Great Aunt Lillian’s Mock Mince Meat Pie for Christmas

Medieval Pies on the Table

Medieval Pies on the Table

I’ve been pretty lax of late with writing a post – mainly because I’ve been so busy! But over Thanksgiving I made two of Aunt Lillian’s recipes that are perfect for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. For this post I’ll focus on Mince Meat Pie.

Like a lot of you I’d grown up hearing about Mince Meat Pie, but I’d never tried it even though its about as American as well – Apple Pie. In my family pumpkin pie was the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dessert.

Lately, I’ve added Dan’s family recipe for Plum Pudding to Christmas Dinner. Unfortunately, my mom did not like to bake, so even during the holidays our pumpkin pies were sadly frozen concoctions reheated in the oven! Yikes! Obviously I did not get my cooking gene from my mother (or my grandmother for that matter).

So what’s the history behind this pie? It seems that Mince Meat Pies date back to the Middle Ages when these pies, in smaller form, were mainly minced or chopped meat with dried fruits and spices added to stretch the meat further. As time went on the meat became less prevalent and the fruits take over until by the Victorian times mince actually refers to predominantly dried fruits, brandy, and suet filling the pie with only the possibility of meat being included. Mince was traditionally made and served in the fall and winter and so became associated with the Christmas holidays.

Aunt Lillian's Recipe Book with the Key Ingredients

Aunt Lillian's Recipe Book with the Key Ingredients

In America it was not uncommon for American housewives to have pie making frenzy days where they and their household would make hundreds (yes that’s right) of pies which would be stored in the coldest part of the house to freeze. They would then be brought out when needed during the winter months to feed the family. Smart huh! Though it also helped to have 8-10 kids and servants on hand as your helpers when you were chopping and cooking hundreds of pies.

Which brings me to Aunt Lillian’s recipe and the making of Mince Meat. Wow – we are talking another time consumer when you aren’t using modern conveniences! I followed Aunt Lilly’s recipe to the letter which meant I made 2 quarts and 1 pint of Mock Mince Meat. Total prep time for chopping – a whopping one and a 1/2 hours!

Oh sure, it doesn't look like much in the photo, but . . .

Oh sure, it doesn't look like much in the photo, but . . .

Yep, I stood there and chopped 4 lbs green tomatoes and 2 lbs apples into tiny bits and in my heart of hearts I know I didn’t chop them fine enough, but my arm was aching by the time it was over. Of course I encourage you to use your food processor, but be careful not to turn it to mush. That would be the wrong consistency. Mince means just that – very finely diced. Not mush.

As I was chopping here were some things that came to my mind:

It makes perfect sense to can Mince Meat at Thanksgiving when your green tomatoes are ready (at least here in Tennessee). I got my tomatoes from my friend Jeanine. Thanks Jeanine!

The Fanny Farmer cookbook said that Mince Meat pie should have a puff pastry top and to achieve this artful creation you must have a cold kitchen – again perfect time of year to be making this. I never did try the puff pastry top. Aunt Lillian’s cookbook does not mention one and oh my it looked so hard!

I too would have had ten children just so I would not have had to mince all this and this recipe only makes enough for five pies!

Lisa at the Chopping Board

Lisa at the Chopping Board

Here’s Lillian’s recipe:

Green Tomato Mince Meat

  • 4 lbs green tomatoes
  • 2 lbs apples
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 lb suet (I substituted butter. I just couldn’t stomach the idea of suet)
  • 1 tbs each of salt, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves
  • 1/2 lb raisins

Chop tomatoes and drain overnight. In morning drain and scald.

As usual, I needed to find a period cookbook to help me decipher Lillian’s lack of instructions. She was cooking on a wood stove and also knew in her head what to do.

My Fannie Farmer 1928 Cookbook was very helpful. From Fannie I learned that Mince Pie should always be baked with a bottom and top crust and that at Thanksgiving and Christmas the rims and upper crusts should be Puff Pastry, “but this is never satisfactory when used for under crusts.” Got it!

Befitting its popularity she has three versions with meat (beef and suet) that include other goodies such as apples, quinces, molasses, cider, raisins, currants, citron, brandy, and the spices. Actually sounds interesting and very rich! She includes another three recipes for Mince Meat that don’t contain meat, but one of these has suet. The last two are Mock Mince Meat. Mock Mince Meat came along in the late 19th century with either green tomatoes, or common crackers as a substitute for the meat. Cheaper and again more in line with modern taste buds. It was by reading all these recipes that I got a better idea of what to do with this recipe.

What the mince looks like as you cook it - pretty!

What the mince looks like as you cook it - pretty!

Here’s Fannie’s recipe that I followed the most (though I used Lillian’s ingredients)

Mock Mince Pie Meat II

  • 3 pints chopped apples
  • 3 pints chopped green tomatoes
  • 4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vinegar
  • 3 cups raisins
  • 3 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp clove
  • 3/4 tsp allspice
  • 3/4 tsp mace
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 3/4 cup butter

Mix apples with tomatoes and drain. Add remaining ingredients, except butter, bring gradually to the boiling-point (on the stove in a big pot), and let simmer three hours, then add butter. Turn into glass jars as soon as possible.

Since I was going to make the Mince Meat Pies soon I just kept them in the refridgerator and did not can the mince meat. If you were going to keep this long term, please follow canning directions.

The Mince in Jars Ready for Making Pies

The Mince in Jars Ready for Making Pies

Now the next step was making the pie! Still no directions on baking it. I found a recipe for making pie crusts from scratch. For the life of me though I can’t remember where I got the recipe but I know I mangled through it and it certainly wasn’t my best crust. It’s amazing how we have lost the art of pie crust making.

When you read the old cook books you know these ladies knew how to make a crust! And homemade crusts taste nothing like the frozen junk we buy in the store that is filled with high fructose corn syrup and all sorts of bad things for us. Flour, lard or butter, ice cold water, and a bit of salt. How simple!

The 1972 Joy of Cooking informed me to bake the Mince Meat Pie in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes and then for 20 minutes longer at 350 degrees. It came out beautifully.

Finished Mock Mince Meat Pie

Finished Mock Mince Meat Pie

I proudly took it to Thanksgiving dinner at friends and they were all polite and called it a success. Dan and I were underwhelmed by it. I might like to try it again with different tomatoes (my friend only had Roma tomatoes which were dry and certainly would not have had the same taste as what a regular green tomato would have). It was an unusual taste, not bad, but not great.

Were my friends just being polite? I’ll never know. Maybe they really liked it. All of them had had mince meat before and said it was one of the best they’d tasted, so much better than the gooey sweet store bought.

I encourage you to try it yourself – but half the recipe and use a Cuisinart! Or find an army of 10 small children to help!

Next post – Cranberry Sauce like you’ve never had before!

Leave A Comment...