11/12/2012 08:00 EST | Updated 01/12/2013 05:12 EST

Recipes for traditional mincemeat and fruitcake for the festive season

Mincemeat and fruitcake are full of ingredients that are redolent of the festive season for many people. Here are some recipes for those who would like to experience the rich flavour and scent of these traditional desserts.

18th Century Mincemeat

Mincemeat has been a favourite for a long time. On Dec. 2, cookbook author Elizabeth Baird is taking part in a workshop at Toronto's Fort York on making mincemeat, using a recipe from a 1747 cookbook, "First Catch Your Hare, The Art of Cookery made Plain & Easy" by British author Hannah Glasse (facsimile edition by Prospect Books). Pre-registration is necessary. For more information, call 416-392-6907, ext. 225.

Here is the recipe, reproduced work for word from the cookbook.

Take three Pounds of Suet shread very fine, and chopped as small as possible, two Pounds of Raisins stoned, and chopped as fine as possible, two Pounds of Currans (currants), nicely picked, washed, rubbed, and dried at the Fire, half a hundred of fine Pippins (apples), pared, cored, and chopped small, half a Pound of fine Sugar pounded fine, a quarter of an Ounce of Mace, a quarter of an Ounce of Cloves, two large Nutmegs, all beat fine; put all together into a great Pan, and mix it well together with half a Pint of Brandy, and half a Pint of Sack (sherry); put it down close in a Stone-pot, and it will keep good four Months.

Source: "First Catch Your Hare, The Art of Cookery made Plain & Easy" by Hannah Glasse (originally published in 1747).


Traditional Mincemeat

This recipe comes from "Canada's Favourite Recipes," a new cookbook by Rose Murray and Elizabeth Baird. The mincemeat is excellent for tarts and pies and is a family recipe of Dorothy Long of Lloydminster, Sask.

1 l (4 cups) peeled, cored and chopped apples

750 ml (3 cups) finely chopped beef suet

650 ml (2 2/3 cups) packed brown sugar

750 ml (3 cups) seeded Lexia or Muscat raisins

750 ml (3 cups) currants

500 ml (2 cups) mixed candied peel

425 ml (1 3/4 cups) sultana raisins

7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) each cinnamon, mace and cloves

2 ml (1/2 tsp) nutmeg

125 ml (1/2 cup) brandy

In a large bowl, stir together apples, suet and brown sugar until sugar dissolves. Stir in Lexia raisins, currants, peel, sultana raisins, cinnamon, mace, cloves and nutmeg. Pour brandy over everything and stir well to combine. Cover and refrigerate, at least overnight or up to 1 week, to let flavours blend. (It also can be made ahead and frozen in airtight containers for longer storage.)

Tips: For a mincemeat pie, count on 1 l (4 cups) per 23-cm (9-inch) pie. For tarts, 500 ml (2 cups) of mincemeat will fill 12 tart shells.

Makes about 4 l (16 cups).

Source: "Canada's Favourite Recipes" by Rose Murray and Elizabeth Baird (Whitecap Books, 2012).


The Olive Davis Christmas Cake

Elizabeth Baird's mother's original recipe made enough chock-full-of-fruit batter to fill a large fruitcake pan. Once the cake was baked, she let it age in the fruit cellar where Baird's father regularly checked it, just to see how it was mellowing — a little slice here, a little slice there, cut with the knife he kept hidden behind the fruitcake tin. Baird has scaled down the ingredients so the batter fits into a 3.5-l (13-by-9-inch) metal cake pan.

750 ml (3 cups) chopped mixed candied peel

500 ml (2 cups) currants or sultana raisins

500 ml (2 cups) seeded Lexia or Muscat raisins

250 ml (1 cup) chopped candied pineapple

250 ml (1 cup) halved candied cherries

175 ml (3/4 cup) brandy or rum (approx)

175 ml (3/4 cup) butter, softened

300 ml (1 1/4 cups) packed brown sugar

4 large eggs

4 ml (3/4 tsp) almond extract

425 ml (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour

5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder

2 ml (1/2 tsp) each baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg

1 ml (1/4 tsp) cloves or allspice

175 ml (3/4 cup) each slivered almonds and chopped pecans

In a large bowl, toss together peel, currants, raisins, pineapple, cherries and rum. Cover and soak for at least 1 day or up to 3, stirring occasionally.

Line a 3.5-l (13-by-9-inch) metal cake pan with parchment paper; set aside. Before preheating the oven to 150 C (300 F), set the rack for the cake in the centre of the oven and place a shallow roasting pan or another cake pan on the rack below. Fill the pan below about half full with hot water.

In a separate large bowl, beat butter until light. Beat in brown sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add almond extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Mix into butter mixture a third at a time, mixing gently just until batter is smooth. Add soaked fruit mixture, almonds and pecans. Stir to combine ingredients. Scrape into prepared pan, packing the thick batter into the pan and smoothing the top.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour. Cover lightly with a piece of foil to keep the top from overbrowning. Continue baking until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the cake has come away from the sides of the pan, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

To age the cake, remove cake from pan and unwrap. Wrap in a double thickness of cheesecloth. Moisten cheesecloth with additional brandy. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for 2 or 3 weeks, remoistening cheesecloth periodically.

Tip: Divide cake crosswise into 6 squared logs. To ice, brush corn syrup over the cake and wrap top and sides with marzipan rolled out thinly. Fruitcake slices best when cold from the refrigerator.

Makes 6 fruitcake logs, about 1.15 kg (2 1/2 lb) total.

Source: Elizabeth Baird.