, Gloucester, MA


December 4, 2012

Real deal: Making mincemeat with meat

Not for the vegetarian, the squeamish, or the non-traditional.

After un-jarring my mother’s homemade mincemeat, which I knew for certain to be the “mock” kind, meaning no meat, I decided to try reality mincemeat.

That curator of authenticity, my aunt, always made the real thing. She hadn’t done it in years, but cooed to me over the phone, “Oh! I love real mincemeat!”

Challenge met, Aunt Marilyn.

Still, I flinched at the Market Basket meat shelves.

“Tongue?!” I cried out to her on my cell phone. “Marilyn, tongue?! — If I’m making this, you better be here for Christmas!”

Those of you still reading, those of you not afraid of tongue, those of you who love a purist-palooza cooking event, might be pleased to know that Market Basket has everything you need to make good, old-fashioned mincemeat: tongue, brisket, and kidney suet.

Only kidney suet has tallow, a necessary evil in mincemeat making. (Not that tongue isn’t evil; a battle with tongue requires courage.) Tallow, unlike straight suet, doesn’t decompose and can be stored for extended lengths of time. Tallow was a main ingredient in pemmican, the American Indians’ version of a protein bar. Mincemeat, the real kind, is not unlike pemmican; both are great sources of protein and fat that expire never.

(Mentioned in a previous blog, here’s the short history of mincemeat: it originated in 11th century Europe as a means of preserving meat. It was mostly meat and spices the Crusaders had just scored in The Holy Land. Apparently, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, symbols of the wisemen’s gifts, were required mincemeat ingredients starting then.

Lest you think hating mincemeat is a modern concept, Oliver Cromwell banned it — and all things Christmas — as tokens of paganism in 1657. New England Puritans weren’t to be caught eating desecrated pies, and fined anyone for eating mincemeat between 1659 and 1681.

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