I won’t mince my words, I think mincemeat should contain meat, or it should be called something else. Much like the famous turkey made out of tofu or soy hotdogs. What’s up with that? If you don’t want to eat meat, don’t. Just eat the tofu if that is what you want, you’re not honoring a turkey, soybeans or tradition by over-processing foodstuffs into meat shapes. End of rant, maybe.
Preserving meat like this is unnecessary these days with freezers in almost every household. But sometimes preserving tradition can be just as important, otherwise we may lose our way and our connections to the past. The funny thing about this post, is that I was just going to post my recipe, some photos, and tell a funny story about Hangdog and mincemeat pie. But, as I started the prep work I started thinking about how people eat too much dessert and sweets these days, dessert should be an occasional treat, not everyday fare after meals. A dessert such as this should be reserved for special meals.
The other thing that struck me was that mincemeat is something you either really like, or strongly dislike. And for most people, the meat and fat are the culprits, hence the now common mince made with only the fruit component, and oh yeah, here we go again, vegetable suet?? What would Weston Price think?
And one more thing I realized as I was gathering my ingredients, I realized the “bad” fixings that make up the bulk of my recipe have traveled zero miles, and the more PC components like raisins, sugars and spices have traveled the most. So for most people making PC mincemeat, unless you live where there is abundant cane for sugar and grapes for raisin production, the typical homemade or purchased mincemeat does not qualify.
Mincemeat is very rich, best eaten in small quantities, and it’s keeping qualities as a preserve are unexcelled, so I do not make mincemeat every year. Our family tradition of mincemeat started with me, I begged for the recipe from our neighbor. Every year we celebrated Thanksgiving at our neighbor’s, and they celebrated Christmas with us, and they always brought the mincemeat pies. Anytime I get a whiff of mincemeat, I think back to huge holiday dinners, prepared on their cookstove, and all of us crammed into their tiny dining room sharing a home cooked meal and good community.
After my neighbor was widowed, she moved back to Northern Idaho, to stay near her children. She was happy to pass on her recipe to me – to her it was common fare from her days as logging camp cook, making do with venison and cooking up the delicious neck roasts to combine with raisins and abundant fall apples in order make a storable preserve in the days before refrigeration was common. I am sure the hardworking loggers were enamored with the culinary skills she wrought on the deer brought back to the camp kitchen.
She was quite a gal – here is newspaper clipping that I keep with her recipe and the accompanying letter. Dated December 30, 1971, she is showing off her prize winning crocheted tablecloth. Made in one piece, she had garnered the top prize in the National Grange Needlework Contest. For her 1000 hours of work, she received $1,160.00. That was a lot of money at that time, and she was the second woman in our Grange to win the contest, a friend had won it the previous year. It was a big deal to me, I was 14, she was 81, and she was quite the role model for me. I never could understand though why she insisted on wearing a dress, even to chop wood! But if wearing a dress equates with crochet skills, I know why I am not good at crocheting ;)
OK, Memory Lane is closed…
On to the ingredients, and the methods. Besides carrying on tradition by continuing to make this mincemeat, I believe good food starts with good ingredients. The more local, the better. And the correct ingredients have a huge impact on flavor too. I was appalled to read in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, a mincemeat recipe that called for ground beef. The dumbing down continues – a word here, then a long forgotten tool, and what used to be roast beef, chopped or ground coarse with a meat chopper, now is simplified down to ground beef. Most cooks know that texture is all important in food. Ground beef as we know it these days is hamburger, and does not have the texture or mouthfeel you want in a sweet pie. Or least not what I would be expecting anyway.
The next part may be offal, and in fact it should be if I am going to walk my talk. I’ll just run through the mincemeat ingredients that were supplied from our farm. I won’t elaborate about the raisins, and sugar.
Beautiful leaf fat, the best for making suet. The term suet these days just means animal fat to most people. But this is the best for cooking, and is hard to find, unless you have the animal processed right in front of your nose. I removed the kidneys and froze the leaf fat for later use.
The next main ingredient is the beef roast.
I used the fine cutter for the suet.
Two cups suet.
We like the meat chopped, and in recognizable pieces. However, this part is subjective, you can chop the meat with a meat chopper like I used for the suet. Try the different cutters to see which consistency suits what is your idea of meat in mincemeat.
My recipe calls for King apples, but they are a common Northwest heirloom, maybe not available in other areas. Any tart cooking apple will do.
Combine all ingredients.
Mix well, and simmer for an hour until apples are tender.
The finished product to be tucked away for the flavors to meld until the holidays.
I understand the yuck factor about mincemeat, I have heard all the jokes, as if we have progressed beyond this type of fare. But for me it represents fond memories of childhood holiday meals, my bell steer Brooks, the scent of Della’s flank as I milked, gazing out the kitchen window as I churned the butter, or peeled the King apples. Truly, time in a bottle.
Since this post is outside the box for many, I have linked to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday post for this week.