A jar of mincemeat, reading to age in the fridgeThis is a dish that confused me for some time. “Minced” means broken up (it’s actually related to the word “minute,” as in exceedingly small). The British use the word “minced” in places we might use the word “ground,” so when I started hearing about mincemeat pies, I assumed they were meat pies.

Then certain people (Lisa, Alton Brown) tried to explain to me that there was no meat in mincemeat pies at all, just dried fruit.

Just as I started grappling with the idea of a meatless mincemeat, I found one of my grandma’s recipes which seemed to combine the aforementioned concepts. The ingredients:

  • beef chuck
  • suet
  • apples
  • dried currants
  • sultana raisins
  • citron (I believe this refers to candied lemon peel, not actual citron fruit…)
  • cider (knowing my grandma, non-alcoholic)
  • spices>

The ingredients were chopped, cooked, and canned.  I’m still trying to come up with a definition. “Dried fruit, usually with fat, sometimes with meat,” might work, but, “Dried fruit and whatever else you have on hand” is probably the safest. This week I had suet, apple preserves, dried cranberries, dried currants, raisins, and brandy.

I was initially excited about the preserving potential of mincemeat, but most of the ingredients are already shelf-stable, and those that aren’t (beef, apples) are probably best preserved in other ways. At any rate, the mix keeps very well, and actually benefits from storage, much like fruitcake. It makes a great pie. The partially reconstituted fruit has a very satisfying chew.

Notes on my version:

  • I add meat to my mince.   I heavily browned the meat before adding it to the other ingredients to develop flavour texture.
  • I used lamb suet and shoulder, instead of beef.  I happen to have lots of lamb right now.
  • I processed the mixture for a finer, more consistent texture

Lamb Mincemeat
2011′s version, grafting my grandmother’s recipe to Alton Brown’s, and using lamb instead of beef


  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
  • 8 oz sultana raisins
  • 4 oz dried sour cherries
  • 4 oz dark brown sugar
  • 2 ounces lamb suet, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz ground lamb shoulder
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground clove


  1. Heavily brown the ground lamb in a hot, heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan.  The meat should be a deep amber on all surfaces.  Strain the meat to separate it from any rendered fat.  Chill thoroughly.
  2. Combine all ingredients except bread crumbs in a food processor.  Pulse until ingredients are well-combined and desired texture is achieved.  Pulsing 10 times will give a mincemeat with a coarse texture.  I prefer a finer, more homogeneous texture.
  3. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge atleast 1 week before using.  Keeps for 6 months.

An individual mincemeat pie