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Mincemeat Pie Recipe

November 28th, 2017 by Susan Odom

Plum pudding and Mincemeat made at Hillside Homestead

Plum pudding on the left and several large jars of mincemeat on the right.

Mincemeat – The ratio based recipe


This recipe is based on the recipes in The Kentucky Housewife, published in 1839.  Over the years I have tweaked this recipe and developed a ratio for the ingredients based on about one pound of prepared tongue. I found that I normally get about 1 pound of prepared meat from a raw beef tongue after it is cooked, trimmed, and minced.


Ratio of ingredients

  • 1 beef tongue or  1 pound plus of venison loin (back strap)
  • 1 pound of Beef kidney suet
  • 2 pounds of dried fruit (raisins, currants, cherries, etc)
  • 1 pound of candied fruit (brandied cherries, citron, orange peel, lemon peel, some people use some preserves or nice jam)
  • 3 pounds of prepared apples, Rhode island greenings
  • .5 pounds of almonds, walnuts and/or hickory nuts
  • 2 pounds of sugar
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon mace
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 quart cider
  • 1 pint brandy
  • Molasses to cover tongue



Thus is a long and somewhat complicated recipe. You have to really want to make it. And this is called mincemeat for a good reason; there is lots of chopping and mincing to do. Read the recipe thoroughly and make a plan, it will take a few days to complete.


Put the beef tongue in a large pot of water and simmer till cooked but still tender, a knife inserted to the thick part should go in easily. You could also call it ‘fork tender’. This takes 2-3 hours or more. Don’t let it cook fast because that makes the tongue tough. Remove the tongue from the pot to cool a bit. When it has cooled just enough to handle it, go ahead and peel off the skin and taste buds. Trim off the root parts and any glands. A lot gets trimmed off. Trim it nicely and put it in a covered dish and cover it with molasses. Refrigerate that overnight. The next day mince the tongue very fine. For backstrap roast it in stead.


Now prepare all the other ingredients and have them ready. Here are a few notes on some of them.


  • Dried Cherries: Chop the cherries in half. If you don’t have these you could try dried apricots or maybe prunes and some dates.
  • Brandied Cherries: I make my own brandied cherries; you can skip this step if you don’t have any. I don’t know where they can be purchased. Some recipes call for adding some preserves or nice jam. You could try that.
  • Apples: I like to use Rhode Island Greening apples. They are a very fine cooking apples and don’t turn to mush in the mincemeat crock. They are peeled, cored and minced fine.


  • Citron: I only use my homemade candied citron. I think the conventional citron available at common grocery stores is intolerable and should be avoided. It does not taste like the real thing at all. If you can’t get any good citron, just skip it. And of course to prepare it for the mincemeat crock it should be minced fine. You can add some quality candied lemon or orange peel instead.


  • Nuts: of course mince them fine.


  • Oranges and lemons: First grate the rind of the citrus fruit and set it aside in a bowl. Then squeeze the juice from what is left and set it aside in another bowl.
  • Cider: This is called hard cider today. I can buy it local but not everyone can. Lots of local ciders are being produced today. If no local is available,  woodchuck brand will do. This is a fermented drink. It is often confused with apple jack or other types of spirits or whisky.  It is not as strong as whisky or brandy or even wine.


  • Brandy: I use the Ernest and Julio brand of brandy


  • Beef suet: Know the weight of your beef tongues and get the same amount in beef suet. On average I have found tongues are about 1.5 pounds each. Many local butchers will put the beef suet through a sausage grinder for you, thus mincing it for you. If you have to buy the suet whole you will have to mince it very finely yourself. This is a lot of work.


After you have all the indigents ready and standing by you can begin to mix it all together.


Mix the suet with the salt and about 2 cups of the sugar, so that the suet is well coated and does not clump together. Take ½ cup of the sugar and the grated lemon and orange rind and mix those 3 ingredients together well. Now mix the suet with the minced tongue and apples. Add the raisins and currants. Sprinkle the sugar and citrus rind mixture on top and mix it all well together. Add the dried cherries and brandied cherries and mix well. Sprinkle the citron and almonds on top and mix it all together very thoroughly.


Dissolve and simmer the remaining sugar in the brandy and the cider. Then add the spices to it and dissolve. Then add the lemon and orange juice. Let it simmer a bit more. Let it cool before adding it to the crock of mincemeat.


Now mix the wet ingredients with the other ingredients in a tall crock or some large container. Allow this mixture to stand for at least a few days before attempting to use it, two weeks or more is ideal. This will make about 1-2 gallons of mincemeat. Keep the mincemeat in a crock/crocks or gallon glass jars all throughout the holiday season and use as needed.  It is usually made in early November and then used to make pies until it runs out, maybe sometime in January or February. The crock of mincemeat can be kept in the refrigerator or a cellar or maybe even a cold garage. Just keep it well covered with a heavy cloth and some string or a lid. Don’t let it freeze.  It should stay moist. In the beginning it will soak up lots of moisture so you will have to add more brandy and cider. Be liberal with the liquids and keep the mincemeat moist.  The liquor is what keeps it from spoiling and the sugar too! The mincemeat improves with age. Make sure to stir it at least every other day. If it does not get stirred the mincemeat exposed to the air at the top of the crock will start to mold.


