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Making Mincemeat for a Pie Fest

No, I did not make these pies…
nor did I photograph them! (thanks Channel 4)

Is anyone else intrigued by the idea of making mince pies with real meat, the way it used to be back in the 17th century?

The filling contained real meat – quite a lot of it. Sadly, Pepys did not leave us a recipe though we can get a good idea from the Receipt Book written by an Oxfordshire aristocrat in 1609. Elinor Fettiplace’s filling was made of equal parts of minced cooked mutton, beef suet, currants and raisins with ginger, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange rind, salt and a tiny quantity of sugar.

This is from an Independent article written by Christopher Hirst about the history of the mince pie which you can read here if you’re so inclined, it’s a must for any mince pie lover/obsessive/the curious. I’d just like to be called Elinor Fettiplace. It’s interesting that it says a tiny quantity of sugar – most modern recipes call for lots of dark brown muscavado but I think the fruit is so sweet anyway that you don’t need as much.

Anyway, this year I’m going to attempt a few meat and mincemeat pies and see how they go down. I can see why mutton might be the meat of choice – it’s strong flavour would work well with the spices and the rich fruit. Not sure I can get mutton, I asked at the butcher once and they said I could have a whole carcass as there wasn’t much demand for it these days. Hmm, that’s a lot of meat. Probably better to stick to lamb, the Moroccans eat it spiced with apricots and prunes, so it’s on the same kind of flavour spectrum.

But first for the fruity bit…which I did last week.

Mincemeat making

A load of vine fruits, bramley apples, lemon and orange rind and juice – I doctored a Delia recipe – adding sour cherries and more almonds cos I like it nutty, I also used more lemon rind than it said.

Chopped Almonds on Chopping Board
Chopping the almonds, supposed to be slivers but that’s a bit challenging, actually I gave up and did them in the grinder for a few pulses. Nutmeg also. I discovered the Microplane a few years ago, it has improved life no end. And the wooden squeezer, what a joy!

Mincemeat making
Adding the mixed peel, nuts, sugar, spices and suet – I don’t think those Atora boxes have changed for decades. Stir it all around.

This is what it looks like after mixing

Mincemeat resting
Cover with a cloth, leave overnight to infuse

Mincemeat and Brandy Bottle
After it’s resting period you put in a very slow oven for 3 hours, this melts the fat and cooks the apples and coats all the ingredients so it’s well preserved. It goes its typical dark browny colour. Leave it to cool and when it’s cold stir in the brandy

Esse Stove
I sterilised the jar in the oven

Mincemeat Storage
Et voila! Put the mincemeat in a cool place. It will last for about a year but usually it’s gone before that

27 Comments Post a comment
  1. I can smell the lovely fruitiness! But then I have got a scratch-and-sniff screen. I can give you some mutton from a Dartmoor-dwelling Welsh Mountain sheep.

    November 18, 2012
    • slenderbill you are my pie saviour…let’s have a meat up soon

      November 20, 2012
  2. I love that stove! And kitchen utensils – yours are so cool and antique-y looking. I love kitchen stuff, gadgets. I have a blog post on them somewhere…
    Do post how your real-meat mince works out please.

    November 18, 2012
    • All that kitchen stuff is pretty seductive isn’t it. I have to say I’m always stupidly pleased when the stove is roaring, like ‘I made that!’ πŸ™‚ I’ll look out for your utensil post.

      November 20, 2012
      • oh, and I’ll definitely do an update about the pies. I’ve just been offered some mutton too so it looks like it might be on.

        November 20, 2012
    • Why thanks I’m honoured, that’s my first reblogged experience! Looking forward to reading yours.

      November 20, 2012
  3. tim hutton #

    Great, know what you mean about Atora, always the same package for the last too many years, and always pretending to be something it isn’t – a superhero maybe or a petrochemical industry? More power to the mince pies though…

    November 18, 2012
    • Yet reassuring…! Actually I realised later that you could probably get some proper stuff from the butchers, though maybe suet has gone the way of mutton. Thanks for the comment πŸ™‚

      November 20, 2012
  4. MMW #

    you can get heather fed mutton (and lots of other good stuff) at the ‘blackface’ website – looks good and probably expensive…see you soon, M xx

    November 19, 2012
    • I’ll have a look at that website M, thank you. Though you may have seen that slenderbill from dartmoor has offered some!

