Old-Fashioned Mincemeat Pie Recipe from 1798

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Old-fashioned mincemeat pie recipe from 1798 | ourheritageofhealth.com

 

Up until just recently, I had always thought the idea of mincemeat pie sounded pretty unappetizing. I had never actually tried it until this year, but it just didn’t sound like something I would ever want to eat. I think part of my aversion to it was the fact that I had no idea what was actually in it. And those jars of processed mystery mincemeat filling that appear on the grocery store shelves around the holiday season have always looked pretty scary to me!

I had always wondered, though, what exactly was in mincemeat pie filling and if there was actually any real meat in an old-fashioned mincemeat pie recipe. Well, I found my answer by looking through old cookbooks – a great source for any questions about what people used to eat and how they prepared their food. I found out that mincemeat pie really did have meat in it along with fruit and spices.

After seeing old-fashioned mincemeat pie recipes, I was curious to see what they would taste like, so I decided to go ahead and make one myself.

This is the original recipe that I found in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, which was the first American cookbook. (The edition of the cookbook I looked at when I was searching for this recipe was the 1798 edition, but you can find the same recipe in the reprinted version of the 1796 edition, too.)

“Four pound boiled beef, chopped fine, and salted; six pound of raw apple chopped also, one pound beef suet, one quart of wine or rich sweet cider, one ounce mace, and cinnamon, a nutmeg, two pounds raisins, bake in paste No. 3 three-fourths of an hour.”

This recipe makes a massive amount of mincemeat filling, so I reduced it quite a bit.

A side-note to the recipe says “As people differ in their tastes, they may alter to their wishes.” I decided to take this suggestion and make a couple alterations. Since I had seen other mincemeat pie recipes that used both raisins and currants, and since I had some currants left over from Christmas baking, I used a mix of currants and raisins. Currants and raisins have a similar taste, so it won’t change the recipe very much if you use one or the other.

I also added some candied citron because I wanted to use it up and I had seen some old mincemeat recipes that included it. The citron isn’t necessary, but I think it adds a nice lemony flavor that goes well with the fruit and the spices. (If you want to try candying your own citron, you can read more about how I did it to use for my traditional 19th century fruitcake recipe here)

This is the version of the recipe that I used for my mincemeat pie:

(Update 9/27/16) I just made this recipe again so I could take some new pictures of it in better lighting, and I made a couple of slight adaptations to the recipe. First, I added in a little bit of nutmeg because I had forgotten to mention that back when I first posted this recipe, and I also changed the amount of cider to 3/4 cup. 1 full cup seemed like a bit too much liquid, so reducing it down a little was just about right. I also decided to try using coconut oil as a substitute for suet, and that seemed to work well.)

Old-Fashioned Mincemeat Pie Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb beef (I used ground beef from grass-fed cows)
  • 3/4 tsp salt (I like using Real Salt)
  • 1 1/2 lbs apple, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1/3 cup butter or coconut oil, softened*
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 Tbs ground mace (or 1/2 Tbs nutmeg if you don’t have mace)
  • 1/2 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 8 Tbs (1/2) cup raisins (or 1 full cup if not using currants too) (Since grapes are part of the Dirty Dozen, I like to use organic raisins)
  • 8 Tbs (1/2 cup) dried currants
  • 3 Tbs chopped candied citron pieces (optional)

* The original recipe calls for suet, but good quality suet that is appropriate for use in baking is hard to find these days. If you have a good source of suet, then feel free to substitute that to be more authentic, but if not, then coconut oil and butter are good substitutes. (If you decided to use coconut oil, I recommend using an expeller-pressed refined coconut oil if you want a more neutral flavor rather than a coconut flavor in your pie) If the beef you are using has a higher fat content, you can also adjust the amount of butter or coconut oil that you use. I was using an 85% ground beef, so 1/3 cup was about the right amount for me, but if you have a leaner beef, then you might want to increase the amount of butter or coconut oil by a little.

