Jo Ann Brand, of Shiloh, came to the rescue this week, providing a recipe for real mincemeat for another reader, Maggie Leyda of Collinsville.
"I, too, grew up eating mincemeat pie with meat in it," said Jo Ann.
Maggie had complained that the jarred and canned mincemeat sold in the stores does not contain meat, which used to be the main ingredient when her farm family in Iowa made it.
Centuries ago, mincemeat was so named for the very straightforward reason that it contained minced animal flesh. Beyond that, the details of its provenance and development are hazy, says the blog, Interesting Thing of the Day at itold.com.
Mincemeat pie may have been served as far back as 1413. There is no record of the composition of these early dishes, but recipes dating from the early 17th century list a variety of wild game, plus eggs, fruit, spices and sweeteners.
Over the centuries, though, people began leaving out the meat, replacing it with nuts, apples and raisins -- along with brandy or rum.
Jo Ann still has her grandmother's recipe, which had to be tweaked "because it called for one hog's head," wrote Jo Ann. "I've never dealt with a hog's head, so I don't even know how to address it."
I think we'd all agree it's not a common cooking ingredient!
Jo Ann cut the original recipe down because it made a huge amount, she said.
The mincemeat does freeze well, she added.
She said her aunt used to save her leftover beef and pork roast and freeze it to use in the recipe.
"I hope Maggie likes it as much as we do. Anyway, this could be a start for her and she could tweak it to her liking."
Real mincemeat pie
1 pound cooked pork roast, cut in small pieces
1/2 large box raisins
1 pound apples, peeled and chopped
1 pound cooked beef roast, cut in small pieces
3 cups (scant) sugar
1 can apple juice concentrate (diluted)
1 package dried peaches, chopped
1 package dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon (scant) allspice
Hint of nutmeg
Mix all ingredients in large pot and simmer on low, stirring occasionally until all fruit is cooked well and mixture is thickened. Meat should break apart and everything should be mixed together well.
This recipe, among a variety of others, was sent by Marcia Houk via email. She hadn't tried any of them, so I chose a simple one. Still, you still have to track down suet.
1 cup ground beef
1/4 cup chopped suet
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped apples
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup chopped raisins
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cook meat and suet in top of double boiler over hot water. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil over direct heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Allow to stand for an hour before using in mince pie. Approximate yield: 3 cups.
-- The Herald Tribune Home Institute Cook Book, 1947