Friday, January 28, 2011

Mincemeat Pie by Julie Shepherd-Powell

I was put in touch with Julie via my friend Lora, after she came back from her New Year's celebration, raving about Julie's mincemeat pie. Several people have asked me when I would start posting about meat pies, but I don't eat meat, so I thought this the perfect opportunity to bring in an expert. I asked Julie if she would be interested in writing a post about it here, and she graciously agreed.

A little about Julie Shepherd-Powell...she is a mom, wife, home cook, banjo player, flat-footer, and PhD student galore from North Carolina, currently living in Nonesuch, KY. Her and her family's ultimate goal is to become homesteaders in the mountains of Virginia and open a business called Happy Hog Lard featuring organic, free range, lovable pork, and, of course, lard.
Here's what she has to say about mincemeat pie...

Mincemeat Pie: How did I ever live without you?

I never gave mincemeat, or mincemeat pie, much thought until a couple of years ago when I was browsing through my King Arthur Flour 20th Anniversary cookbook that my mother-in-law had picked up for me at a yard sale. I’m not even sure what I thought mincemeat was before I came across this recipe—perhaps in my subconscious I had linked it to some sort of weird English dish that involved livers and other parts of the animals that were not in favor with my conservatively raised Southern palate. In recent years, though, I’ve expanded my culinary horizon and am always excited to try new, different recipes. And well, I’m a sucker for Christmassy things, especially when it comes to recipes with long traditions, and frankly, I’m a sucker for the old world and like to think people eating these traditional foods for hundreds of years. Maybe Jane Austin herself ate mincemeat, and who doesn’t love a good classic novel set in the English countryside?

So when I first came across this recipe for mincemeat around Christmastime in 2009, I knew I wanted to try it—but I was unable to find the time I needed to do it. So this past year when I came across the recipe for a second time, I decided I would be sure to make room in my busy schedule for it--it takes a few hours to put together (most of it is not “active”), and after cooking the filling, you need to let it set for at least 2 weeks in the fridge to let the flavors meld.

When I speak of mincemeat pie now, I am always trying to convey the amazing sweet, Yuletide goodness that it embodies—it basically combines tons of delicious dried fruits, spices, apple cider, maple syrup, butter (or suet- a type of beef fat that you can get from your butcher with a little advance notice), wine, and yes beef into a delicious filling that melts in your mouth. Made with a rustic cornmeal crust, and topped with a homemade bourbon whipped cream, it’s a tradition that will definitely be part of my family’s holiday cuisine for years to come. And be assured--despite the fact that I have gone on and on about Christmas, this pie is one to try in any of the cooler/cold months—plan ahead, and when you finally bake it and take your first bite, you’ll know why it was worth the wait.

Mincemeat Pie in a Rustic Cornmeal Crust with Bourbon Whipped Cream

The Mincemeat: (Make two weeks in advance)
Note: This recipe makes enough mincemeat for 2 pies, so if you want to make 2, you'll need to make the crust recipe twice

1 pound lean beef
1 quart apple cider
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ cup (1 stick) butter or ¼ pound ground suet (I used butter, see note below about suet*)
½ pound dried currants (1 1/2 cups firmly packed)
½ pound golden raisins (1 1/2 cups firmly packed)
¼ pound fresh cranberries, cut in half (about 2 cups)
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup "spirits" (I used wine, but brandy or bourbon would work well too!)

Trim the meat if necessary and dice it into small cubes. Pour the cider into a large saucepan and add the sweeteners and spices. Add the meat and bring this mixture to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Skim any foam that comes to the top during the first hour of cooking.

After 2 hours, turn off the heat and remove the meat with a slotted spoon. Add the currants, raisins, cranberries and lemon rind and juice to the hot cider/broth mixture. Let these steep while you mince the meat.

Return the meat to the fruit mixture, bring back to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 1/2 hour. Boil off enough liquid so the mixture is thick. Melt and blend in the butter at this point. After the mixture has cooled, add 1/4 cup of "spirits." This adds flavor and helps preserve the mincemeat. Cover and store mincemeat in a cool place (the fridge) for 2 or more weeks.

A word about suet: You can find suet, a special kind of beef fat, at your local butcher shop/market. Often he or she just needs to know in advance to put some aside for you when they are butchering beef. Don’t order the suet online—this is the kind that is used for bird feeders—it has other additives and is not safe for human consumption. OKAY, so what to do if you are using suet instead of butter—you will want to “mince” it up WITH the beef—and add it back into the broth/spice mixture when you add the beef back, and of course, skip the butter. Pretty simple. I plan to try it with suet next year.

Rustic Cornmeal Crust: (and preparing/baking the pie)
Makes a single crust for one mincemeat pie, this is a rustic crust—so you only need a single crust per pie

1 ¾ cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup cornmeal
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick butter (cold and cut into ½ inch cubes)
1/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons milk
1 egg white
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

To prepare pastry, combine flour and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a food processor; pulse a few times. Add butter to flour mixture; pulse 4-5 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor on, slowly add buttermilk through food chute; process just until dough forms a ball.** Gently press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator for an hour. (Be sure to get the dough VERY chilled, but not so hard you can’t roll it out)

Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap and place dough on a sheet of parchment paper, sprinkled with flour. Roll dough into a 12 or 13-inch circle. Your dough should be about 1/8 inch thick when rolled out. Place dough and parchment on a baking sheet (this is how it will bake—read on).

Arrange ½ of the mincemeat mixture (enough for one pie) in center of dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold edges of dough toward center, pressing gently to seal (dough will only partially cover the mincemeat mixture—try to make sure there are no holes in the edges, or you might have some juice spillage while the pie is baking).

Combine milk and egg white in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Brush dough with milk mixture; sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over dough. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes- 1 hour or until pastry is golden brown. Let stand 30 minutes; cut into wedges, and serve with Bourbon Whipped Cream (recipe follows).

** Note: If you don't have a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, and salt and cut in butter using a pastry knife, until the dough resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add buttermilk. Stir until dough forms a ball. Continue with instructions from here!

Bourbon Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1-2 Tablespoons powdered sugar (to taste)
1 Tablespoon (or more) good-quality Bourbon

In a medium bowl whisk/whip the heavy until soft peaks are just about to form. Beat in bourbon and sugar until soft peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, or cream will become lumpy and butter-like.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, Julie!

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