What is Mincemeat?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Mincemeat initially began as a way to preserve food. It would likely have been made in large batches and canned or stored. In many ways, early forms resembled the ingredients cut up for sausages like black pudding and white pudding. The term gets its name from fine cutting of animal ingredients and fruit, essentially mincing the ingredients needed to make mincemeat.


Most commonly, modern mincemeat contains apples, raisins or currants, suet, sugar, and spices like cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Adding brandy or rum, which gives it a rather tart taste, preserves it. It is common to see pies and tarts made from this form offered around the winter holidays. A mincemeat pie may be topped with ice cream or more traditionally, hard sauce, which is a butter and powdered sugar amalgamation that includes a generous shot of brandy or rum.

Mincemeat often includes raisins.
Mincemeat often includes raisins.

It is quite possible to lower the fat content of mincemeat by omitting the suet. Some people use vegetable suet instead of beef fat. An alternate recipe, which is almost identical in taste, is green tomato mincemeat. This provides the necessary tartness, but still requires a little alcohol to replicate more traditional version. The flavor combines tart, spicy and sweet to tantalize the taste buds. Occasionally people substitute a little apple cider vinegar in place of alcohol.

Cinnamon is often included in mincemeat recipes.
Cinnamon is often included in mincemeat recipes.

Some recipes also call for the addition of candied fruit or citron. Some people are quite fond of this addition, and others find the candied fruit bitter. It is not necessary to add candied fruit in order to have traditional mincemeat.

Apples are often included in mincemeat.
Apples are often included in mincemeat.

Often, a pie is made by using about 1.5 cups (about 340 grams) of mincemeat to fill the pie shell. The mincemeat is often topped with sliced pie apples like Granny Smiths or Rhode Island Greenings, to fill out the remaining shell. It is usually served in a double crust or with a lattice crust top. The top crust can be sugared to provide a little more sweetness to the pie.

Mincemeat is commonly spiced with nutmeg.
Mincemeat is commonly spiced with nutmeg.

Since mincemeat takes some time to prepare, as it must be simmered before being used in pies and tarts, it is a good idea to prepare it ahead. It can be canned, or it will also freeze well. Some cooks use small plastic containers to freeze a few portions for later use.

Mincemeat is often topped with sliced Granny Smith apples.
Mincemeat is often topped with sliced Granny Smith apples.

Especially with green tomato mincemeat, preparation for holiday meals including mincemeat pie must take place a few months prior to December. One can often find green tomatoes in the middle of autumn, at local farmer’s markets. Sometimes a specialty grocery store may be able to obtain them if requested. As soon as the weather turns colder, tomatoes are less likely to ripen, so one may also be able, with permission, to raid a neighbor’s garden to find green tomatoes.

Modern mincemeat often contains currants.
Modern mincemeat often contains currants.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Still no answer on what is beef bitters!


I have a recipe for mincemeat cake that is really good. I make this in a bundt pan and spread a caramel frosting on top of it. I have had many people compliment me on this cake.

When I tell them it is mincemeat cake they can't believe it. They didn't think they liked mincemeat! A little bit of sugar always helps, but you can still taste the mincemeat in there.

Whenever I go to a family holiday gathering I am pretty much expected to bring my mincemeat cake. I have never had any leftovers to bring home.


The traditional mincemeat ingredients sound pretty gross to me. I am a vegetarian so I would never dream of trying this. My husband said they used to have mincemeat made from venison when he was young. His dad shot a deer every year and they would make mincemeat from it.

My husband is also a hunter, but he must not have liked the mincemeat very well because he has never made it with the venison meat he gets. It sounds to me that mincemeat is something you have to acquire a taste for.


@myharley -- Making mincemeat from scratch can take some time. Last year I ordered a jar of mincemeat that was already prepared from a country store. This came with currants, raisins, apples and candied oranges and lemon peel. All I had to do was make my own pie crust and you never knew the difference. I will definitely try this again the next time I make some mincemeat pie.


My mom made mincemeat pie every year and it seemed to be quite a time consuming process. As a kid I didn't like it, but as an adult it isn't all that bad. I wouldn't want to eat it every day, but it is nice to have around for a special meal.

A piece of warm mincemeat pie with real whipped cream on it is pretty good. It isn't too sweet and is also somewhat healthy with all the fruit it has in it.


@anon23261 -- I am glad that mincemeat these days contains fruit instead of meat. Just the thought of meat minced together doesn't sound very appealing to me.

I am not a big fan of mincemeat but some people in my family look forward to mincemeat pie every holiday. Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be the only time I ever see this kind of pie around. When I see this I always pass on it and go for pumpkin pie instead.


What are beef bitters?


As far as I know, my Mom's mincemeat pies contain no meat. Yes, I know traditionally the pies would have contained meat, hence the name, but more recently it's a fruit filling that's used.


You can find a discussion of Vegemite on Wiki. Nothing like mincemeat.

My question: My Borden None Such mincemeat, in a jar, has "beef bitters" way down in the ingredients. I cannot find any info on beef bitters. What is/are it/they?


mincemeat was originally made with both beef and pork. I do have a recipe for it and it is very good. --ugpm


Made properly, with venison, you'd never know it had venison in it. Actually, to use up as much of the deer as possible, use neck meat, and because it's cooked for several days (with a lot more than 1/2 pint of brandy), any other cut of meat will disintegrate. At least the neck meat retains some semblance of meat, but does not taste like meat.


Back in the 30's and 40's my dad always butchered a hog every fall and used the hog's head meat to make mincemeat.


Simply put, it is delicious and would not be Thanksgiving without it! Yum!


When i was a young boy about 55 years ago, my crazy aunt came to visit the day after thanksgiving, on friday. I asked for mince pie. She said i should not have it because it contained meat. In the old days, catholics ate no meat on friday. Like i said, she was crazy!

About 20 years ago i read the label and found out it contained meat. So much for crazy aunt fran.


My mother just told me that mincemeat was originally made with venison. Yuck!


Anon5686: Not remotely.


Is mincemeat the same thing as vegemite?

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