Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mince Pies

This is mincemeat recipe number four in the Northeast section of the cookbook. It is not strictly vegetarian since it contains beef suet. Beef suet is "the hard fat around the kidneys." This may not sound like the most appetizing thing in the world. In fact, I can hear the eewws echoing across the Atlantic. However, beef suet adds a mild flavor of steak or roast beef to the dried fruits in the mincemeat.  The Fitday website says that suet can be used to recreate dishes from Victorian days such as steak and kidney pie. It is not low in fat, however, since, after all, it is fat.
I got the suet at Wagshall's, a fancy butcher shop on upper Massachusetts Avenue in DC. The place was packed with local residents ordering meat for the weekend. Filets of beef and thick porkchops flew off the counter. Wagshall's keeps the already ground suet in the freezer, since it turns rancid easily.
The suet was step one. I took it out of my purse (to avoid the bag tax) and left it on the counter to defrost.
Step two was reread the recipe. I was somewhat surprised to learn that this mincemeat was not cooked. In fact, the directions said to mix it by hand.  The canning instructions looked a little suspect. "Turn into clean jars and store, covered in a cool, dark, dry place. The mincemeat will keep for months." hmm.
I believe in making things easy for myself, so the first thing I did was put the stew pot on the stove and throw the semi-defrosted suet into the pot.  Having made three different kinds of mincemeat prior to this, I know that mincemeat is sticky, and that suet will not incorporate easily into the dried fruit. So, melt the suet.
The ingredients call for a dazzling array of dried fruit, some available at supermarkets, and some not. I advise getting the currents, the citron peel and the mixed candied fruit peel at This online business has a folksy story about being started by Grandpa as a tiny roadside fruit stand during the Depression, and now being run by Grandpa's grandson. That is all well and good, but they do have these hard-to-find ingredients, and they ship fast. 
The recipe says grind the fruit. I say, Cuisinart. I can't imagine trying to grind all this sticky dried fruit in a hand turned grinder. Actually, I can imagine it. Endless hours spent scraping out the inside of the grinder and picking the dried fruit out of the holes of the blade. Olvidate! Which is Spanish for fuggetaboutit. So, I buzzed the fruits in the Cuisinart, great sticky wads of dried fruit and stirred it all together in the big canning pot.
 Right now, it is still in the pot, in the refrigerator. Saint Margaret's Sunday is November 17. I will make some little pies for the post church feed, and can the rest of it the traditional way.
This mincemeat has the right taste and texture. I endorse this mincemeat recipe over Venison Mincemeat.  Unless you are an unremitting mincemeat fan, or have a very large mincemeat loving family, you could cut the recipe in half with no ill effects. You would make 3 pounds instead of six pounds, which would be enough for two to three standard size pies. If you think you want to make this for Thanksgiving, order your dried fruit now.

Mince Pies

1 pound beef suet ground
1 1/12 pounds golden raisins, ground
1/2 pound prunes, pitted and ground
1/2 pound dates, ground
1/2 pound mixed candied fruit peels, ground
1/2 pound citron peel, ground
3 tart green apples, peeled, cored and grated or finely chopped
1 1/2 pounds currents
1 pound dark brown sugar
6 ounces chopped blanched almonds
grated rind and juice of two lemons
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark rum or cognac
short crust pastry for two-crust pie
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Combine all the mincemeat ingredients very well, using the hands. Turn into clean jars and store, covered, in a cool, dark place. The mincemeat will keep for months.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
3. Roll out half the pastry to one-eighth-inch thickness and cut into two-inch circles. Fit into small muffin tins. Fill with mincemeat. Roll out remaining pastry and cut tops to fit the pies.
4.  Moisten the edges and pinch to seal. Make a steam hole in each pie, brush with egg and bake about twenty-five minutes, or until golden brown. The pies are best eaten warm.  Makes six pounds mincemeat; pastry makes one dozen little pies.

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