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Real Mincemeat

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The holidays will soon be upon us and so my mind turns to mincemeat. My Mom, Aunt, sisters and I still make and can (put in jars) real mincemeat every year. We use it to make pies at Thanksgiving and Christmas (and a few other special occassions.) When I say "real mincemeat", I mean mincemeat made with beef, suet, raisins, apples, apple juice and spices (no liquor in our version.) It is really delicious, but most people I know are repulsed by the mere idea of making a pie out of beef and apples. I guess it's something you have to grow up with (and sometimes *that* doesn't even work. My brother won't touch the stuff.)

I'm just curious- does anyone else out there make and eat this kind of mincemeat?

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  1. I don't, but my Dad does. He also uses the suet to make real plum puddings. I'm the only one who really likes it, though I think that has more to do with just not liking mince/plum pudding rather than the actual flavor of the thing itself.

    1. I do -- I have never made it (I hope to, someday) -- but I buy it from a delicatessan that makes it specially every year at Christmastime.

      I personally love it -- but I had to learn about it through "fake" mincemeat (with no meat or fat in it) -- which I sort of liked, but was curious why the word "meat" was in it. So I started reading cookbooks about it, then I learned that the English (and other folks) do actually still eat the real type of mincemeat. Once I found my good deli-made source, I was hooked.

      But alas, I eat it alone. Me, the mincemeat, and the fruitcake. A young woman alone with her old-time Christmas foods (sigh)

      (Of course I am secretly thinking !More for me!)

      21 Replies
      1. re: Mrs. Smith

        So, what's your deli source?

        1. re: Missy P.

          Berenbaum, in The Pie and Pastry Bible, says Vintage Mincemeat made by Postilion is "the most fabulous" she's ever tasted. She says it's available from La Cuisine.

          Link: http://www.lacuisineus.com/resource.htm

          1. re: Missy P.

            It's in Duluth Minnesota (my native city), where I spend every other Christmas (the on-off schedule with the inlaws). The Christmasses I'm here in San Francisco, my mother goes and buys me a tub, freezes it, and sends it to me in dry ice from MailBoxes ETC, since the Jacobsen's don't do mail-order. Yes, we are a little obsessed in my family.

            The frozen stuff is never as good as fresh, but it's a darn sight better than what I've found in San Francisco (read: never have found real mincemeat to buy retail in San Francisco as of yet)!

            Sorry I can't provide a share-able source!

          2. re: Mrs. Smith
            Caitlin Wheeler

            Mrs. Smith, you and I should get together for Christmas, because I'm always insisting on making mince pies and fruitcake for Christmas, and nobody else wants any! I made 5 fruitcakes this year, and can't give them away as gifts (which is probably a good thing, because too many nuts destabilized the cakes and many of them broke).

            1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

              I use mincemeat to fill turnovers. That way I can make a small number and get my fix.

              1. re: Pat Goldberg
                Caitlin Wheeler

                I actually make the little mince pies -- individual sizes like they usually serve in Britain. I've made them in muffin cups before, but I really need to get mini pie pans.

                Last year I also made mincemeat cookies.

                1. re: Caitlin Wheeler
                  Caitlin McGrath

                  Epicurious has a good mincemeat muffin recipe (actually, they have two, but this is the one I'm familiar with).

                  I grew up with the vegetarian sort, homemade by my mother, so that's what I like, personally.

                  Link: http://www.epicurious.com/run/recipe/...

            2. re: Mrs. Smith
              Caitlin McGrath

              Start your chowpup early on, Mrs. Smith, so you'll have someone to appreciate them with! [g]

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                I plan to! The baby's grandma and I are currently drafting a plan for fruitcake/mincemeat/nesselrode/eggnog indoctrination during his/her formative years!

                1. re: Mrs. Smith

                  What is nesselrode? If it's in the real eggnog/fruitcake category, then I want to know about it!

                  1. re: divstudent

                    Nesselrode is a kind of custardy pie involving, (usually) candied fruits, nuts (sometimes chestnuts or marrons glaces, but more likely not), and, occasionally booze. I have seen versions with either rum or brandy, and also good ones with no spirits. The below gives a good history -- I don't use this recipe however.

                    Believe me -- this is in the fruitcake-category. Not many people I know like this. I, however, have dreams about it -- second only to fruitcake in the hierarchy of my most-desired holiday old-fashioned foods. With a cup of black, strong, coffee, or a little cognac, this is one kicking Christmas dessert for the devotees.

