I should have known better. I should have guessed she’d spit it out. I mean, it’s supposed to be a dessert, except it’s made of meat, and then it’s slathered in vanilla ice cream. Sounds gross, when I say it like that. Except it’s not. It’s really not.
Last Christmas, we visited friends of mine whose mother originates from Pennsylvania Dutch country, an old-school casserole cook, and she offered mincemeat pie. Real mince pie, not that canned abomination made of gelatin and corn syrup. This was legit, hardcore dessert for hunters and gatherers, bereft of frills or sprinkles. This pie has history.
This pie also, apparently, might not sit well with people unused to game meat treated in a sugary fashion. If you don’t know what you’re getting into, it can be a bit of a shock. I don’t blame her for making a face or staring at her plate like it had somehow betrayed her. Mincemeat isn’t for everyone. It’s not even for a lot of people. But I’m going to sing its praises anyway, because if only one person out there dares try this, dares to buckle down and truly brave the palate-mystifying conglomeration of mince pie… I will have been vindicated. There will be one new mincemeat lover in the world. I will have done my job as a human being.
And you have just enough time left. Traditionally, minced meat filling should sit for about a week or more. Two days is barely long enough for the flavors to intertwine appropriately, so if you start today, you can still have mincemeat pie for Christmas dinner.
You’re going to need a deer. Not the whole thing, really, just about one pound of game meat. Venison is best, although rabbit, elk, or fowl (pigeon’s a favorite) will do in a pinch. Beef will work if you absolutely can’t find anything else, but choose the lean, tough, flavorful bits.
And you’re going to need some suet. Suet, if you’re unfamiliar, is the solid fat chunk that Grandpa used to hang from the willow out back so birds could get chubby and warm through the winter. It’s that gristle you cut off of steaks. Ask your local butcher for about a quarter-pound, and if they’ll grate it for you there, all the better.
Put your gamey meat in a pot. Cover it with water. Turn the heat on medium and let it simmer away until it’s falling apart. This might take awhile. Use this time to catch up on the latest “Glee” episode. Rearrange all the tags on the presents under your tree. Whatever.
Once it’s ready, throw it in the fridge. When it’s cooled, the fat will have congealed at the surface. I know, it’s nasty. Toss the weird greasy cake but keep the liquid, pull the meat out and chop it into tiny bits. Congratulations, you have minced some meat! I’m proud of you.
The meat you just minced goes back into a pot with the suet and all the liquid you didn’t throw away.
– 2 cups chopped apples
– 1 cup granulated sugar
– 3/4 cup apple cider
– 1/4 cup molasses
– 1 cup raisins
– 1 tbsp cider vinegar
– 1 tsp each: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, black pepper
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1/4 cup brandy
Simmer that mixture for about two hours, stirring occasionally. Like, stir it whenever a Hulu commercial comes up on your “Glee” marathon. This requires very little fuss, very little muss. Once it’s done, you can make your pie. Which is to say, follow the instructions on the label of your frozen store-bought pie crust because I’m not about to get into some serious baking right now. Those crusts are fine, Mom. Jeez, get off my back.
There, the pie is done. Still proud of you. Slice it up, serve it steaming with a hearty scoop of vanilla ice cream (you know the right one, with the tiny black flecks of beans in it) and pray it doesn’t get spit out. Cherish this pie. Brag about it, Instagram it, TwitFace and BookSpace pictures of your guests marveling at your culinary skill. Good job! You put meat in a pie.
Photo by LearningLark/flickr