Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mrs. Beeton's Mincemeat Pie

When someone offers you a mincemeat pie, is it your instinct to flee?  Mine too, which is why I have decided to make this dessert myself and discover why it is so beloved in the British Isles.  My own Irish family always ate mince and pumpkin pies for Christmas and Thanksgiving, or "pince and mumpkin" as was our corny family joke.  We kids hated it, of course, and wondered why it was called mincemeat when it didn't even have meat in it.  My mother explained that long ago, mincemeat pie was made with meat.

Actually, not all that long ago.  I have a handwritten mincemeat pie recipe from my grandmother that instructs you to buy mincemeat at the butcher shop, doctor it up with apples, leftover jam or apple butter, and then douse the pie with rum or brandy.

I doubt you can waltz into a butcher shop and ask for mincemeat nowadays, and anyway, I wanted to make it from scratch, so I used Mrs. Beeton's recipe, which is included in Jane Grigson's English Food.  Mrs. Beeton published her Book of Household Management in 1861 and it became the English household Bible for generations.

The players.

The suet came all the way from London, and yes, that's an actual hunk of meat.  The process isn't all that exciting.  You mince the meat and mix it with the mountain of raisins and currants, pictured above. I had to use my very largest mixing bowl.

Here's Seamus mincing.

And we've added the suet.

You add candied peel, nutmeg, apples, lemon juice, lemon rind, a generous amount of brandy.  Here's the finished product. The meat in proportion to the other ingredients is such a small quantity, you can see why people stopped bothering with it.

 Then you pack it into jars and let it sit for a "fortnight."

I'm not so sure about this although Jane Grigson says that the brandy preserves everything nicely and I think Jane Grigson can be trusted.  At any rate, this isn't intended to be canning and the ingredients are 95% dried fruit.

There was a little mincemeat leftover, so I baked a few crustless "mince muffins" just to see how the suet would behave in the oven.  It melts and essentially deep fries all the other filling ingredients. It tasted pretty good, actually.  Deep fried raisins, anyone?

Tune in  a fortnight hence when we bake the pies.


  1. So now we're all blogging about making mincemeat? Glad to be the leader on that trend.

    We baked tarts up that day with two of our three versions - I think the pork version had to sit. I stuck my extras in the freezer for longer shelf life.

    Turns out I liked it too, much more than I thought I would. Mincemeat pie tasting party?

  2. I missed your mincemeat entry and I had no idea mincemeat is chic now! I love how the American version uses the available wild game. (Mine uses beef.) I think a mincemeat tasting party would be fun. I've got more than my family can possibly eat by ourselves.

  3. Just seeing that pile of raisins is enough to make me gag. I'd like to try a savory mincemeat pie without any dried fruit.

    I wonder why they had meat in a sweet pie originally?

  4. I have not had a mincemeat pie in ages but I remember loving it.

  5. Suet? Like for bird feeders? As tempting as that sounds, I think I'll save room for...anything else. However, you are a fearless kitchen warrior, so I'm prepared to be ashamed of myself.

    (I'll allow that a piecrust made with lard is divine.And calling it "manteca" takes the greasy sting out of it!)

  6. I think I'd have balked at the whole "Store in jars" are taking this WAY to far in my humble opinion;)

  7. I think the words "pie" and "meat" should be mutually exclusive but I am impressed by your lack of culinary fear.