For about a year now, I’ve been thinking about trying to make home-made mincemeat for my husband. My father loved mincemeat, and my mother would buy jars of Nonesuch Mincemeat and make a pie for him every winter. As a picky eater, I resolutely refused to even taste it. I don’t think my mom especially liked it, and perhaps my older brother would eat a bit. Despite my refusal to have even one taste of it, I remember thinking it smelled good. It was dark brown, and smelled sweet and spicy.
My memories of this good smell made me think that my husband would enjoy mincemeat, and that I might actually like it, too. We both love that other, much-maligned holiday treat, fruitcake (but only from Deluxe Fruitcake in Corsicana, TX–it’s the only one worth eating). I did some internet research for recipes and found one that looked like the right combination of tasty and not too difficult.
So, what is mincemeat? It’s been around for hundreds of years and no one seems to know what it’s all about. Traditionally, it did contain finely minced beef, along with fruit (fresh and dried), spices, fat (as suet) and some sort of alcohol like wine. It was a way to preserve meat and fruit in a time before refrigeration. I did find several recipes that had beef listed as one of the ingredients, but since I don’t eat beef (and since it sounds kind of yucky to put it in a sweet pie), I sought out an all-fruit version.
From reviewing several recipes, I determined that it’s a fairly flexible recipe that should contain some fresh apple and maybe some fresh orange, a variety of dried fruit (raisins, cherries, peaches, apricots), butter, spirits like brandy and spices. It’s actually really easy to assemble, and cooked quietly and happily on the stove for about 40 minutes. I used the recipe for Bubby’s All-Fruit Mincemeat (found at globalgourmet.com), and adapted it to what I had on hand. Here’s a link to the original recipe.
I haven’t yet made my mincemeat pie, but this stuff is awfully tasty just eaten with a fork!
My adaptation of Bubby’s excellent recipe is as follows:
1 Granny Smith apply, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
1 naval orange, cut into small pieces (including skin and pulp)
2 small (or 1 large) Bosc pears
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup succanat (or rapidura, an unrefined sugar)
3/4 cup Brandy
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup water
4 oz raisins
4 oz dried bluberries
4 oz dried apricots, cut into small pieces
3 oz mixed dried apples and peaches, cut into small pieces
5 tbsp butter
1 oz candied ginger, cut into small pieces
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients in a 6-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and let it gently simmer for about 40 minutes, or until all of the dried fruit is plump and soft, and the liquid has been reduced to a very thick syrup. Cool completely. This should keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Now you’re ready to make pie!
Let mixture cool completely. It is not ready to use as a pie filling, or whatever else sounds good to you.