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Traditional Mincemeat Pie

The holidays are quickly approaching and for some reason I seem to be in the Christmas spirit much earlier than in previous years. The Christmas “fever” has already hit me and it is not even Thanksgiving yet. My house is decorated, the shopping is almost done, cards are being made, cookie lists are being prepared, visits with family are in the works, and the list goes on. One of the things I love about the holiday season is that it always brings back memories of my childhood.

I was blessed to have had a very good childhood that is chock full of family memories. When I was really young, my parents used to pack the car so tight with stuff (that we were never allowed to see on the way there…hmm Santa maybe) and then jam all the kids and dog into the minivan to take a road trip to Ohio to visit our grandmothers and our extended family. Ohio was the gathering place for both sides of the family. We used to go back and forth to different relatives houses to celebrate. Our visits would include so much food that is surprising that they managed to bring us all back in one piece!

One of my fondest memories during these visits was Grandma Hengesbach’s desserts. She always had enough cookies to feed an army, pumpkin pie, and mincemeat pie. Now when I was a kid I would have never dared to try mincemeat pie because the thought of meat for dessert was not appealing. However it was not until later on that I discovered that her mincemeat didn’t even contain meat at all… oh how naïve I was as a child! Sadly she is not around anymore to share her recipe with me, which after all of these years I thought was homemade but my mother tells me otherwise. To keep alive her holiday tradition I have attempted to make my own mincemeat totally from scratch.

I did a lot of research on mincemeat recipes which was not originally the plan but I became so intriqued with what I found. Traditional mince pies trace back to England and the idea was created as a means of preserving meat for the winter. The combination of meat, lard, fruit, vinegar, and molasses helped to preserve them for the cold months ahead. When the British arrived in America they brought their tradition of mince pies with them. But eventually over time, the authenticity changed and the meat was omitted and replaced with dried candied fruits. This is now what people think of when they think of mincemeat pies. Since I enjoy keeping to tradition, I chose to make a recipe that includes real beef and beef suet which provide for a more authentic mince pie.

I went to my local butcher and asked for a chunk of beef suet and he happily obliged to give me a piece of the lard at no cost might I add. I gathered the rest of the ingredients and came home to start preparing. I simmered the beef cubes for about an hour until they were tender, then proceeded to shred them in the food processor. Then I mixed the fruit, shredded meat, spices and suet and simmered them for about an hour. I couldn't find currants around here so I used a mixture of golden raisins and sultana raisins.  I had a large amount of difficulty getting the suet to melt, therefore I managed to scoop most of it out and added a few tablespoons of butter to coat the fruit instead. This was my first time using suet so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The reason it didn’t melt is unclear to me, but it could have been because the suet was not traditional in that it came from around the kidneys, or because I did not cut the suet small enough to melt. Regardless, butter worked as a nice substitute. The fragrance from the simmering mincemeat was wonderful and overtook my house for hours. I opted to try a new recipe for pie crust which I will not even post because I was not impressed with the consistency of it. Sometimes it is best not to mess with a good thing.

Overall I was impressed with the filling. The pie was very rich and full of flavour. The combination of the sweetness of the fruit and spices mixed with the meat was delicious.  The addition of the whiskey at the end added a nice British touch.  I will add more next time to make the flavour a little stronger.  This will definitely be a keeper and I am eager to try to make it again with the leftover filling, but next time I will use my no fail pie crust recipe. Unfortunately since the pie crust didn’t turn out well, it affected my photos.  Therefore I am not going to share my photos.  You will have to wait until round two to see how it turned out or you can try to make it yourself!

Mincemeat Pie
Recipe From: Teri's
Makes: 2 pies

1-1/4 pounds lean beef stew meat
2-3/4 pounds Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped
1/3 pound beef suet, coarsely ground
3/4 pounds dark raisins
1/2 pound dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 pound currants
1/2 cup apple juice
3/4 teaspoons ground cloves
3/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoons ground allspice
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup bourbon or rum, divided
Pastry dough for two double crust pies
1. Place stew meat in 2-quart pot; add water to cover. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1hour or until tender. Drain and put through a meat grinder or into a food processor until a coarse grind.

2. Place the ground meat and the remaining ingredients, using only 1/4 cup of the liquor, in a 4-quart pot. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool. (Can be made several days ahead and refrigerated, or frozen for several months.)

