The winter holidays are sneaking up on us. Do you know where your family-favorite recipes are?
|The Thanksgiving dinner. Edwd. Ridley & Sons., 1870|
Though I am hardly a little old lady of the sweet variety, I’m not above masquerading as one when it serves my agenda.
Some traditional holiday foods have been around for a long, long time. Take mincemeat pies, for example. They date back to Medieval times, when savory “minced meat” filling stretched families’ meager ration of protein by adding beef suet, dried fruits, sugar, and spices to leftover meat. The recipe endured into the early nineteenth century, as illustrated by this recipe from Mrs. Child’s 1833 cookbook The American Frugal Housewife.
Boil a tender, nice piece of beef—any piece that is clear from sinews and gristle; boil it till it is perfectly tender. When it is cold, chop it very fine, and be very careful to get out every particle of bone and gristle. The sweeter and better to boil half an hour or more in this.
Pare, core, and chop the apples fine. If you use raisins, stone them. If you use currants, wash and dry them at the fire.
[Add] two pounds of beef, after it is chopped; three quarters of a pound of suet; one pound and a quarter of sugar; three pounds of apples; two pounds of currants, or raisins. Put in a gill of brandy; lemon-brandy is better, if you have any prepared. Make it quite moist with new cider. I should not think a quart would be too much; the more moist the better, if it does not spill out into the oven. A very little pepper.
If you use corn meat, or tongue, for pies, it should be well soaked, and boiled very tender. If you use fresh beef, salt is necessary in the seasoning. One ounce of cinnamon, one ounce of cloves. Two nutmegs add to the pleasantness of the flavor; and a bit of sweet butter put upon the top of each pie, makes them rich; but these are not necessary. Bake three quarters of an hour. If your apples are rather sweet, grate in a whole lemon.
The 1875 edition of Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery included recipes for both types of filling.
Peel, core, and chop finely a pound of sound russet apples, wash and pick a pound of raisins, and let both these be chopped small. Then take away the skin and gristle from a pound of roast beef, and carefully pick a pound of beef-suet; chop these well together. Cut into small pieces three quarters of a pound of mixed candied orange, citron, and lemon-peel; let all these be well stirred together in a large pan.
Beat or grind into powder a nutmeg, half an ounce of ginger, and a quarter of an ounce of cloves, the same of allspice and coriander-seeds; add half an ounce of salt, and put these into the pan, mixing them thoroughly. Grate the rinds of three lemons, and squeeze the juice over half a pound of fine Lisbon sugar, mixed with the lemon-peel; pour over this two gills of brandy and half a pint of sherry. Let these ingredients be well stirred, then cover the pan with a slate; and when about to use the mince take it from the bottom of the pan.
To make mincemeat pies without meat, carefully prepare, as before directed, a pound and a half of fresh beef-suet, and chop it as small as possible; stone and chop a pound and a half of Smyrna raisins; well wash and dry on a coarse with two pounds of currants; peel, core, and cut small three pounds of russet apples; add a quarter of an ounce of mixed cinnamon and mace in powder, four cloves powdered, a pound an a half of powdered sugar, a tea-spoonful of salt, the juice of a lemon and its peel finely grated, and a table-spoonful of mixed candied fruit cut very small. Let all the above be well mixed together, and remain in the pan a few days. When you are about to make mince pies, throw a gill of brandy and the same of port wine into the pan, and stir together the mince. Line the required number of patty-pans with properly-made paste; fill from the bottom of the pan; cover, and bake quickly.
My mother and grandmothers made their own mincemeat, which takes about three months to cure. If you’re industrious and have lots of time on your hands, you may want to try this recipe.
Makes 4 quarts
1 lb. cooking apples, unpeeled
½ lb. butter (or an equal amount of shredded beef suet)
12 ounces raisins
8 oz. currants
8 oz. golden raisins
4 oz. candied orange peel, chopped (to make it yourself, see recipe below)
4 oz. candied lemon peel, chopped
4 oz. slivered or chopped almonds or chopped walnuts
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
12 oz. dark brown sugar
2 ½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
About ½ cup brandy, or to taste
1. Core and chop apples.
2. Combine all ingredients except brandy; pour into a crock or large glass bowl, cover, and leave on counter overnight.
3. The next day, preheat oven to 225° F. Stir mixture well, then pour into baking pan, cover with foil, and bake 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove from oven, uncover, stir well and let cool completely.
5. Add brandy.
6. Pack into jars or crock. Cover and refrigerate 1-3 months.
Homemade Candied Citrus Peel
Makes about 4 oz.
4 thick-skinned lemons (Meyer lemons’ peel is too thin) or 3 oranges
3 quarts water
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
½ cup sugar
1. Using a vegetable peeler, pare skin from fruit. Reserve the rest of the fruit for another use.
2. In large saucepan, combine 3 quarts water and fruit peel (either lemon or orange; repeat the process for the other fruit). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, until about 1 inch of water remains in the pan (about 1 hour).
3. Remove peels from saucepan and discard liquid.
4. In clean saucepan, combine 2 cups water with 1 cup sugar and boil over high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add peels. Let stand 1-2 hours at room temperature.
5. Return pan to heat and cook peels until they absorb all syrup (about 45 mins.). Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
6. Remove peels from pan, roll in remaining ½ cup sugar, and let stand on waxed paper or parchment overnight.
7. Place peels in airtight container and store in cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. Do not refrigerate. (Refrigeration will make the peels gummy.)
To make a pie, fill pie shell with about 2 quarts of the filling, top with crust (either solid or lattice), and bake in 400° F oven until crust begins to brown (about 30 minutes). Reduce heat to 350° F and bake 30-40 minutes longer, until filling is bubbling and crust is golden.
Which pies do you bake for the holidays? Tell me in the comments! One of the commenters will win a copy of Prairie Rose Publications’ new boxed set of Christmas novellas, A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe. Stories by Stacey Coverstone, Livia J. Washburn, Donna Alice Patton, Kaye Spencer, Gail L. Jenner, and Tanya Hanson are guaranteed to make your holidays merry and bright.
Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.
Visit her hideout on the web at KathleenRiceAdams.com.