Homemade Mincefruit Stirs Childhood Christmas Memories


| 10/29/2013 3:46:00 PM



Susan BerryWhen I was a child more than the lights and sounds at Christmas time, the aromas were the most wonderful. The delicious scents coming from our kitchen meant it was Christmas time and those scents seem to be the frame that held all the other wonderful traditions in our home together.

One of those aromas that always came from the kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas was the smell of a mincemeat pie baking in the oven. My Mother was of Irish descent and she had her Grandfather in her life until she was in her mid twenty's and he into his 80's. He immigrated with his family from Tipperary Ireland straight to Boston when he was a young boy. I imagine that is where her introduction to mincemeat stemmed from and at an early age. I don't remember my Father eating the pie my Mom made on the holidays, he was Italian. But I do remember my older siblings eating it and yes, my Mom. I, as a child, hated it. I confess. I was never one to take to raisins and even though mincemeat has many other fruits in it, as a child it seemed all I could taste was the raisins, BLUKK!

Mincemeat has a very old history. There are recipes dating back to the 15th century that can still be found in records or in historical prints. It is believed mincemeat originated in England, Ireland and other British countries. The original purpose of mincemeat was to preserve meat and stretch the meat available to last through the Winter by mixing it in vinegar and spices with suet added to this. The meat was minced very fine and combined with figs, currants, raisins, beef suet, sugar, spices and vinegar.

As the centuries passed and recipes were passed down from one generation to the next, preserving meats became less of a necessity and the meat was eventually taken out of many mincemeat recipes. Though suet did remain a constant ingredient mostly fruits were used with spices. Vinegar was also replaced in recipes by brandy or rum.

Original mincemeat pies were made in hand held size for portability and freezing. In the 17th & 18th centuries Victorian homes made fruit mincemeat sweet as a desert rather than as a savory dish with meat in it. It was then that the pies were made larger to be served to many people at one time and presented with other deserts. Mincemeat was often reserved for Christmas time only.



I can remember my Mom telling me about the suet and that being the trigger that also made the pie unappealing to me. Many years passed as I became an adult without mincemeat pie in my holidays, my fondness was for apple or pecan and so those were my traditional pies that I made during the holidays for my family.