Mincing Along

As with most of my cooking adventures, I started with a relatively simple thought. I was going to visit my parents over Thanksgiving, and I was determined to make a mince pie for my dad, and, moreover, I was determined to make the mincemeat that went into it. My father jokingly complains that he doesn’t get mince pie since my maternal grandmother died in the early 90s. My mother doesn’t like raisins, which is, of course, one of the major ingredients in mincemeat–she goes so far as to pick the raisins out of cinnamon raisin bread, which amuses me to no end. In other words, making a pie for my dad was an excuse to try to make something I’d never made before.

I rummaged around for a recipe (finding a surprising paucity of from-scratch recipes) and settled on one from David Lebovitz. I emailed the farm from which I have gotten some very good (and organically and sustainably raised) meat–what a friend calls “hippie meat”–and asked if they had any beef suet. Yes! and they would bring it to the farmers’ market near me the following weekend, the last outdoor market of the season. So, for a whole $3, I had not quite two pounds of suet. If you look at that recipe, you’ll note that you need a whole lot less than two pounds of suet–you need about four ounces for one batch of mincemeat.

Yes, well: mincemeat for the masses!

I made a large-ish double batch, using pretty much what Lebovitz recommends, and adding some cranberries, I think, and I think I used an extra apple or two because I had some around. I cleaned the suet a bit, removing membranes and such, and just chopped it very finely rather than trying to grate it. I put the resulting mincemeat in some clean quart jars and stashed it in the fridge. I still had half of the suet, though, so I bought enough raisins and currants and such to make another double batch. I hauled one of the containers (plastic rather than glass) to the east coast and made the pie, which was successful. Seriously, it’s basically a raisin pie with some apples in it, plus a bunch of tasty spices, so it’s hard to go wrong if you like the ingredients.

It’s not terribly boozy at all–I used some brandy remnants that Friend brought over, and some ginger liquer from a local distillery, and some bourbon from the same distillery. I added the bourbon because, after I had added the ginger liquer, I realized it had a lower ABV and thought that might affect the preservation qualities of the alcohol. I can’t really taste the alcohol, though, and I tend to be sensitive to it. I often left it out of recipes in pastry school because I thought it tended to overwhelm the other flavors, but there’s so much going on in the mincemeat I simply couldn’t taste it.

Okay, that’s all well and good–but now I have five more jars of mincemeat sitting around in the fridge, and I am going to do what, exactly, with all of that mincemeat?

For New Year’s Day, however, I finally found a use for some of it: I used some as a filling for whole wheat cinnamon rolls. I doubled the recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads and got 32 rolls out of it–obviously a substantially larger yield than the original recipe, which said 8 to 10 (or 16 to 20 for a doubled recipe). The result is interesting–it definitely has a bit of a “meaty” undertone to it–but they’re quite good. I threw most of them in the freezer (without frosting) so they’ll be nice to grab and take to work for a quick breakfast. I think even plain cream cheese would be a nice accompaniment if you don’t have extra frosting around.

While I had the oven on, I also diced and roasted the three butternut squash that were sitting around, but I didn’t do anything with the result. The menu on New Year’s day included homemade sauerkraut; pulled pork, to satisfy the spirit of my grandmother; and garlic smashed potatoes, as well as some venison ring baloney and some caramelized onions. But I’m thinking squash, and mincemeat, and maybe some shredded wild turkey dark meat, and maybe some spinach or kale; I have some spinach around, so that’s more likely. I’ll let you know what happens.

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