Wednesday, December 8, 2021

"Real" Mincemeat Pie #ChristmasPie by @Leslie Karst

A few weeks back, I mentioned that I'd made a "real" mincemeat pie (i.e., with actual meat in it) some time ago, and how very delicious--and decadent--it was. I've decided to provide the recipe and method here now, several weeks before Christmas, to give you ample time in case you decide to take the plunge and try it out for yourself.

Mincemeat pie apparently originated in England when the crusaders brought back spices from the Holy Land, and the pies—made with mutton—became a part of the Christmas festivities. (See a history here.)

This recipe is not for those whose new year resolutions involve losing weight, as it contains, in addition to the apples, raisins and brown sugar in your typical mince pie, beef and suet (i.e., beef fat), not to mention two sticks of butter for the crust. 

I based this recipe on one I found on line (see here), but changed it a fair bit, and cut it down to enough for just one pie. (I've set out the basic recipe first, with the method and photos to follow.)

you know it’s rich when the dollop of whipped cream cuts the fat

"Real" Mincemeat Pie Recipe


1 lb. braised beef (see below), cooled and chopped into small pieces
liquid or gelatin from braised beef
½ lb. raw suet, chopped into small pieces
2 medium apples, cut into small chunks
1 cup raisins (or mixture of raisins and currants)
juice of 1 lemon
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ cup dark rum or brandy
1 t cinnamon
½ t ground cloves
½ t allspice
½ t nutmeg
½ t salt

Mix all ingredients in a large pot and simmer uncovered, stirring often, for one hour. Let cool. Can be made several days ahead and kept in the fridge.

Crust (for two 9-inch crusts--enough for one pie)

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
1 t salt (if using unsalted butter)
1 cup cold butter, cut into small chunks
3-6 T ice water

Combine flour and (if using) salt. Add the butter and mix lightly, either with your hands or in a food processor. Add ice water little by little, until the dough just holds together. Form into two balls with floured hands, press into 4-inch discs, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. (This much can be done a day or two ahead.) Roll out into two crusts, slightly larger than the pie pan you are using.

To Bake

Put bottom crust in pan; add filling; top with second crust. Cut slits in crust and bake at 425°F oven for about 30 minutes, until it starts to brown. Remove foil and continue baking for another 10 or 15 minutes, until golden brown.

The Method

For my pie I settled on beef, as mutton is rather gamey, and hard to come by—especially in Hawaii—in any case. Start by browning and then braising one pound of chuck or other similar cut of beef. To braise the beef, cover it with water and simmer, covered, until tender (at least an hour), and then uncover it and let all but about a cup of the liquid evaporate:

You can see here that after it cooled overnight in the fridge, the liquid from my beef had become a yummy gelatin. Be sure to save the gelatin to add to your pie.

Obraining suet here in Hilo was an interesting experience. I rang the bell at the butcher department of my local grocery store, and was met by a deaf woman who didn’t know what suet was. After a few frustrating minutes playing charades and writing down the word “suet” on a piece of paper, only to be met by a shrug of the shoulders, she went in search of her cohort. He was a big man with red cheeks and a nice smile. “Suet?” he asked. “We don’t get asked for that often.” I could tell he was pleased with my request.

“It’s for a pie,” I said.

“Well, I do get some when I break down the T-Bones. I could save it for you, but it won’t be a lot.”

“I only need a half a pound, or even less.” He stood there for a moment sizing me up and then said, “I tell you what. I was going to do it later this afternoon, but I guess I could do it now. If you’ve got more shopping to do, just come back in about fifteen minutes and I’ll have it for you.”

When I returned, he handed me this packet:

Twenty-five cents for pet food. What a guy. I do love butchers.

To make a proper mincemeat pie, all you do is add your chopped cooked meat and (uncooked) suet to your regular mince pie filling. Here is my beef and suet chopped up and ready to go:

For the rest of the filling, combine 2 apples, chopped, the juice of 1 lemon,

1 cup of raisins, ½ cup of apple cider vinegar, and 1 ½ cups brown sugar.

Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon each of ground cloves, allspice and nutmeg. Finish it off with ½ cup of dark rum or brandy (this can be added either before or after cooking the filling).

Cook it all together (don’t forget to add the meat, gelatin, and suet) for an hour and then let it cool. Add salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon).

This filling can be made several days ahead and kept in the fridge. I baked my pie on Christmas day, so it would still be warm when we ate it.

You’ll need a bottom and a top crust. For those unfamiliar with making pie crusts, I recommend this video. I don’t use a food processor, as it’s just one more thing to wash, and instead use my hands. Make sure you don’t overwork the dough; it should just barely hold together, and the butter pieces should be (as she says in the video) big—lima bean size.

Lay your bottom layer of pie crust in the pan and crimp the edges, and then spoon in the mince pie filling.

those flecks of white are the suet

Lay the top crust on top, trim the edges, and crimp it into the bottom crust. I had a lot of extra dough, so I rolled it out again and cut it into strips to make a lattice on top, using half and half brushed on first to act as a glue. Cut vents in the top, so the steam can be released during cooking.

brush half and half (or egg wash or milk)
on top of the lattice as well, for good browning

Cover the edges with foil and bake the pie in a preheated 425°F oven for about 30 minutes, until it starts to brown.

Carefully remove the foil (so it doesn’t take any crust with it) and continue baking for another 10 or 15 minutes, until the pie is golden brown all over.

Serve it warm (you can reheat it in the oven for a few minutes if it’s gotten completely cool). It goes great with ice cream or whipped cream (see photo at top of post).

And the result? you’re no doubt wondering. Truly amazing. You don’t really taste the meat, but it gives the pie an extraordinary texture and, well, meatiness. I’ve never been much of a fan of regular, out-of-the-box mince pies, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say that this was one of the best pies I’ve ever had.

But be warned that it is very, VERY rich.

🌱  🍎  🌿


The daughter of a law professor and a potter, Leslie Karst learned early, during family dinner conversations, the value of both careful analysis and the arts—ideal ingredients for a mystery story. Putting this early education to good use, she now writes the Lefty Award-nominated Sally Solari Mysteries, a culinary series set in Santa Cruz, California. 
An ex-lawyer like her sleuth, Leslie also has degrees in English literature and the culinary arts. She and her wife and their Jack Russell mix split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawai‘i.

Leslie’s website
Leslie also blogs with Chicks on the Case
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Praise for Leslie's most recent Sally Solari mystery, the Lefty Award-nominated MURDER FROM SCRATCH:

“Karst seasons her writing with an accurate insider’s view of restaurant operation, as well as a tenderness in the way she treats family, death and Sally’s reactions to Evelyn’s blindness.”

Ellery Queen Magazine (featured pick)

All four Sally Solari Mysteries are available through AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Bookshop.


Dying for a TasteA Measure of Murder, and Murder from Scratch are also available as AUDIOBOOKS from Audible!


  1. Hope you are handling the crazy weather Hawaii has been having.
    "or mixture of raisins and currents" I know in Hilo you are right next to the ocean, but are there currents in your fruit or is the fruit currants?
    Amazing to think about cooking the meat first and then cooking it (along with everything else) for an additional hour.

    1. Lol, Libby! Yes, we've been having some strong currents here of late--time to eat some currants!

  2. I'm an Anglophile so mince pies have long piqued my interest. Thank you for a "doable" recipe!

    1. You are so very welcome, Libby--you're going to love it!

  3. I had "real" mincemeat pie as a child - a marvelous experience! Thanks for taking us along on your mincemeat adventure, Leslie.

    1. Where did you have it, Molly? The British Isles?