                    Link: http://www.thefoodmaven.com/radioreci...

                    1. re: Mrs. Smith
                      Caitlin McGrath

                      Mrs. Smith, I grew up with (homemade) fruitcake, flamed-at-table steamed pudding with hard sauce for Christmas dessert, and yes, nesselrode pie (and roast goose for Christmas dinner). Don't remember exactly what went into my mom's nesselrode, as she really isn't into candied fruit, but it was a bit boozy, and hers had an angel crust (meringue). Hmm, I'll have to ask her about the provenence of her recipe. (No, my family has no English ancestry - at least, not since the 1600s - nor any Anglophiles. But the pudding and goose are traditions passed down through family. The others...just to my mother's taste, I suppose, tastes that were passed on to me.)

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        I would LOVE to be at your family celebrations. Hard sauce! Nobody understands hard sauce anymore! It's got to be one of my all-time favorite dessert things. A little square of hard sauce on top of hot gingerbread -- whoo!

                        I've never heard of a meringue-crusted nesselrode! That's quite an innovation. It sounds like it might be too sweet -- unless the custard was proportionately less sweet. I'd be very interested to hear the story of that (and your other family) recipes.

                        And roast goose -- what a treat! How was it cooked/stuffed/garnished/sauced?

                        1. re: Mrs. Smith
                          Caitlin Wheeler

                          OK, you all have convinced me. I'm making Nesselrode pie for a Christmas potluck I'm going to.

                          1. re: Mrs. Smith
                            Caitlin McGrath

                            Sorry it's taken me so long to respond, but here goes...

                            We always had mincemeat pie, though pretty early on it evoloved to the vegetarian kind. It was for Thanksgiving, though, not Christmas.

                            The nesselrode pie recipe my mother uses is from a 1950s Stella Standard cookbook. It has the aforementioned meringue crust, and the filling is, I believe, a Bavarian cream (you don't see those much these days!) that's spiked with rum, with rum-soaked candied fruit folded in; it's topped with shaved bitter chocolate. It's definitely not overly sweet - my mother really dislikes extra-sweet sweets. She'll supply me with the recipe, if you're interested.

                            My mother started out making a traditional plum pudding for Christmas (which is what she grew up with). One year when I was very young, a relative coming for Christmas dinner announced she'd become vegetarian, so a non-suet based alternative, a steamed fig pudding, became the new tradition and held. This recipe - I think it's from the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne, but don't quote me on that - is not as rich or heavy as traditional Christmas puddings, but is quite intensely flavored from the dried figs and spices. It's also flamed at the table; heated dark rum (which my mom prefers to brandy) is poured over and a match held to it - lights dimmed, of course. This is also a tradition she grew up with. Her pudding mold is a ring mold, and once ignited, the flames race around the top until they die out, which her parents called "blue devils." We serve it with both hard sauce and a cornstarch-thickened warm lemon sauce. It's actually the only thing I've ever put hard sauce on, though warm gingerbread sounds like a good target!

                            The roast goose is a tradition from my paternal grandmother's German heritage that my father had growing up. It was simply roasted, and served without gravy, the meat being fairly moist on its own. The stuffing that my grandmother did, and my mother also made for some years, was made from grated potatoes, but I don't really remember the seasoning. (Grated potatoes, absorbing goose fat, you see.) After my parents divorced, my mom kept the goose, but decided she preferred a bread stuffing with some fruit (so did we, the kids), and that was baked outside the bird. (It's always called stuffing in my family, whether it's in or out of the bird.)

                            We had a couple of other old-worldish Christmas food traditions, which I think were simply explorations on my mother's part that she adopted because she liked them. Among the annual Christmas cookies were springerle, for which she has a proper rolling pin, and lebkuchen decorated with a raisin and slivered almonds to resemble a flower. A later addition that might interest you was gingerbread with a layer of marzipan in the middle (which we started also
                            doing with brownies, because the chocolate/marzipan combination is a favorite of hers and mine).

                            Oh, and there is the once-a-year homemade Danish pastry for Christmas breakfast. She makes and fills the pastry on Christmas Eve, and it's baked in the morning and served hot. It's a braided wreath with a smooth, sweet cottage cheese-almond filling and sliced almonds on top. Each strand of the braid is filled (a long cylinder) before it's braided and formed into a round. I know the pastry recipe is from a Sunset bread book from the 60s (or very early 70s), but I'm not sure if the filling originated from that book or elsewhere (and she's tweaked the original recipe).

