Old-Fashioned Mincemeat

Paul Brians

December 7, 1996

A food processor makes this recipe a snap. The result is far more flavorful than the canned product: rich, really fruity and not overwhelmingly sweet. Vegetarians can omit the beef and substitute butter for the suet; the result is distinctly different, but good. But then you're honor bound to call the end product "mince pie" and not "mincemeat pie."


1 lb stewing beef, boiled until thoroughly cooked (20 minutes or so), drained and ground. Or you can roast or braise the meat. Browning it gives it a richer flavor.
5 large, firm, rich-flavored apples.
1 cup (5 oz) ground suet (firm beef fat—many butchers give it away, but you often need to arrange to get it in advance).
3 cups raisins
2 cups pineapple juice (this is the one ingredient that probably wasn't around in the 19th century, but it does add to the flavor).
2 cups canned beef broth, or beef concentrate diluted with the cooking water from the stewing beef.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons allspice (freshly ground is best)
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves (ditto)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2-4 peeled oranges, chopped and seeded, or substitute a half-dozen tangerines for a milder flavor.
1 lemon, pulp and grated zest (the yellow part of the rind) only
1/4-1/2 cup marmalade
a little rum or brandy (optional)


Grind or chop all the solid ingredients and mix everything together. Boil the filling, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to a fairly thick consistency. Cool and test a spoonful to see whether it needs more sugar. Keep in mind that it will thicken more when it is cool. I like to get it to the point where little volcanic spurts of liquid are erupting through a fairly solid mass; but be careful that the bottom doesn't get scorched. You can pour in a little dark rum or brandy or whatever to give it an extra punch.

Because this has meat in it, I have never been able to confirm with an expert what a safe canning time would be, but it freezes extremely well. This recipe makes enough filling for two large pies or three smaller ones. Don't overfill and you will avoid drips and burning in the oven.

To bake pies, pour the filling into your favorite pie crust, cover with a top crust or lattice. Seal and flute the edges. Make sure there is some sort of slit or steam hole in the top.

Bake at 425 degrees for 40-50 minutes until the juices begin to bubble up out of the holes in the top and the crust is browned. A glass pie plate will let you check how well the bottom has browned.

Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed, with whipped cream or straight. Again, because it contains meat, the pie should not sit out for days at a time. Refrigerated portions can be rewarmed in a conventional oven, but microwaving will toughen the crust.

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Revised December 24, 2013.

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