      November 20, 2012
  5. Julia Wylie #

    Mmmmmm meaty mince pies sound way better than sickly sweet curranty ones that I normally drown in double cream.
    Guess you can still put cream on the meaty ones?

    November 20, 2012
  6. Whatever floats your boat Ms Wylie, she of the Cream Marketing Board πŸ™‚

    November 20, 2012
  7. A great post! I’ve always wondered what Mincemeat pie actually is (it’s not something I’ve ever seen in person, but only come across in books). I completely LOVE your oven/stove.

    November 23, 2012
    • Thank you very much. You should definitely try a mince pie once in your life! Delicious.

      November 23, 2012
  8. Christmas is all about the food really isn’t it…? Ah yes, then there’s the presents… oh and the families too… πŸ˜‰

    November 23, 2012
  9. That’s fascinating. It’s remarkable that all those ingredients – currants, raisins, ginger, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange rind and sugar were available in England in 1609. They must have been enormously expensive!

    November 23, 2012
    • Yes, I’m guessing that’s why the recipe is from an aristocrat! Though Pepys wasn’t exactly one of those was he? But maybe he had spare cash…

      November 23, 2012
  10. I’m a great fan of mincemeat pies – though I come from the meatless side of the mince pie family. I only make them at Christmas, and do it the easy way. I buy a couple of jars of English mincemeat with apples, sultanas, lemon and orange peel, spices and such, then add such things as pecans and dried cherries, and bake away!

    It’s just one of those things that we always had at Christmas, and I have to have just a taste. Now that I think about it, I can’t remember ever seeing a mince pie on a menu. Strange – but perhaps there aren’t enough people who like it to make it profitable in that setting.

    Like some of the others, I’m entranced by your stove!

    November 23, 2012
    • That’s good that you can get it near you, is it some kind of speciality shop? I didn’t think it was a tradition stateside at all – perhaps you have a bit of a story there?

      Haha I’m entranced by the stove too πŸ™‚ It’s quite amazing how many logs it takes to heat a tank of water, it really makes you think about energy!

      November 24, 2012
  11. Your posts make me smile. We have a hot Christmas here in Australia. Traditions run hard though and we always got fruit mince pies made with mum’s fruit mince. She won’t be sending a jar this year and I am going to miss the hole that she has left. Time to learn to make it myself methinks…I was going to go with Mr Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s wonderful meaty recipe but yours is luring me away. I love nuts and lots of dried fruit and your woodburning stove reminds me of Brunhilda, our now slumbering behemoth of a stove who has slipped into her summer hibernation ready to reawake come may and the first frosty morning.

    November 25, 2012
    • Oh yes, HFW and his meaty pies, that fits! Though I think he’s gone a bit veggie these days to redress the balance…Your Brunhilda sounds great, I hope you’ll post some pictures when she awakes. I can’t get to grips with the idea of the whole Christmas thing on a hot day! What’s would be a uniquely Australian alternative?

      November 28, 2012
      • Most Aussies so a cold Christmas with decadent cold meats and salads etc. Icecream for Christmas isn’t so bad especially when its good icecream. Hugh went vego because of a massive cholesterol problem that he didn’t really mention in his television vego shows ;). I don’t mind though because I am vego too and finally FINALLY I can cook some of the things that he makes ;). I noted a recipe for “pear caramel mince pies” in another blog post and if pear caramel and chocolate ganache constitute a “mince pie” to Americans I think they really REALLY need to all be given a copy of a Nigel Slater cookbook for Christmas by the president so that they can reconnect with Christmas as a premise. I think they might just have gone over the edge! πŸ˜‰

        November 28, 2012
  12. I love mincemeat – my English background coming through. The recipe my English mother uses is shown on this post (it’s in my wife’s blog, who helps make the mincemeat these days): (if you click on the recipe image you get a bigger readable view, including some historical info about mincemeat).
    The best mincemeat is that from the previous year – topped up from time to time with a bit of brandy to keep mold at bay. It gets a wonderfully rich flavour that way. But, fresh is good too.
    My mother also has a New England recipe from a friend that is said to be many generations old and it calls for venison. I have never had meat based mincemeat. Not even sure if I would like it. But, probably would.

    December 6, 2012

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  1. Mince (meat) Pie Update. | thinkingcowgirl
  2. Is Every Day a Cake Day? Let’s Cowgirl Up to the Bounty of Parsnips | thinkingcowgirl

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