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Mincemeat pie: A treat ‘from another time and place’

Mincemeat pie initially dates from 12th-century Britain. The original version contained fruits and such meats as beef and ox tongue. Here are two recent versions, one modern and one more traditional.

Mincemeat pie is a princely extravaganza that “seems transported from another time and place,” said Beth Kracklauer in Saveur. It initially dates from 12th-century Britain, when sweet-savory combinations imported from the Near East were the rage. The original version contained fruits and such meats as beef and ox tongue. Much later, cooks began adding alcohol, and pie lovers long faced the disapproval of moral crusaders “who singled out mincemeat as irrevocably decadent.”

Countless mincemeat-pie recipes have been created over the years, but more recent versions tend to omit meat entirely, creating a sweeter alternative. Here are two versions, a savory Victorian and a sweeter contemporary. Both are scrumptious—and perfect for Thanksgiving, “the pie lover’s holiday.”

Modern Mincemeat Pie
This recipe for meatless mincemeat pie is based on one from Good Tempered Food by Tamasin Day-Lewis (Miramax). To give the fruit time to soften and the flavors a chance to meld, the filling should be prepared at least two days—and preferably two weeks—prior to the making of the pies.

For filling: 2/3 cup raisins,? 2/3 cup golden raisins,? 2/3 cup currants,? 2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar, ½ cup finely chopped blanched almonds,? ½ cup finely chopped mixed candied citrus peel,? ¼ cup finely chopped beef suet,? 3 tbsp Cognac,? 1½ tbsp dark rum,?1 tsp grated orange zest,? ¼ tsp grated nutmeg,? 1/8 tsp ground cloves,? 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, pinch of ground mace, pinch of ginger, 1 Granny Smith apple (cored and finely chopped), grated lemon zest, juice of 1 lemon.

Mix well. Transfer mixture to a 1-quart jar. Cover and refrigerate for two days to two weeks. Make dough, prepare pie crust, and add filling. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until golden, about 1 hour. Makes 1 pie.

Traditional Mincemeat Pie
This recipe for old-fashioned mincemeat pie, a version of one featured in the classic 1861 volume Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, was updated by Jane Grigson in English Food (Macmillan).

For the filling: 2 cups finely chopped beef suet, ?¾ cup currants,? ¾ cup finely chopped rump steak (about 3 oz),? ½ cup raisins,? ½ cup packed dark brown sugar,? 2 tbsp brandy,? 1½ tsp chopped candied citron peel,? 1½ tsp chopped candied lemon peel,? 1½ tsp chopped candied orange peel,? 1 tsp fresh lemon juice,? ¼ tsp grated nutmeg,? 1½ Granny Smith apples (cored and finely chopped), grated zest of ½ lemon.

Mix well. Transfer mixture to a 1-quart jar. Cover and refrigerate for two days to two weeks. Continue according to directions for first pie recipe.

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