                            These days, now that the nest is empty and she's essentially vegetarian, the two of these 30+ year annual traditions that still adhere are the fig pudding and the Danish. The former, my mother wouldn't give up, and the latter, as long as my brother lives in the vicinity and her best friend keeps coming by to exchange gifts on Christmas morning - a tradition of over 25 years - she will not be allowed to give up. She's replaced the roast goose with a vegetarian entree that's become a new Christmas dinner tradition.

                            I love all these traditions, but so far, I haven't replicated any of them since I've done my own Christmases on the opposite coast. Each year, it's different goodies to give away, different dishes for Christmas breakfast and dinner and dessert. Well, I do return to favorites, but rarely in consecutive years. My family was in the "if it ain't broke..." camp (but not opposed to adding new things), and there's something to be said for that. I'm sure we'll settle in with some things for good eventually, but right now there are too many good things to try.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              Caitlin, thanks for the mouth-watering post. Beautiful descriptions of Christmas traditions on this board -- plus a foot of snow -- are really putting me in the holiday mood. Could you please post your recipe for gingerbread or brownies with marzipan? They both sound amazing.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                Caitlin -- a post like that is definitely worth checking Hot Posts for! Thank you so much -- your holiday food traditions sound incredibly good to me -- and very adventurous for the time, too -- and even for today. Any recipes you are willing to share would be welcome, I'd love to have any of the recipes you described. Take you time -- I'll check "Hot Posts" so I wont' miss it!

                                1. re: Mrs. Smith
                                  Caitlin McGrath

                                  Well, I'll definitely post the recipe for the marzipan gingerbread/brownies that efdee requested, and I'll get you that nesselrode pie recipe, since that's what started this. Let me know if you want anything else.

                                  I had to laugh about your saying these things seem "very adventurous for the time," since they are all old, traditional holiday foods.

                                  I've actually found fascinating your occasional tales about traditions and foodways in the little corner of northern Minnesota that you hail from (ladies' fried chicken and waffle brunches, etc.), in part because I gather we're around the same (early/mid-thirties) age, and, leaving aside the traditional Christmas dishes, we couldn't have grown up in more different surroundings. You in, I gather, a somewhat homogeneous outpost of the Midwest, with strong European immigrant traditions intact, me in the multi-hued SF Bay Area, with semi-hippie parents.

                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    True -- your Christmas traditional food is definitely that -- it's just not traditionally "American". Were either of your parents British? It just sounds so much more cosmopolitan than what most people had at Christmas in the 70s (yes, I'm 33 also, we're "of an age" as they say!). So many of us were subjected to Butterball turkeys and white-bread stuffing with jello molds and Campbells green-bean casseroles -- that your goose and nesselrode and flaming puddings sound so glamorous and delicious! What a lucky kid you were.

                                    I'm glad you enjoy the Minnesota annecdotes -- like so many places in the US, there are surprisingly "chowish" enclaves in places that you'd never expect them. The Iron Range and Duluth (the northern third of Minnesota) were homogenous in the sense that there were only two races of people -- the majority of Caucasians, and a minority of Native Americans -- but within each racial community there was surprising diversity! In the Native American or First People as they are sometimes called in Minnesota (the Canadian influence) there were many, many different tribes, and bands and clans within those tribes. These groups, some of them with French-Canadian blood and names, some with exclusively Sioux or Chippewa names -- had many different food traditions in their cultures. I am just learning about the differences between them -- it's become a bit of a hobby to me when I visit back home.

                                    Within the Caucasian community, there were vastly different European groups, many of which, as you say, retained a clear immigrant identity through many generations. Clear differences were apparent between the Irish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finish (the Finns are VERY different!), Serbs, Slovenes, Czechs, Nothern Italians, and Germans who all settled in different towns at different times. Some towns were almost exclusively one nationality or another, and some towns were a happy mix. In a way, because of this immigration and lack of a "brahmin" type class of Anglo-Saxons, the culture in many ways experienced a time warp. Things were very old-fashioned in Northern Minnesota for a long time -- and they still are today. This has preserved a lot of old traditions -- and food traditions being one of the best of them. Like everywhere, people are proud of their heritage -- but in that region it just seems a little easier to keep it alive than in a more cosmopolitan city.