Preparation:

Note: If you want to be really authentic, you can boil some beef in hot water and then chop the meat up into small pieces so it is truly a “minced” meat, hence the name of the pie. I’ve found, though, that it’s much simpler and faster just to buy ground beef and save time with all of the chopping.

  1. If using ground beef, brown the meat in a saucepan over medium heat, and add the salt in with the meat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine chopped apples, softened butter or coconut oil, cider, spices, and fruit. Add the beef and apple cider and mix well until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  3. Line a 9″ pie plate with your favorite pie pastry recipe (See below).
  4. Pour the mincemeat filling inside, spreading it evenly, and then put on the top crust. Seal the crust around the edge with a fork and cut little slivers in the middle to let out steam.
  5. Then bake in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until the crust looks golden brown.

The pie crust recipe I usually use is:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (or additional butter) *
  • 6-8 Tbs cold water

(Recipe makes two 9″crusts)

* Many 18th and 19th century pie bakers would have used lard in the pie crusts, but I would only recommend using lard if you have a source of good-quality lard from healthy, pasture-raised pigs. The lard you might find in a grocery store is usually from unhealthy animals and has often been partially hydrogenated to give it a longer shelf life. If you can’t find good-quality lard, I would recommend substituting coconut oil or additional butter instead.

Recipe Analysis:

I was pleasantly surprised by how good this pie was! I never would have thought that meat could work in a dessert-type pie, but it blends right in with the other ingredients, and you hardly even notice it’s there. The first flavors you taste when you take a bite are the fruit and the spices, and the meat just gives the pie a nice rich flavor. The only sweetener in this pie is the fruit and the apple cider, so the sweet flavor is mild, not sickenly-sweet at all.

It’s not quite as sweet as most desserts are, so if you were to serve it for guests that have a real sweet tooth, you could always add a couple teaspoons of sugar or molasses. I thought the flavor was quite nice without any extra sugar, though.

This pie is a unique combination of savory and sweet, and even though it might not be as popular as it once was, mincemeat pie is a true, old-fashioned taste of history.

Old-Fashioned mincemeat pie recipe from 1798

 

42 Responses to Old-Fashioned Mincemeat Pie Recipe from 1798

  1. Ha! My gramma used to make mincemeat pie. i don’t remember what it tastes like and i’ve never ventured to make it. It sounds pretty delicious though!

    • It isn’t at all what I imagined it would be like. I never thought I would like it, but now it’s a tradition, and I make it every single year!

  2. Thanks. My Mom made a similar recipe back in the 80’s. We lost her recipe in the early 90’s. She is now 93 and going strong – she recognized this as the recipe her Mom used.

  3. I remember my Mom making mincemeat pie as a traditional Christmas treat. She said it was made with venison neck meat. She always used brandy and wow it was so-o-o good! I wanted to get back to the traditional pie with meat so thanks for your recipe.

    • That’s really interesting! I hadn’t every seen any recipes using venison, but it makes sense that that’s a meat a lot of early settles would have used.

  4. My hubby’s favorite is mince meat pie. I use condensed mince meat in the box, reconstitute it and add about 1/4 lb of browned ground beef, one apple chopped finely and a little cinnamon. So good! A recipe from 1798 piqued my interest too. Just wondered what they put in it back the.

    • That sounds pretty good! And I always think it’s interesting to see what ingredients people used in older recipes and how they’re different (or similar) to what we use today.

  5. My mother had always made mincemeat pie (without meat), so growing up with it it’s always been one of my favorites. As an adult I really try to limit my intake of refined sugar. Mincemeat serves as that delicious desert. I’ve now tried many mincemeat pies from both historic & modern recipes.

    • Yes, the fact that you don’t have to add a lot of refined sugar is definitely one of the nice things about this pie!

