Editor's note: There's no such thing as too much pie at Thanksgiving, so this week on Sweets is Pie Week—a different recipe every day.
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While almost everyone's heard of mincemeat pie, few people actually consume it regularly or even annually. I've crossed paths with various forms of it on more than one occasion, but these encounters were far from memorable. This week, I delved into the world of mince pies, hoping to finally get a taste of what has kept them relevant for so many years.
Born in 13th century England, mincemeat pies traditionally contain savory beef and suet (beef fat, usually taken from around the kidneys and other organs), made sweet from the addition of fresh and dried fruits, nuts and sweeteners. Since then, some American bakers decided that they'd enjoy the pie more without meat or suet—creating a pie that reminds me a bit of trail mix soaked in booze and sweeteners.
This week I experimented with a couple of different versions of mince, utilizing the traditional and suet-free recipes found online. I followed instructions to the letter, including the step of allowing the fillings to sit for several days before baking, but I was still completely underwhelmed by the too sweet and oddly savory results.
I'm pretty confident that this is one pie I will never fully understand. But for one of my attempts, I substituted bacon and bacon fat for the beefy elements, and ended up with a sweet, savory, and smoky version of mincemeat pie. It's definitely not traditional, but it is pretty darn delicious.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.