What is mincemeat?

A slightly random question from reader Charm, but one I’d live to answer! Modern mincemeat is a sweet combination of finely chopped dried fruit, nuts, spices, citrus rind and (usually) rum or brandy. Sometimes a fat like suet is added to enrich it. It’s usually baked into small pies.

But as I said, that’s modern mincemeat. Old school mincemeat was sort-of-sweet, sort-of-savory and contained actual meat, finely ground or shredded (i.e. “minced”). But you don’t see that much anymore. Which gives me an idea. Once I’m finished with cardinal slices, the world is my oyster, so to speak.

13 thoughts on “What is mincemeat?”

  1. Mincemeat pie, particularly if you add suet, is not the best idea if you are looking for food to lower your high blood pressure! We always had it at Christmas growing up though and it was glorious.

    1. True enough, but then most pastry is high in the fat department. It all depends on how much you eat! 😉


      – Joe

  2. Are there alternatives to suet? (Which begs the next question: what is suet?) Can it be omitted altogether?

  3. But, but, but. WHY would you voluntarily eat beef (or mutton) fat? Isn’t there enough fat in the meatly mincemeat? And why would you add that kind of fat (instead of butter, say) to a sweet dish?

    1. Ah, I see what you’re asking. Suet is usually used in mincemeat recipes that don’t have meat (since, as you pointed out, the meat itself adds fat to the mixture). But why use suet in a sweet recipe? For the same reason you add fat to any recipe: to enrich the texture and improve the flavor. If meat-derived fat seems like an odd choice, I can tell you that it wasn’t so long ago that people thought nothing of using animal fat to enrich sweet dishes. Lard pie crusts are a good example, as are British puddings, many of which call for suet as the main fat. Butter is something we moderns take for granted. But 100 years ago mixing animal fats with sweets was no big deal…the bit of residual meat flavor just made the taste of pies and puddings more complex.

  4. Is there a U of Pastry somewhere? I feel like a true idiot asking questions like this. Especially since you have such great answers! Thanks, Joe.

    1. My pleasure, Charm! I love your questions…please keep asking, because other people are wondering the same things!

      – Joe

  5. We’ve had mincemeat the last two years. My friend Paula has made it using venison as the meat from an old recipe that here father used to use. He’d make it every year (in northern Minnesota) and send jars back to family in Boston. Turns out that the recipe is virtually identical to one in old Fanny Farmer cookbooks, so it isn’t any kind of heirloom recipe.
    One thing – it is definitely better aged than fresh.

    1. Obviously I’m going to have to do this…soon as I get Cardinal slices figured out! 😉

      – Joe

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