  6. I grew up in farm country and hunting was a way of life. It and fishing put food on our table. Both my mom, born in 1907 and my grandma, born in 1882 canned and they would put up jars of mincemeat. They used deer, squirrel, rabbit, groundhog, and pork in their mincemeat which is my favorite pie. I make me a mincemeat pie every Christmas. My wife doesn’t like it. She says it’s too sweet. More for me.LOL! I make her egg nog pumpkin pie.I usually just buy a jar of Non Such and then doctor it up by adding chopped apple, more raisons, orange and lemon zest, more mace, a little clove, and nutmeg, as well. A shot or so of Drambui or a good tawny port is a mite nice. I have chopped up citron in it, as well. My mother made her own candied fruit rinds. She used to make little tarts with it too as well as add catsup, a little curry powder, and cranberries and stir up a “hunter’s sauce” for roasted venison or a pork roast. My grandma cooked on a wood stove all her life and my mother did till I was about ten or so. There is a tradition in, I believe London England, to eat a minced tart or small pie every day for 12 days before Christmas. Sounds like my kind of tradition. LOL! Merry Christmas!

    • That’s really interesting! And it’s so neat that your family has such a long tradition of making mincemeat. I definitely like the idea of eating a mince pie every day for the 12 days before Christmas! Sounds like a good tradition to me. Merry Christmas to you too!

  7. I’ve always considered mincemeat to be an acquired taste. Living in rural New Brunswick, Canada, our family grew up on wild game (deer, moose, partridge) and fish (trout and salmon), as well as the local delicacy of fiddleheads. My grandfather worked seasonally as a guide for hunters who stayed at the sporting camp and my grandmother was their cook. She passed along her mincemeat recipe to me before she died, so that is the one I prefer. Naturally, she used deer or moose meat, as well as apples, currents, raisins, and dates (the dates help hold it all together, I find). We don’t use alcoholic beverages, but molasses, brown sugar and vinegar were included in Grammy’s mincemeat, along with cinnamon and cloves (I can’t stand nutmeg, personally). Recently, I’ve been adding the grated rind of an orange, which gives a more festive flavor. My husband is also a hunter, so deer mincemeat is one tradition we’ve carried on in our family. I chop up the cooked roast by hand– I never could get used to the texture of ground meat. Since mincemeat is such a rich and sweet filling, I often make small tarts by fluting the edges of a pastry circle and easing it into a muffin tin to be filled with mincemeat and baked. Topped with a red or green cherry, these mini-mincemeat pies have become a much-anticipated treat for many of our elderly relatives at Christmas, bringing back fond memories of days gone by.

    • I think you’re definitely right about mincemeat being an acquired taste. And that’s so interesting about your family history and the connection to mincemeat! your grandmother’s recipe sounds like it must be delicious, and I like the idea of making the mincemeat into smaller tarts rather than an entire pie. Traditional and nostalgic favorites like that are such special part of the holiday season.

  8. This was a tradition in my family. A great tradition of canning a bunch of it with other family members. We haven’t done this in a long time but speak of it often. Our joke was who was holding out on the last jar. Accusing someone of hiding a jar for a special occasion. Might be a good time to can more. Today is our first day of retirement.
    ,

    • That’s a good idea to make a big batch of the filling at once and can it! Holiday recipes are always a nice part of family traditions. And congratulations on your retirement!

  9. Pardon me, but I really don’t see how you can call your recipe an “old fashioned mincemeat pie” recipe. You changed so much of it I doubt my Grandma would recognize it at all. You still don’t know what original mincemeat pie taste like. Too bad.

    • Yes, I did change a few things in the original recipe to suit my personal taste and to make the recipe more accessible to the majority of my readers. My aim was to make the recipe in the spirit of a traditional recipe while using ingredients that I know would be more likely for people to be able to source. Like with most recipes, there are many different variations on even the most traditional of recipes, and even if I don’t know what your grandmother’s version of original mincemeat tastes like, I know what my version tastes like, and it’s just the way I like it.

  10. Mincemeat pies were tradition in my family, too. My mother used a storebought box of Nonesuch as a base then added extra apples, a bit of orange zest, and a generous splash of her homemade elderberry wine. It was fabulous. Since Nonesuch isn’t always available where I live, I wanted to look up a from-scratch recipe. The packaged version has been around for so long, surely it’s based on a very old recipe. I remember my mother saying the packaged version probably had very little, if any, actual meat in it. Seems like it wouldn’t have a long shelf life if it did. If I can’t find the Nonesuch this year, I’ll try your recipe. Thank you!

