On the Trail of the Elusive Mince

Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 06:28 am
http://www.teesbakery.zoomshare.com/my_images/mince.jpgWhat is the one food, besides turkey, that defines Thanksgiving for you? What is that one delight which has stood out for you since childhood? Cranberries? As in Cranberry Relish made by running those tart orbs through a grinder with bits of oranges and apples? Or do you just heat the berries in sugar until they burst their skins making a lovely tangy tart red goo. Yes, oh yes. How about those yams and pineapple bubbling under the toasted crust of marshmallows? Is that brown sugar and molasses in there? m-mmm. But is it the one? What did you hope would be found in the leftovers the next day? For me, there is no contest, it's mincemeat pie.

Good. I was hoping you would say you didn't like mincemeat pie, more for me!

My father's mother made mincemeat the pioneer way, meaning there was actual meat in her mincemeat pie along with the apples and raisins, dried figs and dates all chopped together. The family had been poor, dirt poor, and Grandma Jeff never lost the art of using up. If there wasn't stewmeat to be stirred in the mince at least there would be some bits of pork fat or goose fat and maybe just a dollop of lard. She was still cooking her pies in a wood stove oven in 1968 when she was nearing ninety. Every year as fall deepened my brothers and I would join the uncles in cutting and stacking enough wood for Grandma to get through the Connecticut winter. Those pies were heavy things, every piece a meal, the kind of thing that sticks to your ribs and your memory.

My mother's mincemeat was a bit more refined, made without the smoky meats but with huge flavor -- more rum and dried citron and currants added to the mix of raisins and apples with ground cloves, nutmeg, allspice and ground cinnamon. And some more rum. The whole lower orchestra of aromas and scents combined under piecrust. Somewhere in the family archives are the recipes for both but for the past twenty years or so I have been surviving on Cross and Blackwell's sticky sweet version poured into a my own homemade crust. I can still make pie crust, but I can't make mincemeat like Mom's or Grandma Jeff's.

We have been ordering our groceries from Fresh Direct. We had gone through the big list: turkey -organic and unfrozen -, yellow veggies, smashed potatoes for the gravy and a couple of things for pre-eating, healthy and otherwise, I was on mop up duty for the missing items. The first thing on the short list was Mince Pie Filling. Snap, right? I was a little shocked when they didn't have any kind of mince on their website but I didn't think I was going to have any trouble finding Mincemeat in the Capitol of the World.

Well, let me tell you. I have become the Night Stalker of Mince. Merrily cruising down the Baking aisle at Associated Foods, this bright, innocent soul- I am too!-was unable to locate any cans of Mince Pie Filling and the look on the face of the person I asked for help told me that not only did he not know what I what talking about but he was pretty sure I was doing a spoof video for Youtube. Let's all be Borat this year.

Onward. Off to Union Square where four days a week the farmers bring their wares for sale, apples, potatoes and beets, ciders and wines, breads of every shape and crunchiness and forty kinds of winter squash. There was the goat meat lady with her statuettes of frolicking goats right next to the frolicking goat meat sausage and the neat slices of frolicking goat steaks next to the very nice, jumping for joy, goats plaque. Won't she sell more chivo if people didn't see the happy goats next to their pinkish harvest? Dunno. The bottom line is no one at the Square had Mince Pie Mix. They had twelve kinds of honey, fifty kinds of jam, including Quince, which due to traffic going by caused a slight mis-communication which you can probably guess how it went -
Sure! Right here.
Um. No, I said Mince.
Oh. Mince? Well, no, no then.

Luckily, I was a baseball's throw from Whole Foods, the premier supplier of all that is richly good in the way of food and other things. Sixty kinds of Greek Cheese, count'em, sixty, and fourteen kinds of Hot Italian Sausage, one was good enough for my mother's Lasagna, now I have to choose from fourteen. How about some squash that looks like big overcoat buttons? http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger2/6051/370/200/Veggies.jpg

I headed for the When You Want to Bake aisle still full of hopeful anticipation. On the way I saw a whole counter of one of the other things, something called Organic Body Polish. Sadly, I did not take the time to read the instructions.

