Dear theologian friends, although the title of my post may have escatalogical connotations, and although the dessert that I am going to discuss is often associated with a season of time in which a religious holiday is celebrated, do not fear that this post will be a lecture directed at the seminary classroom.
Rather, I am writing to inform my friends that if you are interested in trying to prepare traditional British recipes such as mincemeat pie, a boiled Christmas pudding, or fruitcake, the time is now. Wines and cheeses aren’t the only things that develop better flavor with age.
. . .at least, that is what I read. I’ve never made a true fruit cake.
On one of my visits to a neighborhood meat market, I spotted a sign advertising suet. This week when I called the store they said they would set aside the 1 1/2 lb. piece that they had. How much would it cost? 55 cents.
“What is suet?” you may ask.
Suet is the hard fat that is found around the cow’s kidneys.
“Why would you want to use organ fat in a dessert?”
Somebody explained that when you use butter or margarine in a steamed pudding or a cake, the butter melts too quickly. Suet, on the other hand, takes longer to melt, so the cake batter has time to develop it’s structure before the fat melts away, leaving air pockets.
But this is all rumor. I’ll only be able to tell you if my steamed pudding has nice pockets when I slice it in, say, two or three hours. I can smell it simmering away in the kitchen right now.
“Already But Not Yet” though? Chopping up your nuts and fruits and mixing them with spices, honey, lemon, and Marsala won’t take too much time. However, suet is also one of the ingredients of mincemeat. You could order it online, pay more for shipping than for the actual product, and then hope that it arrives before your holiday celebrations begin. Or you ask your new friend the butcher for a hard piece of cow fat and spend some time rendering it yourself.
The raw suet comes with impurities, so you need to SLOWLY melt it down and pour the hot liquid through a fine sieve before you use it in your recipes. I recommend that you chop the suet into smaller pieces, freeze them, then grate it. This will reduce your time standing over the stove. Once you’ve “clarified” your suet, you can store it in the fridge or freezer. I put some in a covered shallow-narrow dish in the freezer so that it would be easy to grate (again!) in the future.
Even when you’ve got all of your ingredients combined, you are encouraged to seal them away in sterilized bottles. After a 4-week wait, the mincemeat should be at it’s prime.
I can hardly wait! I almost feel like a little kid—at Christmas!