    • Your mother’s recipe sounds like a good one! And I like the idea of adding the orange flavor, too. I might have to try adding some orange zest to mine next time!

  11. When my husband’s grandma was alive she taught me to make mincemeat with venison and we canned it. It was an aquired taste and not a favorite of mine at the time. Now I’m a grandma and my husband killed a deer this year and I canned mincemeat for the first time since I made it with his grandma. I now think it’s delicious and I am taking one to our Thanksgiving Dinner at the request of my husband and his brother who grew up eating grandma’s mincemeat pie:) Your version sounds delicious and makes it more accessible to readers who would like to give it a try. Suet can be hard to find although I found it and used it, I would think the substitution of coconut oil would be a great flavor and certainly a more healthy version. Great idea and poo to Mary Fisher.

    • Thank you, Debra 🙂 And that’s really neat that your family keep that tradition going at Thanksgiving this year. I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

  12. Thank you for your recipe, I have been in need of a recipe and you have provided a great one. It is one on the pies I have missed from the past.

      • Thank you.. I’ve seen some recipes that call for it. Was just wondering. Also one more quick question if I may… I’ve read some accounts where people make their mincemeat filling 1 week in advance. They store it in a Mason jar in the fridge. Is this something you would recommend?

        • I’ve never done it that way personally, because I’ve always found it easier to just make up the filling when I’m planning on baking with it. If you wanted to make it ahead of time because it was more convenient for you to do that, then keeping it in the fridge would be fine as far as the recipe is concerned, but the pie will still taste just as good either way. So I would only recommend making it ahead of time if it’s easier/more convenient for you that way.

  13. Thanks for the great old time reference. It sums up the essence. Working on mastering my own old time based recipe. But you lost me at ground meat. The minced meat fibers matter. Also you didn’t mention any recipes using hard alcohol, which is well documented, or aging. The preservative effect of high alcohol point and a fat seal on a crockery brings the flavor of old world mince meat to unimaginable flavors. I like that you mentioned coconut oil as a substitute. The fat content is really not super important. In other words I have found a lower fat amount does not take away from the bouquet, though a fat layer on top seals the mixture for aging. Lastly I only use wild game, never beef. Happy Holidays!

    • You’re right about the ground meat. It definitely is a bit different, but my reason for using it was to try to keep the recipe accessible for modern bakers who might want a faster and simpler method. Using true minced meat rather than ground would be certainly preferable for anyone who wants to spend the extra time and effort. And as far as the hard alcohol is concerned, the particular recipe I was basing this on mentioned “rich sweet cider” so I chose to use that since I already had some cider on hand and since I don’t drink alcohol personally. But like you mentioned, I’ve heard of recipes that do use alcohol and as well as aging, so that’s another good traditional way to make it too for those who prefer it that way. Happy Holidays to you as well!

  14. How well I remember mincemeat pies!! My Father and I were the only ones that really liked these pies! Father was not a big dessert eater; but did love his mincemeat pies. Mother made them only at Christmas time from scratch and so glad to get the receipt.

  15. Thank you for a recipe that actually has meat in it! I want to make the amount that the original recipe makes though. What temp should I bake it at and how long should I leave it in the oven? Thanks!

    • Are you wanting to bake the entire amount of the original recipe at one time as one really big pie? Or are you planning to make the amount that the original recipe makes but split it up into a couple of pies? I divided the original recipe by four when I made my version, so if you were making the amount of the original recipe, you would probably have enough filling for four 9 inch pies, and you could bake them all at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. If you were making one really big pie, you could still bake it at 400 degrees, but you might have to leave it in the oven for a little bit longer than the 45 minutes, depending on the dish you were using to bake it in. If you had a very wide dish that was fairly shallow, then 45 minutes might be enough, but if you had a dish that was taller and deeper, then it might take longer for the filling to cook through.

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