In the When You Want to Bake aisle I would find Blueberry filling, Pumpkin filling in Organic, Solid Pack, and Regular, Cherry Filling, a large can with what looked like a Kodota Figs. There was even, I kid you not, cans of Gooseberry Pie filling which my dad would have loved, but no jars or cans of mince. Rebecca, the very nice stocking persona, rushed off to the back to see if any had arrived. Rebecca was gone a long time, so I played two games of chess on my Palm (lost both badly) and listened to a little of my running music, Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe and the Rain King. Rebecca came back empty handed. Crestfallen, she told me that there would be no mince until after Thanksgiving. Well, thanks.

So I headed for the Westside Market with the idea that I would go to the Chelsea Market if I came up dry there. At Westside (Seventh Ave near Fourteenth) all the usual goodies of the upper scale market are crammed into the space of a corner deli. The shelves are ten feet high and groan with every edible product from the ends of the earth. They have cheeses that look alive. They had two dozen kinds of salsa. They have fifty kinds of jams and jellies, including Quince. They have no mince.

http://photos1.blogger.com/x/blogger2/6051/370/200/695321/TOUR%20MAN.jpgI went home. I didn't even try the Chelsea Market. I changed my mind. I've decided since I can't find it to make the mince and here's how you can help.
My sister, the keeper of the recipes, is in Japan helping with the birth of the latest grandchild in our tribe and won't be returning until two days before Thanksgiving. So what had you got? And don't Goggle me up some Best Recipes Site, I've seen those and find something lacking, I want what your mother cooked for you. Come on, give, it's raining and I'm not going out there for citron unless you show me the family's secret recipe.

Joe(pass the Half and Half)Nation
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 07:18 am
Our first Thanksgiving in Maine, we had a gathering of "flatlanders", those of us who were from "away" - (anyplace besides Maine) and one of my native Mainer neighbors, brough a real mincemeat pie- I mean it was really minceMEAT pie - it had venison in it. Quite a shock to me and my suburban taste buds. I didn't like it - but I didn't let on and ate the whole piece. I did ask the person to make one for me to give to my mother and father (I offered to pay them- I just couldn't see myself chopping up deer meat) and they were kind enough to do so and my parents loved it - it's what they remembered from their childhoods on the farm.

Three thanksgivings ago, my mother, who never is happy sticking to the tried and true, but always must try out something new, decided to forego the customary candied yams with marshmallows (which I never really liked anyway) and had me making a sweet potato dish topped with a mixture of brown sugar, butter, chopped pecans and coconut. I looked at her askance as I was following her recipe - but it was beyond heavenly. I make it every year now.

I can't make it through Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. I've turned quite a few Brits onto it. I've never met anyone who'd ever had it - but they all find it delicious.

And my son has to have green bean casserole with mushroom soup and fried onion rings.

So those things along with cranberry sauce (my husband's favorite), mashed potatoes (my daughters) and gravy, along with whatever anyone else brings (we have a big potluck here in the UK) are what we eat.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday- and not only because I love talking about food and sharing food. It's the holiday I most associate with family and friends-for whom I am very, very thankful.
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 07:18 am
When did you get back?

Missed ya!
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Joe Nation
Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 07:43 am
Oh, my darling D, I've never been away,
just a little out of earshot
down the road, round the corner
tis all.
Nice to be missed though.

and i'm not really back either.
I have miles to go before I sleep.

And my son has to have green bean casserole with mushroom soup and fried onion rings.

This is the heights of West Texas Holiday Cuisine.

Isn't it interesting when someone brings something new to the Thanksgiving table it's always greeted with some squinted eyes, like a stranger appearing in a close neighborhood. Until the tasting and judging are done the new dish is on probation, a prospective hire invited to the office party, part, yet, not yet, part of the celebration.

