Mincemeat can be a confusing term for those who are unfamiliar with it, and sometimes even confusing for those who are. Mincemeat is a mixture of diced fruit, meat, and distilled spirits that are often used as a pie filling, but even this term isn’t always accurate. These days it isn’t unusual to find mincemeat that doesn’t contain meat, or contains beef suet rather than vegetable shortening.
It’s a popular filling for pies all over the world, being particularly popular in Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, the UK, and the USA, just to name a few.
History of Mincemeat Day
While the origin of mincemeat isn’t precisely known, it is known that it comes to us from at least as early as the 15th century, where recipes and stories of it have been recovered. Mincemeat Day celebrates the long history of this filling, and serves to encourage experimentation in recipes old and new alike. If you’re one of the unfortunates who’ve never had mincemeat, Mincemeat Day would be a perfect opportunity to broaden your palette.
Be prepared for something of an unusual experience, however. Mincemeat contains spices not commonly associated with either meat or sweeter treats, with clove, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon being particularly popular additions. Combined with a blend of flavors such as wine, vinegar, or distilled spirits, you start getting into something that, while delicious, is decidedly off-kilter from most peoples culinary experiences.
How to Celebrate Mincemeat Day
Unsurprisingly the best way to celebrate mincemeat day is to consume mincemeat! Talk to your friends and family and see who’s familiar with this wonderful concoction, and see if they can dig up some family recipes for the preparation of the dish. Get together and have a wonderful party where everyone brings their favorite dish.
Just to get you started, here’s a recipe heralding back from the 16th century, translated into modern English for your convenience. Going to have to take some challenges with this one, they weren’t big on precise measurements.
16th century Mincemeat
Pie filling of mutton or beef must be finely minced and seasoned with pepper and salt and a little saffron to color it. Add a good amount of suet or marrow, a little vinegar, prunes, raisins and dates. Put in the fattest of the broth of salted beef. And, if you want Royal pastry, take butter and egg yolks and combine them with flour to make the paste.
~ From A Propre new booke of Cokery, 1545
If you’re looking for something a bit more modern, but still with a traditional air, try this 19th century recipe:
2 lbs raisins
3 lbs currants
1½ lbs lean beef
3 lbs beef suet
2 lbs moist sugar
2 oz citron
2 oz candied lemon peel
2 oz candied orange peel
1 small nutmeg
1 pottle of apples
the rind of two lemons, the juice of one
1/2 pint brandy
Stone and cut the raisins once or twice across, but do not chop them; wash, dry and pick the currants free from stalks and grit, and mince the beef and suet, taking care the latter is chopped very fine; slice the citron and candied peel, grate the nutmeg, and pare, core and mince the apples; mince the lemon peel, strain the juice and when all the ingredients are thus prepared, mix them well together, adding the brandy when the other things are well blended; press the whole into a jar, carefully exclude the air, and the mincemeat will be ready for use in a fortnight.
from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management