Enjoying Mennonite Mincemeat Pie (On The Second Try…)

While in Pennsylvania last week, my friend Ben and I managed to return to the Mennonite bakery I loved last year. This is a bakery run by “Piker” Mennonites (basically the plainest horse-and-buggy Mennonite group), right off the main highway in Snyder County.

I saw a lot of the same favorites from last year, like fruitcake and pecan pie squares (I’ll do another post with a closer look at this re-visit). But one thing that caught my eye was the prominently-displayed mincemeat pies (I didn’t remember seeing this last year).

I had never had mincemeat pie before, so didn’t know what to expect. Mincemeat has always felt like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, but apparently a holiday treat for some. I got a “medium” size, for $8. They had a larger one for, I think, about $12.

But what is mincemeat? Wikipedia describes it as “a mixture of chopped dried fruit, distilled spirits and spices, and often beef suet, usually used as a pie or pastry filling.” The pie crust is just like the crust you’d have on a “dessert” pie.

Ben and I tried a slice each that evening. We had it cold. I have to say, my tastebuds were confused. I didn’t taste any distilled spirits. But am I eating dinner, or dessert? The meat is there, but so are raisins and a spiced sweet filling. So I was iffy on it.

We thought it might do better warmed up. A couple days later, I tried it that way. Much better I’d say. So much that the pie is almost gone. It may be that the flavor grew on me as well.

It still confuses you as to what category of dish you’re eating. I’ve had meat pies before (chicken pot pie, for example). It’s the sweet-plus-meat aspect that can throw you off. But I suppose that savory/sweet combinations in foods have only grown in popularity in recent years, with creative combinations of foods on the upswing (chicken and waffles, for instance).

This is a classic though, and one that I was finally able to try. Maybe some of you are familiar with it. In any case, it’s one I’ll try again.

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    20 Comments

    1. Lee Zook

      Mince meat pie

      My mother and other family members served mince meat pie usually during the winter. And always warm, sometimes with a bit of butter and molasses. It was a real treat. And served for dessert despite the sweet and savory taste. Good you had the opportunity!

      1. Erik Wesner

        I’m glad I had the chance. If I were to tweak the recipe, I might make it lean a bit more savory and meaty and a bit lighter on the sweetness. Though, that might turn it into a different dish. That said, I did come to enjoy this pie. It’ll be on my radar in future. Butter and molasses sounds like a nice addition as well.

    2. Tim McCann

      Spiked Mincemeat

      We have Mincemeat during the holidays every year. I like to add either rum or brandy to spice it up a bit.

      1. Erik Wesner

        I recall my friend saying something about this traditionally having rum in it, but this one definitely didn’t. But I can see how that would fit the taste.

    3. Becky

      Mincemeat pies

      Mincemeat pies have been around forever especially in England and probably other places in the UK.

      Fruit Pie etc as dessert is actually several hundred years younger than pies.
      The mincemeat pies I filled in with raisins etc. to help stretch the meat in hard times when meat was scarce and then became a Christmas tradition.

      1. Becky

        Correction

        I meant to say that dessert pies, and several hundred years younger than meat pies.

    4. Ann of Ohio

      Pie!

      Dishes with distilled spirits do not taste of the spirits, it’s a flavoring agent and also preservative before the days of refrigeration. Modern commercial mincemeat has no meat and is much sweeter than it used to be as in the US mince pie has become strictly for dessert and usually only at Thanksgiving.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Thanks for explaining that! This one definitely had meat. It had a similar texture to pulled pork (though it was beef).

    5. Carol Norman

      Mincemeat Pie

      My family is Pennsylvania Dutch, and Grandma always made her own mincemeat from scratch. Even though it contains meat, it was definitely served as a desert and was served warm. I have her recipe and have made it a few times. A lot of work, but well worth it in my opinion. What you buy in a can at a grocery store contains no meat and is nothing like the real thing.

      And by the way, even though I have never commented on one of your posts before, I read them often and always enjoy them!

      1. Erik Wesner

        Thanks for this recollection of mincemeat in the PA Dutch tradition Carol. It seems like one of the more unique dishes, especially if served as dessert. And thanks for leaving a comment, glad you enjoy the posts!

    6. Christian Wanner

      The Mince meat pie

      My mother in law used to make it.
      It is one of my favorite pies! It can be pretty much a complete food.

      1. Erik Wesner

        It does seem like its own meal!

    7. Pies

      Here in New Zealand Christmas mince meat pies are made as Wikipedia described it, but they are small tartlets, rather than pies, and one does not taste the suet, or the spirits, just a rich, fruity flavour. Think extremely rich fruit cake flavour, but it is much more moist and less dense in texture, encased in pastry – generally a sweet short crust – once they were made with flaky pastry, but that has faded now – that made it even richer!!.
      Blessings
      Maxine

      1. Erik Wesner
    8. Walter Boomsma

      It's not just for...

      As long-time fans of mincemeat, we’ve been known to occasionally eat it as a side dish with a meal–either hot or cold. The taste does “grow” on you–and there can be wide variations. If, as a pie, it seems a bit “strong,” add a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream. I wish I’d kept a copy of an article I came across years ago suggesting that there was a shortage of minces–similar to ice and there wouldn’t be an abundance of mince meat pie. You know that some people believed it. Actually, it would be more nearly correct to say “minced meat pie.” The meat is cut up into small pieces, aka minced.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Minced meat

        That’s the texture I was trying to describe in another comment. It reminded me of BBQ pork texture, at least in some variations that I’ve had.

    9. Joan

      I’ve known mincemeat pie as a Holiday favorite from childhood. My father’s people we’re Slovenian farmers, and once in the States wound up in the coal mines of Cambria County PA.
      I always thought the “meat” meant nut meat; not really referring to the minimal amount of suet.
      I too enjoy it warmed – always better the next day!

    10. K.D.

      Mince Meat Pie

      Greetings All . . .

      If you’re not interested in the “meat” in mince meat pie,
      and want a tasty dessert pie, try Sara Lee’s “Mince” Pie.
      All fruit and d-lish!!!! You can really taste the orange & lemon
      zests. It comes ready-made (just heat it in the oven), and enjoy
      the apples, currents, raisins & cranberries. Serve warm with
      either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Sadly, I can’t find it
      here in Arizona. Just in California & my native Minnesota and only
      Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Enjoy!!! Erik, thanks for the post.

    11. Mincemeat pie

      Happy New Year Erik!
      There are food items and recipes in everyone’s family that you need to be born and raised on to appreciate…Mincemeat pie would be one of them. Buy one piece and split it. The Mrs. bought a pie at a church bazar and that’s what we did!
      Years ago I made and canned green tomato mincemeat, with no meat. Green tomatoes, apples, raisins, and a variety of spices. It was ok, but didn’t turn into a fave in our family!
      Our four kids like to stick to what they grew up on, so throwing something new on the table is not always met with approval!
      2024 could be your year for the Wisconsin B&B!!! 🙂

    12. Loretta Shumpert

      B-i-H Bakeshoppe

      Years ago during an October trip to Lancaster County my son Eric asked me to see if I could find a mincemeat pie. He had read of them and was curious as to how they would taste. After a couple stops at bakeries an Amish lady told me that mincemeat pies were a winter dish, after butchering and because of the cold weather. Told me it would be December before I would find one.

      In December I got the idea to try to order one to be shipped to have with our Christmas meal. I called the Bird-in-Hand Bakeshoppe and they shipped it right out to me. Being from South Carolina and never having had it before, none of us really cared for it but we were all glad that we had the chance to try it. I sometimes order whoopie pies from there to be shipped, always a treat.