My sister has been trying for years to get us to embrace her husband's favorite: Apple Pie with Cream Cheese Frosting. (What!!?? Not Sharp Cheddar slices!!!??) The cut pieces orbit the table ending up at his and his youngest son's (the Loyalist) places. We like the creamy pumpkin and, of course, the Mince. Oh, and if my teeth can stand the candy, please pass that Pecan over here.

Joe(Is that a Pear Tart?)Nation
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 08:57 am
Joe Nation wrote:
Oh, my darling D, I've never been away,
just a little out of earshot
down the road, round the corner

Yeah, I thought so. Eva was trying to convince us that you'd kicked the bucket, but I said "popcorn and a movie". Laughing

Welcome back, buddy.....
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 09:25 am
Damn, you brought back some wonderful memories of my grandmother's cooking. I know I have her mincemeat pie recipe somewhere, but most of her handwritten recipes are useless to us. They say things like "10 cents of walnuts", which I imagine was a few more nuts worth in 1919 than today. Or, "bake for 1 hour in a hot oven". I remember questioning her on that and she told me that a hot oven is one in which you can hold your closed fist for a certain (now forgotten) amount of time before burning. Shocked

But mince is for Christmas! Thanksgiving is for pumpkin pie, redolent with nutmeg and cinnamon, sweetened with maple syrup and brandy. But no wonder you're confused -- your holidays are too close together.

I can't believe that there is no mince in Manhattan. Where do the Brits hang out? Where there are Brits, there will be mince. Look for a Fortnum & Mason store, or one that sells their products.
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 09:25 am

do you ever make mincement out of that mouse?

why I oughta..... Laughing
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 11:41 am
didja go into the Trader Joe's down the block from the Union Square Whole Paycheque?
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Joe Nation
Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 05:25 pm
ehBeth wrote:
didja go into the Trader Joe's down the block from the Union Square Whole Paycheque?

No, I downsized thinking that maybe the smaller would be the better.
bad bet

But mince is for Christmas! Thanksgiving is for pumpkin pie,
Balderdash, falsehood,misapprehension of reality, blather!

Eva was trying to convince us that you'd kicked the bucket, but I said "popcorn and a movie".

She's right. I'm dead. Even now I can hardly feel my fingers.

Joe(I'm going now. See you in the funny papers)Nation
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 06:08 pm
My mother used to make minced meat pie and I liked it. Time passed, the family on her side fought, and five years later I ran into my cousin in the university student bookstore, and we caught up with our recent pasts over coffee and vowed to never let family feuds happen in our generation. And they haven't, for more than forty years now.

In the new family as friends atmosphere, the cousins and I rotated thankgiving hostessing for the years we lived within the same geographic area. Those beginning years, the person travelling the most brought the pies. Two out of three times that was me, and I brought apple, pumpkin, and mince. Nobody chose the mince, or at least no one ate much of it but me. Took me a while to catch on, and sometime later they actually told me they hated it, chuckling in scorn. Huh, and that was bought-minced-pie, as back then I was a busy bee who hadn't even learned to do beef strogonoff, much less mincemeat pie.

So, I'm going to go look if there is a minced meat pie recipe in my mother's old best cookbook. I have a feeling it was all from a can with maybe some suet..

In the meantime, this reminds me of fruitcake conversations in life and on a2k, and it reminds me slightly of Sienese panforte with a little vin santo on the side. I like a good fruitcake, and love panforte; many many many people don't. I aver that many many many people don't like real minced meat pie.

Limping back to the computer, I have to mention that a door just dropped on my foot while I was opening the cookbook cupboard. The door has been resting sideways in the hallway on its way to the garage, and just slightly overlapped the door to the cupboard. It was the doorknob that hit my metatarsals with force.

General Foods COOK BOOK 1932
Nope. And I can almost picture the recipe there.
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 06:20 pm
We rarely see minced meat pies in our part of the country. Maybe that's why my mouth didn't water, despite your delicious descriptive writing. There are some berry pies that I love most. The House of Pies often had fresh boisenberry, which I would gladly maim, cheat and steal for. Since they changed locations, I fell out of buy with them. Also, pecan, cherry, peach, are luscious.
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 08:07 pm
I can't believe that I'm doing this much work for something I'll never taste! Working on my karma, I guess.

