Recipes and Memories: Mincemeat Pie from Paula Altenburg

A close friend of mine, who I loved a lot, passed away at the end of November and I didn’t get to say goodbye to her.  She’d had her ninetieth birthday this year, and her health was no longer good, so it’s hard to be too sad when her quality of life wasn’t what she’d like for it to be.

This, however, was her favourite time of year and I can’t help but think of her. She was a second mother to me and a third grandmother to my children, and we all loved her as such.  She spent many hours with my boys, using all the patience I’ve never had, to help them make Christmas ornaments for the tree and bake cookies.

Mincemeat pie happens to be one of my all-time favourite Christmas treats. My own grandmother had given me her recipe for making traditional mincemeat (it’s not vegetarian, so my apologies to anyone who is), and one year my friend and I decided to make a batch for Christmas. This is a really old recipe that measures in bowlfuls, not measuring cups, and I was too inexperienced to consider the repercussions of following the instructions to the letter. When we were done, we had enough mincemeat to last a few years.

I can still see the kitchen….

This recipe is meant to be made with deer meat. I substitute beef, and most people do, but I have to say, (since I’ve eaten both), that the original recipe is best.

So here it is, from Atlantic Canada, my grandmother’s recipe for mincemeat (and as an FYI, my friend politely suggested that in the future, I might want to adjust that word “bowls” to “cups”):

3 bowls chopped meat

6 bowls apples (tart)

4 bowls suet

6 bowls currants and raisins

1 bowl vinegar (white)

1 bowl sugar

1 bowl molasses


Cover the meat with water and stew until the meat falls apart. Drain the water off the meat and boil it down to one cup. Let it cool. Add salt and all kinds of spices. (This really means “allspice,” but it gives you the option of being heavier handed with the ginger and/or cinnamon if you like). Mix all and scald (until the apples are cooked to sauce).


You use it the same way you do the jars of mincemeat you buy in the stores.


Happy holidays!


Paula Altenburg

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7 Replies on Recipes and Memories: Mincemeat Pie from Paula Altenburg

  • Christmas holds dear memories of a loved family member no longer with us. My nana was a major part of our holiday celebrations when I was growing up, so it’s hard not to think of her every christmas. I think she’ll always be apart of my holiday now, in spirit 😉

    Oh, how interesting on the recipe; I’ve never heard of mincemeat having meat in it. Is that a Canadian thing? I think I’ll stick to the traditional fruit and suet recipe for mincemeat, it’s done me proud in the past.

    Giggling now, at remembering the Rachel Green trifle in Friends, when she used minced meat/beef instead of mincemeat. hehe

    • JoAnne, I doubt if it’s as much a Canadian thing as it is a rural thing. That recipe is well over a hundred years old. I like the fruit and suet version too, but I love the deer meat version a lot!

  • Paula,

    Sounds a lot like my grandmother’s recipe. Lots of suet, lots of apples. It smelled so wonderful simmering away on the back of the stove.

    And the memories are almost a flashback. It used to be a big part of fall preparation every year- as soon as one of the hunters in the family got a deer there would be mincemeat-making. It was canned, and made the greatest pies.


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