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
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!
Secret Apple Pie a la mode
Schatzi: Portland has been beautifully autumnal this past week, with crisp, sunny days and cold nights, and most surprisingly, no rain! Capitalizing on the perfect weather, I made an apple pie last week. It’s not the prettiest of pictures–maybe I should have styled it–but it tasted damn fine. Unfortunately for you, I can’t share the recipe, as Maiya was sworn to secrecy, but I have a few things to say about it.
I used some of my heirloom apples, Cox’s Orange Pippins, to be specific, and if you can find them, I urge you to use them. Or to try any one or a melange of heirloom varieties, because the apples in this pie were the finest pie apples I or Eli have ever tasted. They were firm, kept their shape, and had a perfect bite, and also had amazing apple flavor which was not masked by sugar and spices. Cox’s Orange Pippin is by far my all-time favorite apple. Martha Stewart Living also has an heirloom apple pie recipe this month, check it out.
keep reading for more Apple Pie
Found floating about on Reddit.