A traditional preparation for this rich, fruity tart filling. If you can't find citron peel, add extra lemon and orange peel to make up the weight. Prepare the mincemeat at least two weeks before you wish to use it to allow time for it to mature.
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finely grated zest and strained juice of 3 large lemons, empty lemon halves reserved
Put the reserved lemon shells into a medium saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, partly cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until very soft.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Meanwhile, core the apples and make a shallow cut, just through the skin, around the middle of each. Place on a baking tray in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and cool.
Drain the lemon shells well and chop ﬁnely. Halve the apples and scoop out the pulp. Put the chopped lemon, apple pulp, lemon rind and juice into a very large ovenproof casserole and beat well. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and half the brandy. Leave in a cool place, covered, for 12 hours, or overnight, to allow the flavours to develop.
Preheat the oven to 110 degrees C. Cook the fruit mince, covered, for 3 hours, then remove the casserole from the oven and take off the lid. Allow the fruit mince, which will be swimming in fat, to cool, stirring occasionally. The suet will coat the fruit and be evenly distributed throughout the fruit mince.
When cold, stir in the remaining brandy, spoon into clean jars and pack down to exclude any air. Seal with a little melted suet or in the usual way. Store in a cool, dark place and use within a year.