Here it is Joe (the pieman) Nation ~ my grandmother's 4 (!) mincemeat recipes, complete with wonderful & comprehensive instructions:


1 quart fat beef (cooked well & chopped fine)
2 quarts green apples (chopped fine)
2-1/2 cups raisins (seeded & chopped)
1-1/2 cups currants
2-1/2 tsp mixed spices
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
3 cups brown sugar
4 tbsp vinegar
1 cup hot water
3 tbsp flour (stirred in)

Fill crust & bake in moderate oven. Bake brown. Puff pastry is best. Will keep for some days. Reheat before serving.

Rich Mince

2 lbs lean beef boiled tender (minced fine when cold)
4 lbs apples (chopped fine)
2 lbs suet
2 lbs layer raisins
2 lbs sultanas
2 lbs currants
1/2 lb citron peel (shredded)
1/4 lb orange peel
1/4 lb lemon peel
1/4 lb shelled walnuts
1/4 lb shelled almonds

Put all over the fire with 3 lbs brown sugar made to a good syrup with a little water. While heating, add:

1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp mace
1 whole nutmeg, grated
Juice & rind of 2 lemons

Boil 15 minutes. Take from fire and, when cold, add 1 quart apple cider. Pack in a stone crock & pour over top 3/4 pint of brandy. Will keep for months if sealed properly. Mellows with age.

Mock Mince

4 eggs
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup flour
1 cup vinegar
1 cup raisins
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp soda
1/2 dozen crackers (fine)

(No instructions with this one)

Also, if you're very, very brave ....

Green Tomato Mince

Chop very fine 1 peck green tomatoes. Wash in a colander with very weak brine to remove all juice. Boil a very little. Add 5 lbs brown sugar, 2 lbs raisins, cloves, cinnamon & allspice to taste, also a little candied peel.

Use at own risk. Poster not responsible for health problems arising from eating the results of this post. Not exactly as shown. Artist's conception. Closed course. Don't try this at home.
0 Replies
Joe Nation
Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 08:18 pm
Tico: My gratitude is unbound.

Headed out to find Sultanas.

Ouch, Osso!!! Lie down! Have someone else cook.... .

Joe(I'm going chopping)Nation
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Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 08:30 pm
I'm fine, I'm a toughie.

Love Tico's grandmother's recipes...
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Joe Nation
Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 08:43 pm
Going with the rich mince which comes the closest to Mom's.... looks like it won't be ready until Christmas though.

Joe(whole lot of soaking going on)nation
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Joe Nation
Reply Fri 17 Nov, 2006 09:10 pm
This just in from an old friend in a little town in Texas thats smaller than Tomball... .

I'm sort of in a daze as to exactly what you want. This one is the recipe used by Patti's Aunt Lorraine. Patti has used it herself to make us mincemeat pies. You make this first, then you just follow the mincemeat pie recipe you find, using this stuff.

Evidently her aunt got it from the Ball Blue Book recipe book...I'm guessing that is the Ball Canning Jars/Lids company. It follows:

Pear Mincemeat

7 # pears
1 lemon
2 # raisins
6 3/4 c sugar
1 t cloves
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t allspice
1 t ground ginger
1 c vinegar

Core and quarter all pears; cut lemon into quarter, removing seeds.
Chop pear, lemon & raisins.
Combine remaining ingredients in large pot with fruit mixture, bring to boil over medium heat & boil 40 minutes.
Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4" and adjust caps.
Process 25 minutes in boiling water bath.

Yield: about 9 pints.

Hope that helps. It surely was good, as I recall. You'll have to thank Patti, cuz she dug this recipe out of a file of a zillion-odd recipes just for you.

Pax Americana...
and remember that
a. I turn 62 tomorrow
b. give thanks next week

Joe(gonna give some thanks)Nation
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