOPER

RECIPE: Get a head start on the Christmas pudding

DON'T run and hide - Christmas will seek you out wherever you bury yourself. It's still a while off (105 days, to be exact), but now is the perfect time of year to start thinking about Christmas cakes and puddings.

Try making your own Christmas mince with this versatile recipe that can be incorporated into a cake or pudding, with some left over for mince pies or gifts. Yummy little mince pies are available in supermarkets and bakeries, of course, for the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, but it's easy to forget how much better they taste when you make them from scratch.

My old friend Jill in Sydney makes this recipe each year and gives it to friends for Christmas; I always look forward to receiving a jar. Hand-made gifts are lovely, particularly if they're made with Grand Marnier! If you want to cut down on costs a little, you can use brandy (or any other spirits) instead.

If you make this now, allow it to mature for several weeks then use it in your usual cake or pudding recipe (reserve two cups for pies); or you can leave it in a dark, cool cupboard for a few months then seal in sterilised jars for gifts.

Christmas mince

INGREDIENTS:

425g raisins

250g dried dates, seeded

250g prunes, seeded

250g glace cherries

115g glace pineapple

125g dried apricots

50g glace ginger (optional)

850g sultanas

375g dried currants

200g mixed peel

3 medium granny smith apples, peeled, cored and grated coarsely

1 x 250g jar marmalade

2 tbs finely grated orange rind

60ml lemon juice

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 tbs mixed spice

350ml Grand Marnier, Cointreau, brandy or other spirits.

METHOD: Finely chop the raisins, dates, prunes, cherries, pineapple, apricots and ginger.

Use a sharp knife and spray the blade with a little non-stick cooking spray to make the job easier. Take care not to spray the handle. Sharp kitchen scissors or shears can also be used.

Combine all ingredients in a large plastic container with a lid. Leave in a dark place for at least four weeks, shaking the container every few days.

Bottle in sterilised jars for gifts, or use for a pudding, cake or mince tarts for Christmas.

Contact Maggie at maggies.column@bigpond.com


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