Wednesday, August 3, 2011

British Baking, Part 10: Mincemeat Pies

In my quest to bake all things traditional while here in the UK, I stumbled upon recipes for Mincemeat Pies constantly.  These recipes were in every single cookbook that I had, so I decided to investigate.

Mincemeat was developed in England around 500 years ago as a way of preserving meat without using any salt or without smoking it.  It is served typically around the holidays and often times accompanies dinner on Christmas day.  It is thought to have survived only because of its link to Christmas which should tell you something about the way it tastes.  

Now, I will say that we have Mincemeat Pies in America too, brought over, presumably, by the English.  These were not a staple in my household growing up, so I didn't know much about them at all.  For those of you like me, a Mincemeat Pie generally contains the following (obviously, allowing for variation from recipe to recipe, just like anything else).   The following are ingredients from a modern recipe:
  • apples
  • sultanas (What's a sultana?, Please see entry British Baking Part 10 1/2)
  • raisins
  • currants
  • lemon juice and zest
  • orange juice and zest
  • cherries or figs
  • brown sugar
  • treacle
  • ginger
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • allspice
  • nutmeg
  • and maybe a splash of Brandy
You will notice (look again if you didn't) there isn't a single bit of meat in the entire recipe.  In the mid-twentieth century, Mincemeat started being made without any... well, meat. Although, another recipe that I have calls for beef suet.  Suet???  Suet is either raw beef or mutton (sheep's or goat's) fat, more specifically the hard fat around the loins and kidneys.

Say it with me, all together now: Eww! 

One of our friend's from Iowa wanted me to know that her mother always made Mincemeat Pies for their holiday celebrations and that she has vivid memories of the "WILD contraption that her mother used to grind the mincemeat."

Uh.  A meat grinder

Again: Eww! (This is giving me horrible flashbacks of Sweeney Todd which I NEVER again hope to have the horror of seeing.  Somebody who liked this play/movie, please for the love of all things good, explain to me why on earth you liked it?)

Sorry, I digress. 

Here is my cupcake version:

I stewed all of those apples, dried fruits, juices, and spices to make this.
What's that? 
 Damn jar!!!

Looked pretty, but tastes not so good.
I'm not one for very sweet dried fruit desserts.
I put it in the Pecan Pie category that I dislike, but that many other people do.
I did have fun learning about it, and seriously,
when else do you get to hear a story about a real-life organ grinder?

All of the historical information on mincemeat pies and suet was from two websites:

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