Colonial Venison Mincemeat Pie… It’s not what you think! Before creating this recipe, I did a bit of research. First finding: Mincemeat the Original Christmas Pie, was originally made from game. Venison to be more precise, although goose was also used. Mincemeat was originally developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking. Colonial Mincemeat Pie also provided calories and protein to sustain hard physical work necessary hundreds of years ago in England. Mincemeat pies are still considered an essential course in successful holiday dinners, as much as their traditional plum pudding, and wassail bowl! Unfortunately, most people have never tasted the hearty richness of a true old-fashioned mincemeat pie. What you buy in a store, whether a jar of mincemeat filling, or a fully baked mincemeat pie, is NOTHING like the rich, savory flavor of the Royal Venison Mincemeat filling we will create here.
Why has true mincemeat pie all but disappeared from the United States, and even more telling, our Colonial States? For one, the pie strayed way too far from its roots. For two, it contained a rather strange ingredient, beef suet/fat, that most modern day Americans question why, and cannot comprehend eating! Today’s commercial mincemeat pie contains no meat, sometimes no alcohol, and is a weak substitute to the manly, game pie of mincemeat history. The REAL thing comprises several classic Christmas elements – goose, venison, or beef, seasonal apples, dried fruit, and candied peel; diced, spiced, and spiked with sherry and brandy, then baked in a golden crust.
Mincemeat Christmas pie came to be about the time when the Crusaders were returning from the Holy Land, in the 11th Century. They brought home a variety of spices, and dried fruits from the far east. It was important to add three spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) symbolic for the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi (The 3 Wise Men). King Henry V of England served a mincemeat pie at his coronation in 1413, and King Henry VIII liked his Christmas pie to be a main-dish pie filled with mincemeat!
With the continued growth of the field to table movement I hope to breathe new life into true Colonial Venison Mincemeat Pie! If my home testing is any sign of success then may I say my husband is a total convert!! The history simply seals the deal!
Colonial Venison Mincemeat Filling
(Adapted from “The Housekeepers Instructor 1798” and “Revolutionary Cooking 1975”)
Makes about 5 quarts to can or freeze – Recipe can be downsized
4 lbs. Venison, Goose, or both; cooked and ground
1 lb. Beef Fat ground while frozen or extremely cold
1 lb. seedless raisins
2 cups currants or golden raisins
1 cup chopped candied citron – found in produce or with dried fruit
1 cup candied orange peel – diced found in produce or with dried fruit
½ cup dried cranberries – found in produce or with dried fruit
2 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bottle dry sherry 750 ml
1 bottle brandy 750 ml
Peeled chopped apples, and additional brandy – add when you bake
Mix all ingredients together in a non-corrosive bowl. If time permits, allow your mincemeat to age covered in the fridge for 2 weeks to 6 months, feeding with brandy as it absorbs and begins to dry.
Your Colonial Venison Mincemeat can be pressure canned at this point. When you go to make a pie, use 1 lb. of peeled chopped apples, and one ounce of brandy to 1 lb. Mincemeat filling. You can simply mix in the chopped apples to the mincemeat, or regrind with the apples – my preference.
Bake in a prepared crust, brushed with beaten egg, at 375 degrees F for approximately 40 – 60 minutes (time varies with the size of your pie) till filling is bubbly and crust is golden brown.
My Favorite Crust for Game
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur)
1 teaspoon dry thyme
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cold sweet (unsalted) butter cut into pieces
Cold Water (just enough to bind your crust)
1 beaten egg (to brush crusts)
Directions: Mix flour, thyme, and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry cutter, cut butter into flour mixture till it resembles coarse crumbs. With a fork, fluff in enough cold water to just bind your dough together. Roll a bottom and a top crust, fill, brush with beaten egg, pierce & bake. Use leftover dough to make hand pies, and small turnovers. Brush with beaten egg, pierce crust, and bake.