Mincemeat, part II
Mincemeat, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, was in fact, minced
meat. Usually beef, sometime mutton, occasionally veal. But meat alone
isn’t mincemeat. It also had copious amounts of raisins (a/k/a ‘raisins of
the sunne’) and currents and sometimes dates and prunes, as well as generous
amounts of spices and sugar. The weight of the dried fruit might equal or
exceed the weight of the meat, and in the 1620 the raisins were much more
expensive per ounce then the meat was.
Suet isn’t something we cook much with any more, but fat is another
component of the mince pie. The fat is what makes it rich. During the 1700′s
butter starts to come in as the fat of choice, and by the 20th century seems
to be more common.
If I were making this mincemeat at home (and I have) I would take three
pounds of beef, one to one and a half pounds of butter, three pounds of
dried fruit, all cut small and well mixed (and be grateful that I don’t have
to pick stems off the raisins and stones out of them) with some orange peel
(two or three oranges worth). Salt, pepper, cloves (this can be strong – not
too much) and mace (or nutmeg if you have that – they have a very similar
flavor profile). Put it into pastry – you can use pie pans if you want,
sprinkle more sugar on top and bake them in your oven.
If you want to risk idolatry, make little rectangle pies and have them
symbolize the manger where the Christ child was born. If you don’t want to
fall into idolatry, make little rectangle pies just because they’re fun. You
could even use frozen puff pastry and ‘let your soul delight in fatness’.
And if you want to be thoroughly superstitious, go out on each of the Twelve
Days of Christmas to a different house and eat a mince pie in each to have
good luck for each of the twelve months in the year ahead. Either way, enjoy
Christmas and the twelve days after!
Kathleen M. Wall
Colonial Foodways Manager