Several weeks ago, someone on the Buzz asked a question about mincemeat. The question triggered memories of Grandma's
kitchen and all the wonderful smells and flavors of Thanksgivings past. I emailed relatives for a copy of her mincemeat pie recipe. But, like many wonderful cooks of generations gone by, she evidently had her recipe only in her head. I know that
her recipe had meat in it, because when our family butchered our own beef, she canned beef and suet for her mincemeat pies. Not having a lot of knowledge about the subject, I went to Google and checked out the
history of mincemeat.
It seems that mincemeat came about as a way of preserving meat without smoking or salting it over 500 years ago. When the Crusaders returned to England, they brought with them spices that until then were unknown in that country. It was discovered that the spices
preserved the meat, so storing it spiced became very popular among those who could afford the spices.
Usually it was mutton that was minced in medieval times, later beef became a popular spiced meat. Traditionally, minced meat dishes with fruit were served as the main dish with mostly meat, with a few prunes, raisins, dates and apples for flavor. As the fruit
and spices became more available in larger quantities in the 17th century, the spiciness increased and the pie became more fruit than meat. Then the mincemeat "pie" moved from a main dish to a dessert.
As I searched, I found a wide variety in the recipes for mincemeat. Some have meat and suet, some just meat OR suet. Some just beef broth and no meat, and some are totally vegetarian.
Recipes that make big batches suggest canning or
freezing after cooking. Some recipes have green tomatoes along with what I would consider "traditional" fruits: raisins, currants, dates, and apples.
This excerpt from a mid-16th century cookbook gives us an idea of how the pie was made during the days of the Tudors:
Cokerye, declarynge what manner f meates be beste on season, for al times in the yere, and how they ought to be dressed, and serued at the table, bothe for fleshe dayes, and fyshe days
~ [this is the title]
"To make Pyes - Pyes of mutton or beif must be fyne mynced and ceasoned wyth pepper and salte, and a lyttle saffron to
coloure it, suet or marrow a good quantite, a lyttle vyneger, prumes, greate raysins and dates, take the fattest of the broathe of powdred beyfe and yf you wyll have paest royall
[piecrust?], take butter and yolkes of egges and so tempre the flowre to make the paeste."
I also found recipes for mincemeat made from venison, elk and even whale meat. I'm sure buffalo would have been used as well, but didn't see any recipes for that - or for antelope.
There are many recipes online that you can find, but here's one that was given to me by a friend:
Carolyn's Grandma Agnes Speedy's Recipe for Mince Meat
2 pounds lean beef, chopped 1 pound beef suet, chopped
5 pounds sour apples, chopped 2 1/2 pounds brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon 1 tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt 1 pound raisins
2 pounds currants 3/4 pound citron, cut fine
1 cup molasses 1 orange, juice and rind
1 cup cider 1 lemon, juice and rind
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 tablespoons currant jelly
Mix together all ingredients except meat and currant jelly. Heat slowly to boiling point and simmer one hour. Add the
meat and the currant jelly. [The amount of cider can be adjusted to give you the consistency you desire.]
I didn't really want to make a batch of mincemeat, but being hungry for it, I decided to try the stuff from the store.
Although it didn't have the exact flavor of Grandma's, it actually made a decent dessert. I used the recipe on the back of the None Such Classis Original Mincemeat jar to make delicious fruit and nut bars for a gathering two weeks ago. They were pretty popular
and several gals ask for "my" recipe! [I should mention that this brand has no mincemeat it in.]
I guess that people who have tried mincemeat either love it or hate it. But, if its been awhile or if you've never had
mincemeat, this is a great time of year to try it.