Our ever watchful gastronomic blogging barometer Marmaduke Scarlet has reminded us that this Sunday (25th November) is Stir-up Sunday.According to tradition this is the last day to make mincemeat, puddings and cakes to allow them enough time to come to maturity."And what a day its been", the pressure was rising in the kitchen this morning as I decided an austerity Christmas should not be party to shop bought mince pies but my own home made ones.First problem - suet.Where could I get suet in Portugal? Suet is a very English fat and not always appreciated by other cultures. Suet is a key ingredient of traditional mincemeat (fruit mince) and also in traditional puddings, such as British Christmas Pudding
Gone are the days when you could buy a block of suet in the butchers.Not so in Portugal, where one can still buy a block of suet from some butchers, well pork suet mind.Pork suet is known as leaf lard. As it is from deep inside the body it is a very firm fat with a high melting point.So guided by the fact that traditionally the Portuguese have always used pork fat a lot in both their savoury dishes puddings and cakes, I put my best foot forward for my butchers and found what I was looking for.So what would happen If I substituted Pork for beef. The melting point of lard is just a little lower than the melting point for suet (95F to 113F  compared to 115F to 122F http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/fats.html) so I think the substitution will work fine.I could also simply leave out the fat, but it would not be the same.One of the best things about a mince pie is how the small amount of suet in the mincemeat absorbs into the butter-based pastry to create a wonderfully flakey crust.I’m trusting that my pork fat will have the same effect.From following this blog, you are now  probably well aware of my love affair with the quince and everything that you can do with it,so for my mincemeat I decided to replace the traditional apple with quince and my favourite Portuguese brandy.
1 kg quinces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
250g sultanas,chopped
250g raisins,chopped
250g dried apricots,chopped
250g light muscovado sugar
250g shredded beef,vegetable suet or leaf lard grated
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
100g crystallised peel
100 ml Portuguese Maciera brandy (substitute with calvados)

Pre-heat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2
Peel and quarter the quinces and cut them into wedges.Melt the butter and toss the quinces in it, coating them well.Put them on a baking tray and roast them gently in the oven until tender ( about 45 minutes).
Remove the quinces and set aside to cool.Chop them finely but be careful not to mash them.When they are cool put them in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with all the other ingredients.Bottle in Sterilised jars.

Any kind of  meat fat grates better when cold.I put my pork suet (leaf lard) in the freezer for an hour before I needed it.
Suet that is not pre-packed requires refrigeration in order to be stored for extended periods.
Replace the suet quantity with banana but the shelf life will be reduced to 3 - 4 days, so cant be made too far in advance, therefore not a Stir-in Sunday option.


  1. I have never been called a barometer before!

    I am with you on the quinces, god I love them. There really is something magical about a quince, from the way it smells, it's knobbly looks and the way it cooks. Fabulous. I have made my mincemeat, but didn't use as much quince, wish I had now.

    BTW, fascinating stuff about the suet. I suppose I had never dthought about its availability anywhere else. Nor did I really understand what it does when cooked. I feel well and truly educated. Marvellous.


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