When you want to make a pie, prepare a top and bottom crust. Put the bottom crust into the pie plate and prick the bottom of the crust and then scoop in enough mincemeat mixture to fill the crust, you can add more minced apples at this point if desired. Put the top crust on and cut some vents into the top. I always brush a bit of milk on the top crust and sprinkle a bit of sugar. It improves the way the crust looks. Bake at about 350 degrees till golden brown probably about an hour. Enjoy! If anyone has any questions please contact me and I would love to hear from you if you really do make this!


February 2017 Value-Added Meat CSA

February 24th, 2017 by Susan Odom


Value-Added Meat CSA

Welcome to the third installment of our value-added meat CSA. We hope you enjoy it. Below are a few comments about some of the articles in your box. If you have any questions, please let us know. You can contact email Susan here.

Maple Smoked Bacon

We are proud of this bacon. It was cured using locally sourced maple syrup and then hickory smoked. It has not been sliced, which gives you the opportunity to slice it thick or think or to dice for a recipe.

Smoked Ham

This is a fully cooked food. Thaw in the fridge to slice and eat. Or let it come up to room temp and slice. It also is good fried, sliced thick or thin for sandwiches, or in your favorite recipe.

Smoked Andouille

A spicy, smoked Cajun sausage ready for your favorite recipes. Delicious in jambalaya or Susan likes it in fried cabbage with apples. One of Andrea’s specialties.

Italian Sausage

This is not like the stuff you get at the grocery store. We toasted the fennel, we minced the garlic fresh – this stuff is the best. Your share may include links or bulk sausage, all fresh and ready for you to fully cook in your recipe.

Poultry Bone Broth

This delicious  poultry bone broth is made from bones and the feet of chickens and ducks. Yes you read that right, feet. Don’t be afraid because the cartilage in all of those bones is so good for you! We combine the bones with carrots, celery, onion, garlic and dried herbs from Susan’s garden and plenty of cold well water. Simmer for hours on the wood stove.

Maple Sugaring at Hillside Homestead

February 16th, 2017 by Susan Odom

Time to make sugar at Hillside Homestead

Maple Sugaring season is upon us at Hillside Homestead. How long will it last, only the weather knows. The perfect weather is around 40 degrees during the day and dipping below freezing at night; that allows the sap to run up the tree and then drop back down at night.

Just for fun here are some maple sugaring entries from Sarah Palmer’s diary. Sarah and her husband farmed in my community and she kept a diary from1876 to 1915, not every day, but many days.

April 9, 1893
Perry got home this morning. Lorin came down this morning. Nellie is sick. Elmer brought Edwin & Clyde up to stay while they went over to Eri’s. Indian (a sir name was given but it was unclear) came here & brought us a pail of maple syrup. Mother was here a while. Elmer came for the children after supper & Lorin went home in the evening.

March 17, 1904
Lyle went up to Norris’s Mill with a grist of wheat, Pa done the noon chores. Rosa’s cough keeps troublesome, she is taking Kings Discovery. It is not very cold nor very bright, it snows. my cold bothers me a good deal. I am eating maple sugar every day. Lyle got his grist ground and got back home about three oclock. Pa walked to town this afternoon and got a letter from Amzi and one from Catherine Peck. I will make biscuit for supper.

April 23, 1907
Pa went to town afoot the boys went to school. I sent a letter off to Perry, also one to Amanda Weaver at Gr Rapids. Eri came before dinner. Clyde Peck is plowing across the road & brings his dinner up here at noon at sits at the table with us. Lyle is plowing. Rosa finished her washing. I made bread six loaves, and a batch of cookies. We had a dish full of maple syrup that I made on the stove.
Notes: evidence of making syrup on the stove and not outside! And the neighbor is already out plowing and she is still making syurp, overlapping seasons.

Sept 24 and 25, 1908
Baked bread, cake, cookies, and apple pies and made sauce. We went to the Leelanaw Co Fair, Melville took Ned and Dennis and the Calf. I took a big plant of California grass and Arthur’s cake of maple sugar, 25 years old. We took our dinners with the Catholic ladies. School closed for afternoon and the boys went from school.

We all went to the Fair again. We got our dinners with the Ladies Aid of the Keswick church. the boys went from school again to day. Melville got First premium on Ned & the calf and winter squash, we had watermelons and onions there, I got 1st premium on the plant and Arthurs maple sugar.

Notes: 1st premium means first prize which usually included a monetary award too. So She won an award for one of her houseplants and a 25 year old cake of maple sugar! And she uses an old spelling of Leelanau, replacing the U with a W .

