The combination of sweet, savory, and above all, spicy found in mincemeat hearkens back to the pre-modern kitchen. Finely chopping (mincing!) meat and mixing it with suet, fruits, and spices not only used up leftover, odd bits of meat but stretched the available protein. The use of late apples and dried fruits made it a perfect winter dish, and it was a Christmas specialty by the sixteenth century. Gradually, less actual minced meat was included in the recipe (though suet is still commonly used), and by the mid-nineteenth century, mincemeat in both England and the Americas was what we would recognize today.
I didn’t grow up with it, but I sure do love me some mincemeat. I don’t think it’s common in Hawai’i at all, but every Christmas when we were shopping at Kahala or Pearlridge, Mom and I would stop by See’s Candy for mincemeat and marzipan chocolates (they have since discontinued their mincemeat candies, due to the lack of a reputable supplier. Jerks.). I loved them; they were so foreign, so exotic, and yet so quaint, something out of a Louisa May Alcott or L.M. Montgomery novel. I didn’t get to try a mincemeat pie until I was twenty-one, and visiting my relatives in Western New York (Buffalo). My Cousin Johnny Stevenson’s Quebecois then-wife baked one for my little sister and I, and it was a revelation (she also introduced me to turnips and rutabagas–oh, my!). I was in love at the first bite, and have often been baffled that mincemeat pies are so unpopular in the Pacific Northwest. After all, they use some of our finest ingredients, such as apples and dried berries. When I found this pie in November’s Sunset Magazine, I knew I had to make it for Thanksgiving.
For my pie, I used half Calville Blanc and half Newtown Pippin apples, both heirloom varieties I picked up at the Portland Nursery Apple Tasting Festival this year. They made for a phenomenal pie, with perfect taste and texture. This is a very messy, bubbly pie, so be sure to either place a foil-lined cookie sheet on the rack beneath your pie, or line the floor of your oven. This is a very rich, intensely-flavored pie, not for the faint of heart or full of stomach.
Spicy Apple & Dried Fruit Pie
- 4 pounds firm, tart apples (about 6), peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
- 2/3 cup dried cherries
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2/3 cup golden raisins
- 2/3 cup dark raisins
- 2/3 cup dried currants (I used blueberries)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Finely shredded zest of 1 orange
- Finely shredded zest of 1 lemon
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup Myers Dark Rum
- batch of top and bottom crusts
1. With rack in lowest position, preheat oven to 350° . In small batches, pulse apples in a food processor into small, pea-size pieces. Reserve in a large mixing bowl. Put dried fruits–minus currants–in food processor and pulse just until fruit just starts to break up. (Alternately, coarsely chop cherries, cranberries, and raisins.) Combine with apples in reserved bowl.
2. To reserved fruits, stir in currants, spices, salt, zests, sugars, cornstarch, and rum. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust, spreading level.
3. Make a lattice top, or use a cut-out top crust. Brush lightly with beaten egg white.
4. Bake pie till interior bubbles and crust is golden-brown, 1-1/2 hours; during last 30 minutes, place a drip pan beneath. Cool to room temperature before serving.
Make ahead: Prepare filling and chill up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature while rolling out dough, then bake as directed.