How and When to Make Mincemeat Pie Filling

Making mincemeat pie filling is an elaborate process, one that's perfect for wet, blustery autumn days.

| November/December 1973

Nothing says "holiday" like mince pies...especially if you make the mincemeat pie filling yourself. Here is how to stage one of those satisfying annual cooking orgies for which a good, old-fashioned country kitchen was just naturally designed.

Do you like to serve your family winter desserts packed with protein, iron, and vitamins? Did your good organic gardening result in gleaming glasses of wholesome jellies, mounds of firm, crisp apples, and gallons of cider? Does your cellar hold home-dried raisins and jars of watermelon preserves, dried or preserved peaches, pears, cherries, or orange peel? Well, today's the day...a mincemeat day!

No, I don't mean that stale, medicinal-tasting mixture from the supermarket...I'm talking about luscious, juicy, home-grown mincemeat that will make moist cakes, rich cookies, and delectable pies all through the cold, stay-in-and-bake days of winter.

One requirement for a mincemeat day is a nip in the air and lots of dry leaves in varying shades of red, gold, and brown. With them should be wind—not a Christmas-loaded-with-snow wind but a frisky, cold, leaf-dancing wind—and overhead, gray skies. A little rain won't hurt, though it isn't absolutely necessary... but gray, definitely: dull gray and windy, with apples.

That's the second "must": The apples have to be in—in from the orchard, in from the garage, in from the cellar—fragrant, tart, and firm. A health-packed harvest.

At our house there also has to be at least one fat venison neck. Other cuts may be used in order to have enough meat to mince, but the neck is the favored part. I understand people in other areas of the country make mincemeat out of good homegrown lamb or beef, but—having always lived in the south-eastern Oregon mountains—I haven't tried this. You can probably adapt a windy, leafy, gray day to any kind of makings you have, but if your family hunts... fresh venison.

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