This is adapted from an early American recipe. Venison is believed to have been the first meat used in a mincemeat filling. Because the meat was so lean, beef suet was ground along with the cooked, cooled venison to keep the meat from becoming too dry when baked in the pie. Smithsburg, Md., farmer Sally Waltz uses beef neck meat and adds suet, but a well-marbled boneless chuck roast works well instead, and then the suet is not needed.
The suet can be ordered from a farmers market vendor who sells grass-fed beef.
The lard used for the pie crust dough needs to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before it is used.
Make Ahead: The recipe makes more mincemeat than you'll need for this recipe. It can be pressure-canned and stored in jars, or frozen for up to 1 year in heavy-duty resealable plastic food storage bags, with as much air squeezed out as possible. The dough for the pie crust needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.
Servings: 12 - 16
- For the filling
- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds well-marbled boneless chuck roast, roasted, cooled and ground (about 6 1/2 cups; may substitute 3 pounds beef necks, cooked, cooled, deboned and ground (see headnote)
- Kosher salt (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- 4 ounces beef suet (optional; see headnote)
- About 2 cups raisins
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds apples, preferably Golden Delicious, peeled, cored and shredded using a box grater or food processor (about 4 cups)
- 1 to 2 cups packed light or dark brown sugar, amount depending on the sweetness of the apples and cider
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups fresh apple cider
- 1 generous cup whiskey
- For the crusts
- 4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/3 cups pure lard
- 8 tablespoons ice water
For the filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the meat lightly with salt and pepper, if desired, then place it on a rack inside a roasting pan. Roast for about 2 hours, then cut into large chunks and place in a heatproof bowl. Cover loosely, and refrigerate until it is no longer warm. Discard any pan juices.
Working in batches, mince the meat in a food processor with some of the suet, if desired, to yield about 6 1/2 cups, transferring it to a very large mixing bowl as you work. If the mixture seems too soupy, drain off some of the liquid. You want just enough liquid to keep the filling moist in the pie.
Place the raisins in a large saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 10 minutes, then drain and add to the minced meat. Add the shredded apple, 1 cup of the brown sugar, the cinnamon, cloves, salt, apple cider and whiskey. Stir to mix well; taste, and add some or all of the remaining brown sugar, as needed. Let the mixture sit for 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature before using; during that time, the filling will thicken. The yield is about 4 quarts.
(At this point, cover and refrigerate half of the filling for the 2 pies, reserving the rest for another use (see headnote).
For the crusts: Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the lard. Use two forks or a pastry cutter to work the lard into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add the ice water, mixing with a fork to form a fairly firm dough. Divide into four equal portions.
Roll each portion of dough between two sheets of plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/4 to 1/2 inch and a diameter of 11 inches. (If you do this on flexible cutting boards, it's easy to transfer to the refrigerator.) Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have two 9-inch pie plates or pans at hand.
Discard the top plastic wrap of two of the rolled-out pie dough rounds. Carefully invert each one on the pie plates or pans; discard the remaining plastic wrap. Gently press the dough in to form bottom crusts, trimming the edges of the dough as needed, leaving about a 1/2-inch overhang.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 quart of filling into each pie shell, spreading it evenly and being careful not to transfer too much liquid. (The filling should look wet, but there should not be small pools of liquid.)
Discard the top plastic wrap from the two remaining pie dough rounds. Carefully invert each one so it completely covers the filling. Discard the remaining plastic wrap. Trim, press and crimp the edges to complete the two pies. Use a fork or sharp knife to create enough small holes in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Transfer to the middle oven rack; bake for 10 minutes (to help set the crust). then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes or until the crust edges are light golden brown.
Transfer the pies to a wire rack to cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
The mincemeat filling recipe is from Sally Waltz; the pie crust recipe is adapted from "At the Hearth: Early American Recipes," by Mary Sue Pagan Latini (Noble House, 1995).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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