It’s been a year for it!
I would consider the traditions and classics that would feature on plenty of tables this Christmas. Cakes, Pudding & Tarts all love the boozed dried fruit medley, if it’s on your list, now is the time.
The tradition of dried fruit includes the polarizing mixed peel.
So let’s talk about Mixed Peel.
Halfway along the cooking aisle, next to the apricots & flaked almonds, seeing that it’s listed in the recipe means we need it right? Well all dried fruits are dried, to preserve them, for a longer shelf life, and luckily for us, a whole new flavour dimension as well. Concentrated fruit sugars, mellowed tang and a chewy texture makes dried fruit just as attractive as fresh fruit for snacks and cooking. This mixed peel debate, I understand. The mass produced version can be horrible. Machinery and accountants don’t care about the amount of bitter pith included, not to mention being dried so much that it’s more like bullets of diced lemon pucks, that need plenty of soaking to make it at least palatable. Those shriveled citrus pellets can be avoided, and everyone can munch on their happy way.
Making mince tart filling, including tart granny smith apples is a mild balance with the spice, brown sugar & fat raisins, so to bring in the acid, freshly zested oranges & lemons like the bells of St Clements will become much more fragrant, along with the juiced insides to soak in to the fruit for a month of so before using. I’m also a marmalade fan, and love a surprise bag of Seville oranges to fall on my doorstep (hint hint) for a magnificent batch of golden sweet spread. I make so much that it makes sense to use in cooking as well, and I have over the years included the marmalades into the fruit mince. First I warm the marmalade and sieve it to remove some of the clear fruit syrup to use to glaze Christmas cakes after baking, and the rest of the marmalade goes into the cake batter, or the mince tart filling. The peel is always thin, because I have hand peeled that fruit, and it’s been tenderized through the method of cooking, with all the flavour included, and no mouth puckering lemon bullet pieces would dare compete.
If you truly can’t bear mixed peel, cranberries & dried pineapple have a delicious tang and make for a special yours only tradition for baking & gift making.
The navel oranges are still around and good value, I’m still picking lemons from my tree, so if your October has space, get your brandy to plump up the sultanas, currants and more. Look for large golden sultanas, and Australian dried fruit if you can get it. Your tastebuds will thank you along with the Australian producers, from the farmers, the pickers, the packers and retailers. If we all win, then we all win.

Fruit mince filling
280 grams dark brown sugar
200 grams raisins
200 grams of golden sultanas
2 Granny Smith apples, coarsely grated peel included
100 grams butter, melted
100 ml brandy or the oldest bottle of fortified wine that needs using up
100 grams each currants and dried sour cherries
100 grams each cranberries & apricots, finely chopped
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon each of finely grated nutmeg, ground cloves and ground ginger
Combine ingredients in a large bowl, mix well to combine, transfer to a sterile container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 8 weeks.