One of the flavors of Christmas I will always remember from my childhood was my grandmother’s mincemeat pie. The flakiest crust you could ever imagine, sprinkled with sugar on top, and enclosing delicious, spicy, meaty goodness. It was a highly-anticipated part of our annual celebration.
Sometimes she would bring two pies, and we would hide one away for a future occasion. Once I missed out on the second pie and my grandmother wrote me a letter of apology that I had missed the pie. Next time I visited, she had a pie made, just for me! I still remember her bursting with pride in giving me that pie. It was the best one ever, made with love.
My grandmother was not a drinker, but she kept booze in the house for this pie. She made huge batches of mincemeat and kept it in her basement canning pantry. Like many old-timers, she never water bath or pressure canned a thing. She just packed it hot into hot jars and put on the lids.
After my grandmother passed away, one of my aunts took over making the mincemeat and the pies. Occasionally, my mom would make a pie. The mincemeat recipe makes a big batch, so there was plenty to share. I asked for the recipe, and realized it would be a commitment to make it. I scaled it back to a more reasonable 10-pint batch. I used venison instead of beef; I recalled from my childhood that venison was the meat of choice for this. I also pressure canned it for safety.
Mincemeat (makes 10 pints)
2.5 lbs. beef chuck roast (I used venison), cook until tender, cool, and grind in 6mm plate meat grinder
1 lb. brown raisins
0.5 lb. white raisins
1 package Bordens nonesuch mincemeat, dehydrated (can be hard to find, so use a jar of the non-dehydrated if it’s all you can find)
1 quart apple cider (I used hard, dry English style cider)
1-1/2t powdered ginger
1-1/2 lbs. brown sugar
1c white sugar
1-1/2 cups applesauce
1 quart grated apples (Stayman Winesap)
½ c molasses
1T lemon juice
Cook all ingredients except meat until the raisins are soft and plump. Add the ground meat and simmer for 12 minutes.
Put into clean pint canning jars and seal with lids and bands. Process in pressure canner per the directions for your canner.
Now you have a good supply for cookies, pies and all sorts of holiday goodness!
A simple cookie can be made by pureeing mincemeat and spreading it over a sheet of puff pastry. Roll up from both ends and chill. Slice in ¼” slices, sprinkle with sugar, and bake.
But, of course, you want that splendid pie!
The best crust is made with leaf lard, and that is one of the things that made my grandmother’s pie so special. You need enough dough for a top and bottom crust.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a pie pan with a sheet of pie dough. Mix one pint of mincemeat, 3 grated apples, and some extra white and dark raisins. Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle 1 oz. of brandy over the pie filling. Sprinkle a little sugar over the brandy and dot with butter. Cover with the top crust. Cut vent holes in the top. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, and then 350F for 35-40 minutes. If you are serving the pie later, bake only 20 minutes at 350F, and then finish right before eating for the remaining 20 minutes.