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. Continue reading
Posted in apples, christmas, dessert, fall, fruits, pies, Recipes, thanksgiving, winter
Tagged christmas, mincemeat, pie
After the Apple Tasting Festival at Portland Nursery, I found myself in need of some apple pie–amazing how that works out. I couldn’t find the recipe my sister Maiya gave me last year, so I looked for a patty-pan crust and nice crumb topped recipe to try. The first one I came across that looked delicious and trustworthy was Martha Stewart’s Apple Crumb Pie with Almond Crumb Crust. This worked out nicely since I had some walnuts I wanted to use up before they got rancid, and well, apples and walnuts go really well together. This also gave me the perfect opportunity to use my little nut grinder, which I so dearly love. I used a few Newtown Pippins and two Spitzenberg apples; you’ll remember the latter from last year’s Apple Tasting, but the Newtown was a runner up, only picked because they were out of Cox’s Orange Pippin and all the new heirlooms I wanted to try (save the Calville Blanc, which is excellent). They were fantastic in the pie, with a complex sweet-tart flavor.
I must say, this was not only the best apple pie I have baked, it might be one of the best I have ever tasted. I don’t know whether it was the perfect combination of apples, nuts, and recipe, or what, but everything came together marvelously. The filling was almost custard-like in its rich smoothness, but the apples retained their bite. The crust was like a nutty shortbread, and not at all soggy. The only improvement I would try would be to use brown sugar, but I was out of it. Guess I’ll just have to make it again! I wanted to try a hazelnut crust, or even the original almond, anyways …. Continue reading
Homemade Tangy Apricot Fro-Yo
Schatzi: I haven’t eaten much frozen yogurt since my Eighties childhood, when the TCBY craze swept the nation. When they built the new shopping center in Mililani, the one with the Star Market and Cookie Corner, they put in a TCBY, too. As a treat, my mother would often take me to the TCBY, where I always ordered the same thing: a waffle cone sundae with hot fudge and colored jimmies, no nuts. The flavors of yogurt I picked varied with their offerings, but I never wanted anything else. Frozen yogurt is back, but with a difference; places like Pinkberry and Portlan’d own Pop Culture–among others–have ushered in a new era of frozen yogurt, one with a tangier yogurt flavor than the soft-serve TCBY standard. And that’s not a bad thing. click here for the fro-yo recipe
a loaf of banana bread
Schatzi: The earliest banana breads seem to have developed during the Twenties and Thirties, with recipes in print by 1933. This coincided with the popularity of baking soda and powder for use in quick breads. During the Twenties and Thirties, both bananas and pineapple were wildly popular, and banana bread was a quick, simple item to bake. It had another resurgence in the Sixties, one appearing in my 1961 Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook, and another five in the 1962 Good Housekeeping Cook Book.
I think of banana bread as a very Sixties and Seventies treat, which is a bit odd because I wasn’t even born yet. But my mother baked it, and there is still a stained recipe card for Banana Bread in the recipe box, one with her younger, more childish handwriting. I can imagine her baking it in high school back in the Sixties, just as she later baked it for us when we were growing up. I remember Mom baking banana bread pretty frequently when I was little, but it seemed like she stopped almost entirely when I was older, though she never did stop saving black bananas in the freezer. We happened to have several nicely brown ones on hand, and I was possessed of a desire to bake some banana bread. click here for the Banana Bread recipe
Schatzi: What a fantastic fiancee I am. Last year, when Eli told me of his family’s tradition that a birthday boy (or girl) gets to pick the cake they desire, I happily made him the orange pound cake he so fancied. And he loved it. And when my birthday rolled around, and I requested a haupia cake, I patiently waited. And I’m still waiting. But since it’s Eli’s birthday today, and since I have vowed to not bake him a birthday cake till I get my haupia cake, I baked him a Chess Pie. It also came in handy,to use up the yolks from my frittata a few days previous. And yes, I cheated and used a store-bought crust.
According to the always excellent Food Timeline, Chess Pie derives from old British and early colonial pastries and puddings, which featured egg yolks, butter, milk, sugar, and sometimes lemon juice. Such desserts, including lemon curd, were classified as cheese cakes or pies, due to their consistency, which resembled that of cheese. 17th century recipes for “cheese cakes without cheese curds” bear a striking resemblance to 19th century chess pie recipes, and from those cheese/chess pies came the Southern Chess Pie. There are myriad variations on the chess pie, involving white or brown sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, and raisins or pecans, and almost as many names as variations; the white sugar chess pie is sometimes called a sugar pie (honey bunch!). I found this recipe on Saveur while looking for rice pudding recipes.
I will add that Eli was delighted by his birthday pie, and said it was just perfect, exactly was a chess pie should be like. So I guess it qualifies as a Tennessee Chess Pie, too!
a piece of Chess Pie
click here for the Chess Pie recipe and more pix!
a piece of Rhubarb Upside Down Cake
And when it came to the pie–Mr Perry, a neighbor of Laura’s parents, tasted his first. Then he lifted the top crust, and reaching for the sugar bowl, spread sugar thickly all over his pie. “That is the way I like it,” he said. “If there is no sugar in the pie, then every fellow can sweeten his own as much as he likes without hurting the cook’s feelings.”
Mr Perry had made the meal a jolly one. [ … ] Everyone laughed and talked and was very friendly, but Laura felt mortified about her beans and her pie without any sugar in. She had been so hurried when she made the pies; but how could she have been so careless? Pieplant was so sour, that first taste must have been simply terrible.
—The First Four Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Schatzi: I wondered for years what “pie plant” was, only to discover it was simply rhubarb! Spring time in the Pacific Northwest is rhubarb time, and I promised myself (and Maiya!) a rhubarb upside down cake. Unlike poor Laura, I didn’t have to worry about remembering to sweeten the tart rhubarb since upside down cake is characterized by a gooey layer of sugar and butter on a moist yellow cake. Though it’s a decidedly homely dessert, it is a satisfyingly sweet-tart finish to any springtime meal. click here for the recipe!