Friday, December 17, 2010


This is a dish that confused me for some time. "Minced" means broken up (it's actually related to the word "minute," as in exceedingly small). The British use the word "minced" in places we might use the word "ground," so when I started hearing about mincemeat pies, I assumed they were meat pies.

Then certain people (Lisa, Alton Brown) tried to explain to me that there was no meat in mincemeat pies at all, just dried fruit.

Just as I started grappling with the idea of a meatless mincemeat, I found one of my grandma's recipes which seemed to combine the aforementioned concepts. The ingredients:
  • beef
  • suet
  • apples
  • dried currants
  • sultana raisins
  • citron (I believe this refers to candied lemon peel, not actual citron fruit...)
  • cider (knowing my grandma, non-alcoholic)
  • spices
The ingredients were chopped, cooked, and canned.
I'm still trying to come up with a definition. "Dried fruit, usually with fat, sometimes with meat," might work, but, "Dried fruit and whatever else you have on hand" is probably the safest. This week I had suet, apple preserves, dried cranberries, dried currants, raisins, and brandy.  I worked off this recipe, from Alton Brown.

I was initially excited about the preserving potential of mincemeat, but most of the ingredients are already shelf-stable, and those that aren't (beef, apples) are probably best preserved in other ways. At any rate, the mix keeps very well, and actually benefits from storage, much like fruitcake. It makes a great pie. Most recipes call for a sweet crust, but I think a well-salted crust made with lard gives a good contrast to the sweetness of the filling. The partially reconstituted fruit has a very satisfying chew.


  1. So, you did not use beef? I assumed it was called meat because of the suet... what exactly is suet? I know I will get a really good explanation from you... and why do you think they used it then? I just thought it was fat...

  2. Suet is the fat around the loin and kidneys of cows and sheep. It is hard and crumbly compared to soft, creamy pork fat. It can be rendered and refined to make tallow for candles and lubricants.

    Obviously suet will lend a unique flavour to the dish, but to be honest I have no idea why it is preferred for mincemeat, or why you couldn't use pork fat.

  3. Vely intelisting. Or, why use it at all. I guess for the staying power. And, to use every part of the animal. I appreciate this answer. Never have I found such a clear explanation.
    Pie looks wonderful
    I love this Christmas series you are doing. TOTALLY love it!