My grandparents lived about four hours away when I was a kid, so they were never able to attend Grandparents’ Day at our elementary school. Thankfully, my parents were friends with an older couple named Vivian and Barney Kokuma, who faithfully dropped by to play the role.
What I remember most about Vivian was that she loved to make mincemeat pies. Her preferred meat was venison neck. My dad would pass a couple of necks along to her every year, and she’d return the favor by bringing over a finished pie.
It’s actually an ancient preparation dating back to medieval times, though by now it’s been forgotten long enough to qualify once again as fresh and exciting. I especially like to make it by using rendered black bear lard in the crust, which makes this dish even more potent as a conversation starter.
- 1 cup cooked neck meat, minced (left over from Neck Roast)
- 1-1/2 cups chopped tart apples
- 1/2 cup finely chopped beef or pork fat
- 1/3 cup seedless raisins
- 1/3 cup currants
- 1/2 cup game stock or store-bought chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots (optional)
- 2 tbsp. apple jelly
- 1 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1-1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg or mace
- 1/4 tsp. allspice
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 recipe Double-Crust Dough with Bear Fat, or substitute store-bought or homemade pie dough
- 2 tbsp. cider brandy
- Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water)
Double-Crust Dough With Bear Fat
- 4-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. table salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 12 ounces well-chilled bear lard, or substitute pork lard
- 1/2 cup cold milk, or substitute ice water
Bear Lard Crust
Add the flour, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Close the lid and pulse a few times to mix. Cut the chilled bear lard into small pieces. If it gets warm while you are cutting it, throw it in the freezer for a few minutes and then continue.
Open the lid of the processor and distribute the bear lard evenly in the flour. Return the lid to the processor and pulse until the mixture looks pebbly. You want to still see chunks of bear lard in the flour.
Pour the cold milk through the chute and pulse until a dough starts to form. Don’t overmix.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and pat the dough together-don’t knead.
Divide the dough into halves, flatten into discs, and wrap well in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for 1 hour before using.
Preheat oven to 375° .
Combine the meat, apples, fat, raisins, currants, stock, apricots, jelly, molasses, brown sugar, and spices in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring often. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, take your pie crusts out of the fridge and let them sit until they reach room temperature, 10-30 minutes.
When the mincemeat mixture is cool, stir in the brandy and taste. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Set aside while you roll out the crust.
Take one disc of dough, unwrap it, and put it on a well-floured cutting board or countertop. Flour your rolling pin and tap the surface of the dough methodically to flatten and soften it a little. Begin to roll out the disc from the center out. The dough should not stick too tightly to the work surface; you should be able to easily lift it away at all times. If the dough does begin to stick. add more flour to the work surface. Roll the dough out to a circle that’s about 1/4 inch thick and 11-13 inches in diameter. Brush off any extra flour with a pastry brush and transfer the dough to the bottom of a 9-inch pie dish, allowing the dough to hang over the sides. Add the mincemeat filling in an even layer.
Roll out the top crust in the same manner as the bottom. Lay the top crust over the bottom crust and the mincemeat. Press the layers of pie crust together with your fingers. Trim any excess with kitchen shears and crimp as desired. Use a pastry brush to brush the top crust lightly with egg wash. Using a sharp paring knife, make three slits in the center of the pie
Bake the pie until the crust is golden brown, 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before serving.