                                    My husband, a Santa Cruz native and Bay Area food snob (justifiably) was amazed at his first few visits at the quality of food and variety. Perhaps because of the short growing season, and the precariousness of gardening in that extreme climate -- people prize garden produce and local, small-farm organic produce greatly in this area of the world. And there are some surprising Northern delights there that you'd not get other places -- "real" wild blueberries (the kind that are blue all the way through, like Maine blueberries), kohlrabi, wild woodland wintergreen, wild fiddleheads, and there even have been experiments in growing the famous Scandinavian cloudberry!

                                    Like many people in Northern climates, Nothern Minnesotas are great canners. They take the bounty of their long, long summer days (though the season is less than 90 days long) and can like mad through the summer. A home-grown, home-canned tomato in January is much better than any fresh or canned tomato you can get at the store! Plus the proximity of the big Lake, Superior, and so many small lakes provides a wonderful bounty of fresh fish. The big lake is actually fished year round, through the ice -- and provides wonderful walleye and steelhead, perch and trout throughout the year. There are deer galore in the woods, and grouse and pheasant and even wild turkey, so every family can taste wonderful wild game that would fetch huge prices in cities. There seems to be a great attention to food in that area -- which amazed and gratified my husband and other visitors.

                                    When I came to San Francisco (while first stopping a few years in Chicago, which I found mostly a chow desert when it came to artisanal food), I was, frankly, dazzled by all the organic and artisanal food available here. I spent the first few years rampaging through it all, finding the things that can be found no where else, and sampling the best this area has to offer. But so much of it reminded me of the good, homemade food of my youth. The emphasis on fresh dairy products, the organic produce that tastes so much like our garden produce, the wonderful fruit that we used to risk bears and bugbites for to pick ourselves in the woods, the variety of wild and free range protein sources, the wild honey -- it was all taught to me as a child, albeit in the necessarily sparser environment up North. We are lucky to live in this garden of the world -- but not all the lessons about good, honest food did I learn here.

                                    It just makes me glad to know that, with the right kind of attitude, any area can have a chowhoundly spirit. I don't make judgements about places I haven't been before, when I hear that the food is "bad" there. I try to seek out the chowhoundly folks wherever I go -- and so far, I've found them!

                  2. re: Mrs. Smith

                    I eat far and away enough meat at Christmas with it venturing into my dessert.

                    We make mince pies with mincemeat without meat in it.

                    There is a good recipe on Helen's British cookery site, link below.

                    Link: http://www.hwatson.force9.co.uk/cookb...

                    Image: http://www.hwatson.force9.co.uk/image...

                    1. re: Mrs. Smith

                      Bleagh, I'm English and I don't eat it. I'd try it, but pretty much without exception, I hate sweet and savoury.

                    2. Yes, we make mincemeat, although I don't like it very much, to be honest. My big thing is the fruitcake--we're making it this weekend and then we'll leave it to soak up brandy 'til the holidays. Yum!

                      1. It was a holiday fixture when I was growing up, made with wild venison (and booze). Very good. I haven't continued the tradition and my mother has slacked off as we are too old to chow down the way we used to. When the baby nephews get a bit older... (We also ate, and still do, real fruitcake and plum pudding with made with suet. Urp.)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Aromatherapy

                          We used venison too. Actually, we supplied venison to a neighbor with a non-hunting husband and she made the mincemeat.

                          Pat G.

                        2. I used to have a Brahmin friend who took comfort in being safe with desserts. No meat in desserts. That's until I told him about empanaditas, the little sweet meat turnovers my grandmother makes every Christmas.

                          I would guess this is similar to mincemeat but people are hard pressed to figure out it contains pork unless you tell them.

                          1. j
                            John McKelvey

                            Would you share your recipe?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: John McKelvey

                              I will need to check with the "elders" to make sure that's okay. I can't imagine that they'd have a problem with it. They'll probably be thrilled that someone else actually wants to keep the tradition alive!

                            2. Amen, though I have never made it myself, though my grandmother made a mean mincement that I search in vain for. Real mincemeat pie for Christmas!

                              (also yes to the omission of spirits)

                              1. k
                                Katherine A/O

                                I'm with your brother- My mom is English and there are alot of things I grew up with that I WONT eat now- mincemeat is definetly one of them- even though we would make it every year. I think its rates up there w/fried roe and broiled kidneys!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Katherine A/O

                                  Oh yum! Fried roe and broiled kidneys - life just doesn't get much better (although I don't like mincemeat either).

