"I didn’t understand mincemeat when I was growing up. Is it meat? Is it a fruit? Is it a sweet thing or a savory thing?"
Text and recipe by Michaela Hayes
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I certainly didn’t eat it with any regularity. Perhaps I had it once or twice in a pie at a friend’s holiday party as an adult.
When I met my wife, who was born in England, mincemeat became a regular part of our life together—every Christmas the mincemeat pies appear. Over the years, they’ve become a bit more unique—the pies are now all gluten free thanks to a few of our dietary restrictions. But the mince is usually the same: a store-bought jar of sometimes questionable ingredients, and often very, very sweet. I must be honest—I’ve not come easily to this new tradition.
I love my wife, and she loves mincemeat, and I love making new things. It’s been natural for me to want to see if I can improve on the flavor of that jar that sits at the back of our fridge all year, waiting for December. I consulted with my wife’s Auntie Eileen, the family member who regularly makes her own mince, to great acclaim. She sent me a couple of recipe options, and the promise that homemade mince is far superior to the store bought version.
Mincemeat is traditionally made with beef suet, but as it’s hard to come by I developed this recipe that doesn’t use any fat at all.
The mince is lovely. I used it in muffins to start—which my wife thought delicious. And so I succumbed and made her some tarts, which she loved enough to share with her family. I think my favorite way to eat this mince may be right from the jar.
While researching various mincemeats, I realized that over the years of writing this column, I’ve created a few recipes that can help you bring your mincemeat
A-game! Check out these recipes in past issues:
Pickled Cherries (Summer 2013)
Candied Citrus (Holiday 2013)
Apple Pie Sugar (Fall 2012)
1 large crisp, tart apple (Mutsu or Granny Smith), peeled, cored and finely chopped
2⁄3cup dried currants
2⁄3cup golden raisins
2⁄3cup dried cranberries
1⁄2 cup maple sugar or Apple Pie Sugar (Fall 2012)
1⁄2 cup Pickled Cherries (Summer 2013), pitted and chopped
1⁄2 cup walnuts, chopped
1⁄2 cup Candied Citrus Peel (Winter2013), chopped
1⁄3cup crystalized ginger, minced
1⁄4 cup dates, chopped
1 lemon, just zest and juice
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
1⁄4 teaspoon ground mace
1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄8teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄4 cup bourbon
- Put all ingredients, except bourbon, in a heavy saucepan.
- Cook covered on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Allow mixture to cool in the covered pot, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in bourbon.
- Pack into jar and refrigerate.
The mincemeat will be best after it sits for a week or two. But in a pinch, use it immediately. Use this recipe to make the filling for your favorite pies, tarts, and muffins!
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