Mincemeat developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking some 500 years ago in England, where mince pies are still considered an essential accompaniment to holiday dinners just like the traditional plum pudding.
To learn more about the history of mincemeat, check out Linda Stradley’s History of Pies.
Mincemeat is, very simply, a mixture of fruits and spices that are cooked with or without minced meat and generally doused with brandy, rum, or whiskey. It improves and becomes more moist as the weeks pass, so allow it to mature for at least four weeks before using.
Mincemeat should be checked during storage to prevent dryness. If it looks dry after it has been stirred, add one to two peeled, cored, and grated apples, or 1/4 cup dry sherry or brandy.
Unfortunately, most people have never tasted a true old-fashioned mincemeat pie (also called mince pie). The flavor of real mince meat pie (not the bottled version purchased at your local store) is sort of like a Middle Eastern mixture of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. There’s a definite meaty taste, which I really like, with an ever-so-slight sweet flavor.