If mincemeat in your experience has been a sorry disappointment, as most meatless mincemeats are, try this extraordinary recipe.
- 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1.2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 Tbsp dried coffee (regular or decaffeinated)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper — added after cooking
- 4 c sugar
- 6-8 lbs. Baldwin apples
- 1 whole lemon, remove only the seeds
- 3 to 4 lbs. stew beef (neck, plate, etc.)
- 2 c seedless black raisins
- 1 c meat stock ( 1 1/2 c if not using brandy)
- 1 1/2c sorghum (health food stores often have it, but molasses is easier to find in the supermarkets)
- 1 c cider vinegar
- 1/2 to 3/4 c brandy (optional, but don’t risk ruination with cheap brandy)
- Core apples; remove the seeds, but don’t peel. The suet can be removed before cooking and the fat skimmed off that renders from the meat as it cooks if desired.
- Cube meat and cover with salted water (salt optional). Simmer until tender - may take up to an hour.
- Remove meat and cook the stock down to the amount needed, or thicken slightly with cornstarch.
- Put meat through food mill (medium or coarse blade) or equivalent fineness in a food processor. For texture, I definitely prefer the grinder over the processor.
- Cut lemon, remove seeds, and purée in a blender, rind and all, with some of the liquid ingredients, or process as finely as possible in a food processor.
- Grind the apples, (or process using a coarse blade—but not too fine).
- Mix into a large, heavy bottom, stew pot adding alternately apples, meat, raisins.
- Add the sugar, spices, the liquids and the lemon purée to the meat and apples using hot meat stock to rinse the last of the sorghum into the mixture. Stir thoroughly.
- Cook slowly uncovered, stirring often to prevent burning until the mixture is pasteurized and enough of the liquids have evaporated to produce the texture and thickness you want in the finished pie.
- Let cool.
- Stir in the ground pepper.
- Refrigerate, allowing the spices to mellow for several weeks ...or until you can’t hold out any longer.
The apples are the most important ingredient, without doubt. Insipid apples make lousy mincemeat. A sharp, crisp, flavor-laden “pie” apple is best—we are very partial to the late maturing Baldwins—but Cortlands are also good. (Granny Smiths are plenty crisp and tart, but fall short in flavor, we think.)
If you can’t find Baldwins or Cortlands, use the best pie apple you can find. And at their peak of flavor and texture in the autumn.
In our home, late October or early November is mincemeat time—so the mincemeat will be ready for the Holiday season. Ready? Yes, mincemeat at its best needs a few weeks to season in the refrigerator, say 6-8 weeks. The spices and flavors continue to mellow and will be just right for Thanksgiving and the coming holidays.
Will it keep? You bet! After all, the Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors had no freezers or refrigerators. Look at the ingredients: spices, sugar, vinegar—a cool storm cellar was good enough, ‘specially if you made a heap of it and put it in one of those many-gallon, stoneware crocks to age.
Anyway, by spring when the weather turned warm, the mincemeat would be gone. Those hungry midwestern farmer ancestors who passed this recipe down the generations wouldn’t have left a scrap to spoil.
After aging, make up mincemeat pies and tarts to freeze un-baked; they will keep for several months. Pop them straight from the freezer into a hot oven for easy baking.
What else to do with mincemeat?
- Use as a hot topping for rich, vanilla ice cream;
- Fancy, lettuce & cottage cheese salad with mincemeat topping
- Or simply as cold topping for plain cottage cheese or yogurt (at Sunday brunch, perhaps)?
- Classy peanut-butter/mincemeat sandwiches
- Oatmeal cookies made with mincemeat and raisins
- A spicy mincemeat chutney! Simple and quick: Just sauté 1/2 tsp. red pepper in a Tbsp. of butter for five minutes. Stir into a cup of mincemeat and there's your sweet and hot chutney.
- Tart filling
- On toast
- Our own secret sin is cold pie with a glass of even colder milk... for breakfast, of course!
Let your imagination go. There’s really no limit with mincemeat, don't you know!
In 1880 when Bess Storm's mother, Anna Frances Lynch, packed her little, brown-paper covered trunk for the trip from Boston to Iowa, she slipped in a small applewood box. In the box she had put a few pieces of jewelry and a few of her favorite recipes, including this one for mincemeat that had been in her family for as long as anyone could remember.
Anna said that her grandmother, a devout temperance worker, took out the brandy and substituted vinegar and coffee, a combination that gives this recipe a distinct taste of its own.
This recipe has been a favorite family tradition for well over 100 years. If there exists a better mincemeat, we have yet to find it. What makes it special? Maybe the brandy. Maybe the coffee. (Recent generations have substituted dried coffee to hold down the excess liquid and shorten cooking time.)