A recent project tied to food (the History Colorado Center exhibit, Food: Our Global Kitchen, opening Memorial Day) inspired my colleague, Leigh Jeremias, and I to try making a traditional fruit pie. Researching cookbooks in our collection, we encountered this fruit pie again and again. As we started asking friends and family about it, a certain age group always spoke of this fruit pie with fondness and nostalgia. Believe it or not, the fruit pie I’m referring to is known as mincemeat or mock mincemeat pie. But don’t let the name scare you, because the end of this curious adventure turns out well.
I decided to make a mock mincemeat pie during vacation last month. Given that I am not a big fan of meat, I chose the mock mincemeat pie—Leigh, who is far more adventurous with food, will tell you about her adventure with the real mincemeat pie below. I chose a recipe from a Gem Chopper cookbook distributed by the Morey Mercantile Company of Denver in the 1920s. What is a Gem Chopper? Basically, it’s a hand grinder that attaches to your table and is used to grind a variety of foods, including fruits, nuts, and meats. Please note that you don’t need a Gem Chopper is to make this mock mincemeat pie. Here’s my recipe:
½ cup molasses (I used black strap molasses)
1 cup sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
4 medium to large apples (cut into small pieces; about ¼ inch cubed)
3 tablespoons of butter
1 ½ cup raisins
1 tablespoon cinnamon (add less or more to your taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 double crust pie pastry for 9” pie pan—I admit I went store bought on this ingredient
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Mix ingredients together and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes (really cook until the apples are as firm or soft as you like them). Pour mixture into the prepared pie crust. Top with the second crust. Pinch and crimp edges to seal. Pierce the top in several places with a fork.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until top is golden brown (at this point I brushed the top with butter to add to the flavor and to brown the top) about 30 minutes more. Cool before serving (or not, you could serve it warm with ice cream).
Now, I must admit that the original recipe only listed ingredients with limited measurement details. For this reason, I decided to look at other mincemeat recipes and based on my research I came up with the modified recipe above.
The pie turned out to be pretty easy, and in the end, tasty. I served it first at my New Year’s Day celebration and much to my surprise, all my guests tried it and liked it. One guest actually asked for some to take home; he wanted to try it with vanilla ice cream. The next tasting was at work the following day. About five adventurous staff members tried it, and again all liked it. Leigh took some home to her mom, who also had fond memories of the dessert, and later that evening texted me this: “The verdict. Mom who had it growing up said it was awesome. Charlotte (her 6 year old daughter) said it was really good and is still eating it. And Doug (her husband) who didn’t want to try it, came back for more. Jamin (her almost 2 year old) is whining for more. Success.”
So…are you willing to give a curious fruit pie a try?
By Alisa Zahller, Curator Art & Design
Or…… are you willing to try the real deal: Mincemeat Pie
As my colleague, Alisa Zahller, said, I am a bit more curious when it comes to food. I wasn’t going to let the name “mincemeat” scare me away from trying this traditional recipe. Nor was I going to find a substitute for one of the main ingredients, suet. What is suet? It’s the hard fat around the kidneys and loins in beef and mutton. Just ask your local butcher for a little and chop it real fine.
Like Alisa’s recipe, this recipe was from the Gem Chopper cookbook and has limited details. I also cut the recipe in half.
1 lb meat (I used ground beef)
¼ lb suet chopped
4 apples chopped (I used green)
½ lb raisins
½ lb currants
1 pint cider
¾ lbs brown sugar
½ tps cinnamon
½ tps allspice
½ tps cloves
½ tps salt
1 piece orange rind
1 piece lemon rind
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix ingredients together and bring to a boil. Boil hard for about 15 minutes. Pour mixture into the prepared pie crust. Top with the second crust. Pinch and crimp edges to seal the crusts. Pierce the top crust in several places with a fork.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes and until top is golden brown. Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.
My crust has never looked better. I think it was from the suet, whichbaked-mince-meat melts once the mixture comes to a boil. I served it to my family first and the reviews were all good; even my kiddos enjoyed it. It is a very sweet meat pie. I served it to a few brave souls at work who all enjoyed it except for one (it was a texture thing for her). Most were not put off by the meat. All and all, I liked both pies and would make both again. Many traditional mincemeat pie recipes include brandy. Maybe I’ll try that next time.