Saturday, September 15, 2012

More On Mincemeat -- The Pie

A few days after I covered the mincemeat in brandy and set it into a dark, cool cabinet, I looked in on it.

Interestingly enough, all the brandy on top was gone.  The mixture itself looked like it had absorbed a lot of the liquid throughout -- it was thick and not as fluid in the jar.  I took this to be a good sign for its "ripening" and poured more brandy over the top.  I felt it was important to have a 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of brandy to help avoid mold growth.

After a month had passed, it was time to try it in a pie.  I kept it simple, as Mrs. Leslie suggested:  "These pies are always made with covers, and should be eaten warm."  (Here is her ebook:  Directions for Cookery, in its Various Branches.)
Just two ingredients
I took that to mean that I should put down a crust, fill it with mincemeat, cover it with a second crust, and bake it until done.

Crust plus filling

With its top cover
The filling was thick and a little juicy.  Not at all what I had put into the container originally and for this I was glad.  Before I used it I inspected it carefully -- there was no mold in the jar and no "off" smells, so I think it was fine to use.  I tasted a little of it and liked the overall flavor although the brandy was strong for my tastes. 

My ancient copy of "The Joy of Cooking" said to bake it at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and cook it for another 30 minutes.  This was for a store-bought mincemeat filling.  I wasn't certain if my filling needed significant cooking time but I guessed that at least the suet needed a chance to melt and make the filling rich. I really didn't want to take a bite of pie and get a mouthful of uncooked beef fat, even if it had been marinating in Madeira and brandy for a month!

I ended up cooking it for 35 minutes at 350.  It probably could have gone a little longer to be more browned on top.

I estimate that I used about 3 cups of the filling in this pie.  It looks like I could get another 5 to 6 pies out of what was left.  This looks to be a fun holiday season.

Hot out of the oven
The Verdict:  I sliced the pie when it was cool enough to handle but still warm.  With each bite I could still taste the brandy -- it was strong enough to warm me on the way down but not so strong as to make me want to stop eating it.  The juices, sugar, and spices combined to make a lovely syrup around the dried fruit and meat.  Occasionally I got a taste of meat as it was chewier than the fruit.  The flavor overall was very, very good; hearty, rich, flavorful, and in its way, old-fashioned.  It reminded me of the mince pies I've had before but was still different.  Partly, I think, because it wasn't as sweet as regular mince.  Yes, definitely a success!  I can imagine people eating this one to two hundred years ago, savoring the rich flavor with spice, brandy, meat, and fruits.

Other thoughts about it:  This is definitely an "adult" dessert.  The brandy was too strong for children, I think.  Also, as Mrs. Leslie recommends, it is best warmed.  When cold the flavors were harsh and the suet congealed.  I really didn't like seeing cold bits of fat in my pie.

Old-fashioned delicious

Mrs. Leslie leaves us with one more piece of her wisdom:  "Whenever you take out any for use, pour some additional brandy into the jar before you cover it again, and add some more sugar."  Done!  I mixed in about 1/2 cup of brown sugar, packed the filling down to remove air bubbles, wiped the sides of the jar above the filling level, and poured in enough brandy to cover the top.  Then I cleaned the outside of the jar well and put it back in the cabinet.

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