I barrel age my mincemeat at least a month before using it. When the season is over, I sanitize the barrel and air dry it on the side porch, then stow it for the next year.
Last year our barrel was stolen from the porch, and we had several disappointed mincemeat pie customers this holiday.
One of our regulars offered to buy us a new barrel, and I took him up on it. They come from Gibbs Brothers Cooperage at http://www.gibbsbrothers.com . Let me tell you something. These guys are pros. They stand behind their work, which is excellent, I can tell you. This is a 10 gallon, medium toast oak cask with a removable top. When you lift the lid it smells like cherries. (I have another, smaller one that I am using to ferment malt vinegar.)
My mince recipe comes from a 100 year old book. I boil a bottom round until it's tender and grind it with suet. (I have the butcher get me the white fat that looks like cauliflower from around the kidneys.) It gets a bushel of apples, a bottle each of Meyers's rum, Spanish port and French brandy in addition to the dried and candied fruits. It also calls for "a pound of spice". Sure.
That's where it got interesting, though. Digging into my old book collection led me to a recipe for something called "Breadcake", a pioneer recipe somewhere between brioche-like bread and fruit cake. It gave exact measurements for the spices, and when I applied them to the mince the result was, well, somebody gladly shelling out 200 bucks to get a pie.
Edited by LeSorcier - 1/17/14 at 6:22am