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11/14/2010

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 na├»ve 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 Kitchen.com
Makes: 2 pies
 
INGREDIENTS

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
Directions:
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.






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