Three meals a day, literally and figuratively. The cure for what ails us.

February 5th, 2017 by Susan Odom



Today I spent some time reading a 19th century book called, “The Hearthstone; or Life at Home. A Household Manual. ” by Laura C. Holloway, 1883.

It eloquently describes many housekeeping themes from the 19th century  most of which I am familiar with. They seem trite in todays world, they include topics like,  understanding why there should be a parlour for company and a sitting room for family, reconciling with the tyranny of carpets, the dangers of overcrowding and cluttering in furnishings, window decorations and more.

But I heard a theme today that I had not really considered as of late and that is the home is the center of all that is good and right, “… the best security for civilization is the home, and upon its perpetuity rests the future of the world.” This idea of individual homes that are the center of it all seems lost to history to me. I don’t recall that emphasis in my 52 years on this planet. I can sense a theme in my life of family being very important but somehow that seems a bit different from the ‘home’ emphasis here.

But do not think the author of this book is entirely focused on lace curtains and window boxes, although she does expand a lot on those topics, she extrapolates her idea to say this, “The basis upon which all homes should be founded is good living  and no matter how straitened the circumstances  how little there is to be spent, this can always be secured if housekeepers will begin at the beginning –that is, in the kitchen.”

So then she goes on to explain how three well-planned meals, served at a consistent hour each each day, in an attractive dinning room will lead to family togetherness and harmony. I admit this all appeals to me — especially that is, because it comes from the kitchen. I adore the kitchen and all things food.

I am thoughtfully considering these ideas and comparing them to the modern world today where there seems to be such division, falseness, intolerance and fear. It makes me wonder if three meals a day, at a lovely table would give us all the chance to engage in conversation. The author of the book expresses it thus, “The dinning room out to be the pleasantest place in the house; it is the meeting room where the family are expected to be always present at stated times, and where the events of the day are talked over while the pleasant business of eating is being discussed.”

Of course it is dangerous to look at history with rose-colored glasses. No generation is devoid of strife. But the theme of home and three meals a day, literally and figuratively, as center in our lives and how that might apply in 2017  gives me reason to pause and think and to….that is, digest.

"The Hearthstone; or Life at Home. A Household Manual. " by Laura C. Holloway, 1883.

“The Hearthstone; or Life at Home. A Household Manual. ” by Laura C. Holloway, 1883.

Thoughts on chicken breeds from 1884

February 2nd, 2017 by Susan Odom

So I spent some time tonight reading about chicken breeds or varieties in a lovely,thorough and lengthy at 1234 pages, book from 1884 called, “The People’s Farm and Stock Cyclopedia” by Waldo F. Brown. The chapter on chickens certainly warrants a second, third and more readings, but I did glean a few things this evening.

I have a mixed flock, which perhaps I am tiring a bit of because I am observing and beginning to real understand the differences in the chicken breeds. I’ve been keeping chickens now for about six years and at last I am honing in on what I want from my flock.  Last summer I had some chicks hatch out her for the first time. The father is a Buff Cochin and the mother is a Light Brahma. This book suggests crossing Light Brahma hens with Partridge Cochin cocks (I do appreciate that they use the real word for an intact male chicken, rooster is a Victorian euphemism) to obtain a large fowl for meat purposes. So that peaked my interest. Of course my cross was with a Buff Cochin and not a Partridge Cochin. As an aside I do have a Partridge Cochin hen.

But the author goes on to say that it is only the first cross that is desirable to produce a large fowl. It states that if one allows “..the half-breed fowls to breed together the stock will rapidly degenerate.” It goes on with this good advice, “Caponize the cockerels and fatten the pullets for hte fall and winter markets, when they will bring a good price.” I don’t know how to caponize and I do not understand that entire process.

I wondered if my mixed chicken breeds would produce strong young. This book says no. This may help me decide what to do with those birds who I call my ‘Brochins’. My funny way of mixing Brahma and Cochin.

It also states that the Buff Cochin is a favorite among the chicken fanciers. But they are not popular among farmers because they are poor layers. Well I do keep a few birds just because they are fancy. But as the years go by, I become more and more a farmer. My selection of chicken breeds is starting to reflect that.

He notes that all the other Cochin varieties are good layers, except for the Buff. Now I wonder how different the Buff Cochin is in 2017 compared to the 1884 Buff Cochin. Breeds evolve and change.

He states the Buff is a docile bird, which I can confirm in my barnyard observations. And this lovely quote, gives me something to think about as I close this post; again regarding the Buff Cochin, “They are very quiet and docile, and as sitters and mothers can not be excelled by any thing that wears chicken feathers.” I value quite highly chicken breeds that can successfully reproduce on their own.

Illustrations of chicken breeds from 1884

Illustrations of heritage breed chickens from an 1884 farming manual.


Farm manual from 1885 title page, includes chicken breeds and much more

Title page of the 1884 farm manual, “The People’s Farm and Stock Cyclopedia”