Mom’s recipe started in October when we stripped the garden of its green tomatoes and made our own mincemeat. I still make this (now and then) when I want the house to smell like my childhood home.
Every year, mother and I made mincemeat with the marvelous glut of the last green tomatoes harvested from our garden before the first freeze. The best green tomatoes would be carefully wrapped in newspaper and placed in an old bread box where they would slowly ripen and make their appearance “fresh picked” at the Thanksgiving table. The second-best tomatoes would be placed on the windowsill to ripen over the next couple of weeks.
Now, the third tier of green tomatoes, those with large blemishes, would be used in making mincemeat for the holidays. Her recipe was from her family, so I’m sure some of my LaFlamme and Martel cousins will find this familiar, although I doubt it was ever made the same twice.
We’d always make enough for Thanksgiving mincemeat pies, perhaps save a jar for Christmas, some for Mom’s traditional filled cookies, and some to give away. On her recipe card, she has the measurements all calculated for even larger batches, which we only made a time or two, not everyone being a fan of traditional mincemeat.
The butter is better
Originally, her recipe called for beef suet, but over time we replaced it with butter. It tasted even better, and that is how I make it always! My other twist on this was to add the fresh and candied ginger, not just the ground.
I use either dark rum or Grand Marnier for the spirits. It is also quite delicious with brandy, or even whiskey. You can mix up the fruit in any proportion you like, or add something else such as currants or even goji berries.
The Cookies: A holiday routine
The cookies were part of mom’s Christmas baking routine. I hadn’t made them for years, so I thought it was time for a revisit! The cookie dough is beautiful and soft, and if you are not fond of mincemeat, use a favorite jam. Raspberry is wonderful here!
And you don’t have to make your own mincemeat! There are some lovely jarred varieties available you can substitute. In fact, you can also make these using regular pie pastry, my mother often did!
The large ones using a 2 1/2-inch cutter make almost a dessert serving size. Serve on a pretty plate with dollop of whipped cream to end a festive meal and it’s like a little mince pie!
The LaFlamme Filled Mincemeat Cookies
Makes one dozen large cookies or 18 smaller
This is fun to do with a buddy or two, and the chopping goes much faster! The house will smell delicious, the steam will make everything feel warm and cozy.
So put on the tea kettle, get out the cutting boards, invite the family over, and tell stories about the times before now, while the house fills with exotic scents and memories.
Makes about eight pints or four quarts, enough to get a family through the holidays.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- Mincemeat for filling
- Sugar for sprinkling
Beat butter until soft and add the sugar, blending until creamy.
Add egg and continue beating. Beat in vanilla.
Sift flour. Mix together the cream, soda, and salt. To the sugar mixture, add half the dry, the entire sour cream mixture, and the last of the flour. Don’t over beat.
Chill dough, for at least a half hour. Roll out thin on a floured board. This dough is quite soft and lovely to work with.
Cut into 2- or 2 1/2-inch circles. Use a thin spatula to remove half the rounds to a cookie sheet covered with parchment or a silicon mat. Place a teaspoon of mincemeat on a round and top with a second, sealing the edges gently with your finger. Don’t overfill, and don’t worry about making a pretty border; the dough is quite soft, and any fussing gets lost in the cooking. Make a little slit in the top of each for steam to escape.
Bake at 350 until just browning on the edges, around 20 minutes for the 2 1/2 inch size. Let cool five minutes on the cookie sheet then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
You can frost or glaze these if you like, or enjoy them straight up!
Green Tomato Mincemeat
- ¾ lb. seedless raisins
- ¾ lb. golden raisins
- ¾ lb. dried cherries
- 1 cup dried apricots
- ½ cup. candied ginger, minced
- 2 tbsp. grated lemon rind, or lemon and lime
- 2 tbsp. grated orange rind
- 1 cup brandy, rum, or Grand Marnier
- 3 lbs. green tomatoes, seeded
- 3 lbs. green apples
- 1 ½ lbs. butter, unsalted
- 2 lbs. brown sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tbsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. cloves
- 2 tsp. nutmeg
- ½ tsp. allspice
- 2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
The night before, combine the dried fruit and citrus zest with the spirits. Squeeze in the juice from the fruits as well and let this set.
Wash tomatoes, seed, chop, and place in a large stock pot. Wash and dry the apples, do not peel them. Dice them and place in the pot with the tomatoes. Add all other ingredients along with the soaked fruit and taste. Does it need more cinnamon? Orange?
Bring to a boil, and simmer for at least an hour, until mixture is quite thick and aromatic, and taste again. Do not cover while it is cooking, you want evaporation to take place so it will thicken.
Place in sterilized jars and process in a hot-water bath for 20 minutes. If you don’t want to process the jars, turn them upside down after filling for about ten minutes then right and store in the refrigerator for up to two months, or freeze.
One quart makes a nice pie for the holiday, or a big batch of filled cookies.
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