                                  1. re: MzMaggie

                                    I miss fried cod's roe from the chippy. They don't do that in Florida sadly.

                                2. I was familiar with the idea of suet in steamed desserts before, but don't understand what other "beef" is in your mincemeat? Just very curious - recently discovered I like mincemeat pie (although doubt it was an authentic version that I tried)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: julesrules

                                    We put suet and beef in the mincemeat. We buy beef (can't remember which cut) and put it through a meat grinder before adding it to the mincemeat.

                                  2. I have been searching for an original mincemeat recipe to match my Great grandma's. I think I finally found it. I recalled her use of pulled meat in her mincemeat pie and the use of chicken, pork and beef. I remembered her making it ahead of time in large crocks so as to let the meat and fruit to blend togather well. I don't recall much of my great grandma, but her mincemeat is still a very big holiday memory. I am making mincemeat for the holidays this year, I'm sure it won't be exactly the same but I'm going to try.

                                    1. I know this is an old thread, but I had to reply. Saveur had 2 recipes in their Nov '08 issue, and we decided it must be good if it's been banned for Christmas and health as too decadent time and time again.

                                      After a few hours of frustrating research on the internet for a decent recipe (90% state "use store bought or homemade", which is as useful as "get a can of pie filling and a premade crust"), I came up with my own recipe which eschews candied fruit (the gross stuff from fruitcake most of us hate). Having lost my bag of almonds, they weren't added. Personally, I really can't stand mushy nuts in sweet or savoury goods.

                                      This makes 4 pint jars--2 with meat and suet, 1 with just suet, and 1 without sweeteners or fat. Should be jarred 2 days up to 6 months in the refrigerator.

                                      Part 1: Sterilize 4 Mason Jars/rings/lids and put into each 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, and 3 allspice berries (this could be done with other jars/containers, but it's not as pretty).

                                      Part 2: Fruit mix
                                      2 large Granny Smith apples cored, peeled, and diced
                                      Zest and juice from 1.5 large lemons (use the remaining 1/2 lemon for making Manhattans)
                                      Zest and juice from 3 clementines
                                      8.5oz dried & sweetened cranberries
                                      5oz chopped dried apricots
                                      3T grated fresh ginger
                                      Mix all together; pack Jar #1 loosely with the mix, fill to 3/4" to top with good bourbon (I used Woodford Reserve). Label and put in fridge.

                                      Part 3: Suet friendly
                                      To remaining mixture, add
                                      3/4C grated beef suet (or as much as you are willing to grate/mince finely)
                                      2/3C turbinado sugar
                                      1/4C blackstrap molasses
                                      (at this point, and only for entertainment's sake, will I say that it tastes really good)
                                      Pack loosely into Jar #2, and fill to 3/4" top with bourbon. Label and put in fridge.

                                      Part 4: Meat friendly
                                      1/2 cup of roast beef diced (we used a round roast first marinated in cider vinagre, boiled cider, ginger, salt and pepper); if some parts are a little rare, lightly brown them in a frying pan with a neutral oil like Canola or Safflower
                                      Blend into remaining mixture, put into jars #3 & 4, and fill with bourbon. Label and put in fridge.

                                      This recipe is higher in booze than many. If there happens to be any liquid left over when I make the tartlets, I'll add that to a hard sauce first brought to a boil. The vegan/low fat version will have bananas added to it; all will be baked after flavour adjustment (cooking a little first in a pan, as one would with pate).

                                      1. My Grandma Owen would make two pumpkin and two mincemeat pies for Thanksgiving every year. She would buy the Borden's "mincemeat" in a jar, then would add plenty of her own chopped beef and a good cup of brandy (which, oddly enough, she would pour from the fresh bottle she'd bought each year, and the rest would just sort of...disappear). I could take or leave the pumpkin, but adored the mince, and still do. Knowing that it was originally a way of preserving meat makes it even more important to me that it be not only included but featured. Unfortunately, if I were to make a proper mince pie I'd have to eat it all myself!

                                        1. I've been using my mom's recipe which she originally found in the SF Chronicle in the 1970's. It does contain booze but I'm sure juice can be substituted.

                                          1. My grandmother used to make homemade mincemeat for her pies- she made the mincemeat with venison. Yummy.