OK, I’m a little obsessive when it comes to certain things, and one of them is food. Last year I got it into my head that all mincemeat pies I’d ever eaten were substandard: not spicy enough, or flavorful. This could be remedied by my making my own mincemeat.
I’m not talking about mincemeat with suet, as it seems beyond stomach turning to have to handle the fatty material that comes from a cow’s kidneys. Just regular apples and dried fruit and candied peel.
The candied peel available in the markets looked like it had been manufactured in jelly bean factories. It was plump and technocolored, as if treated like maraschino cherries. To make those they take perfectly good cherries, bleach them of color and flavor, then re-insert chemically perfected flavors. So I decided the only way to make this memorable and fulfill my standards was to make my own candied peel.
First you carefully strip the oranges of their peels. (Then squeeze the fresh orange juice and make yourself a screwdriver.)
The pieces of peel need to about half an inch thick, pretty uniform in size, so they can cook evenly.
Then you cook the slivers in sugar syrup — three cups sugar to one cup water — for two hours. You have to watch this more carefully than you might think because the syrup can boil down if you don’t keep the temperature at a low simmer. If that happens, you get burnt peel — too bitter.
When you take the peel out of the syrup, it’s a sticky mess. I had to take it out with tongs. I tried to arrange it in such a way that it would be easy to handle once it had cooled, but that wasn’t the case. I had a pretty hard wrangle with it, trying to get it off the parchment paper and also to disentangle it from other pieces of peel so that all the peel surfaces were free.
Funny how much it looked like bacon strips.
Dredge in sugar.
And then, late last night – – mincemeat.