Throughout history, winter solstice festivals have been held across the world to celebrate the changing seasons and to mark the longest night of the year and rebirth of the Earth. The origin of baking treats for holiday festivities such as Christmas dates back to these solstice rituals. One of the reasons these celebrations tended to revolve around food was because it used to be necessary to feast before the winter famine. In addition, the festivities and food often had an emphasis on the Earth itself incorporating natural foods. Full of natural foods such as nuts, berries and spices, this recipe makes a delicious, healthy treat which can be enjoyed as part of holiday celebrations or packaged and shared as special gifts.
Growing up in England, one of my strongest associations with feasting at Christmas includes mince pies! These days I make my own mincemeat and tend to experiment with different variations every year. Although the recipes generally include a mix of fruit, dried fruit and spices, one of the beauties of modern mincemeat is that it is extremely flexible and forgiving. Some years, I have been ambitious enough to make candied peel from scratch. Not this year, however! Still, regardless of how it evolves, mincemeat with its distinct taste and aroma will always be a holiday favourite of mine. This is the first mincemeat recipe I have tried that uses a Dutch oven rather than the stove-top method. The slow cooking of the mincemeat in the oven over 90 minutes fills the kitchen with the familiar and delicious aroma of dried fruit and spices.