3. Roll out one-quarter of the pastry dough and place it in a 9-inch pie pan. Place one-half of meat mixture into pie shell. Roll out another quarter of the dough and place on top, crimping it with the bottom crust to seal. Put a hole in the center of the top crust to allow steam to escape while baking. Repeat with the second pie, or freeze the meat for future use. Bake in preheated 375° F oven for 1 hour or until brown and bubbly. Place pie on a cooling rack. Using a funnel, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup bourbon or rum. Tilt pie back and forth to incorporate. Serve warm.



This one's for you Carol: Apple Squash Soup and Cranberry Chutney


A few weeks ago, a great friend came to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with us. While Caroline was here, we took a road trip and drove through Prince Edward County which is a very scenic area not too far from our home. It is a new hotspot for wineries and vineyards, spectacular farmland and some of the most gorgeous waterfront properties around. We  stopped in at Huff Estates Winery during our drive before we made it to Lake on a Mountain Restaurant fur lunch. This spot is very interesting because the title exactly explains the natural phenomenon that exists here…there is a lake on a mountain. It is so neat to see.

The whole point of this blog is not to tell about my trip to the county, but rather share a wonderful fall recipe that was inspired by my trip to the county with Caroline. We had the most delicious Butternut Squash soup flavoured with fresh ginger for lunch. I have tried since this day to make a similar tasting soup, but have not had much luck until today. I have been reading this cookbook called Clean Food by Terry Walters which focuses on all natural foods and cooking seasonally. The beginning of the cookbook explains a variety of less common ingredients that provide healthy alternatives for more common ingredients. Many of her recipes are gluten and egg free which is wonderful for those who have food allergies. In her book she has a recipe for Apple Butternut Squash soup. I had to try it and see if it could compare to the soup at Lake on the Mountain. I slightly modified the recipe based on what I had in my kitchen and also based on my taste preference. The subtle flavour of the coconut milk really mixed well with the sweet apples and savory onions and sage. But overall this soup was amazing and will definitely be added to the favourite recipe pile.

While I was making this soup, I was provided with some rather amusing entertainment. My porch is lined with pumpkins that slowly make it inside to my kitchen. But I suppose I was taking too long to bring them. I noticed that something was eating one of my pumpkins. The side had a huge hole in it. I couldn’t think what might eat a pumpkin. Then I looked out the window and caught the bugger red-handed. A gray squirrel had gotten into it and was taking all of the seeds out and burying them in my yard. The funniest part was that his whole body was inside of the thing with only his bushy tale sticking out! A few minutes later I looked again and there was a black squirrel getting into one of the other pumpkins! I quickly ran outside and saved the only pumpkin that did not have teeth marks in it. I was not trying to deprive them of food, but rather I was thinking of the pie that I have yet to make this season!

I have also included another one of Terry's recipes for Cranberry Chutney which is amazing.  Her recipe calls for sucatant (minimally processed liqud cane sugar) which I omitted altogether to make for a more tart version of the recipe.  I served the chutney over pork chops for one meal, ate it as a side dish with chicken another night, and topped a wheel of brie with it for a lovely appetizer.  This is definately a nice twist on classic cranberry sauce which is usually loaded with suagr and sweetness.

Apple Squash Soup
Recipe Adapted from: Clean Food by Terry Walters
Serves: 6-8 

1 large butternut squash
1 large yellow onion, chopped (I used red)
2 TBS grapeseed oil (I used olive oil)
4 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I used Empire apples)
4 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
1 cup rice milk (I used 3/4 cup white milk)
1/4 cup coconut milk (I increased to 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper
** I added 1 tsp sage

1. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and pulp. Put face down in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees or until soft. Peel away the skin and cut into chunks.

2. In large pot, over medium heat, heat oil and sauté onions until soft. Add squash, apples, stock, milk, and herbs. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until apples and squash are soft.

3. Using a hand blender, puree until smooth. This can also be done in batches in the food processor.

Cranberry Chutney
Recipe From: Clean Food by Terry Walters

2 cups cranberries
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup sucatant
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 TBS cinnamon
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup water
1 small onion chopped
3 medium apples, cored and chopped
4 stalks of celery chopped
1 tsp grated lemon peel

1. Combine cranberries, raisins, sucatant, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and water in Dutch oven. Place over medium heat and cook for 15 minutes.

2. Stir in onion, apples, and celery and cook for 15 more minutes.

 3. Remove from heat, fold in lemon peel, and serve.