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Critic-Reporter (Washington, D.C.), February 8, 1872. I sometimes honestly wonder if I’m not getting in over my head with my mince pie researches. Might I be about to awaken a slumbering ancient evil, per about 3,000,000 direct-to-video DVD releases?

And yet I must press on with the work, because lemme tell you, new shit is coming to light faster than I can assimilate it. In addition to these exciting new archival developments, this is a very big day in the Hope Chest Experimental Kitchens, where I am in the midst–nay, the throes–of preparing my very first batch of mince.

And lemme also tell you, this is an extremely labor-intensive pie. Yesterday I got my minced beef ready; today, having earlier shopped for suet and mace and brandy and good stuff like that, I am preparing to chop fruit and start mixing up test batches of mince.

Tomorrow I will be asking a panel of randomly-selected test subjects (i.e. strangers at someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner party) to sample the pie, evaluate its flavor, and get back to me about any physical or psychological side-effects. (And no, I don’t know if this is exactly ethical on my part, okay? But such is my Faustian–Frankensteinian? Mengeleian?–dedication to the advance of historical knowledge.)

Anyway, an account of the results plus an essay on the social history of mince pie will consequently be published in the Chicago Reader, unless of course I can’t make bail.

But before I can proceed with mixing the meth, er, mince, I must wait for my boiled cider to reduce to its appropriate consistency. It was while waiting for my cider to boil that I discovered the above horror, and many other things too strange and wondrous to even think about as I stand here on the threshold of the Hurt Locker.

As for the above item, all I can say is this: Before I put any pies in the oven, I’m definitely gonna put vents in the pastry. (Is this is what people mean when they say “Everything happens for a reason”?)


  1. You are my hero. I love it.

    • Gosh, thanks. Also for the secret of boiled cider. That stuff is awesome.

  2. Hmm. My great-grandmother’s recipe didn’t suit you?

    • Hey wait a sec: I was taking another look at your great-grandma’s receipt (can’t sleep after strange dreams about Nazi gold). If I am reading it right, she’s basically doing the boiled cider thing but with the fruit etc already in the cider. How can there be anything left of the fruit after two hours of bubbling?

  3. I’m working from 1902 recipe from the Chicago Trib for reasons of midwestern parochialism, plus your g.g. was a temperance woman as I understand and I’m not shooting for the 18th-Amendment version. Though I just now ran across an essay arguing that the latter caused far more dyspepsia than the former.
    BUT: I took a small sample (still booze-less) and nuked it just to see what it was like, and I gotta say I liked it. It was weird and extreme even though I wussed out and diminished the mace, clove and nutmeg content, but the mouthfeel of all that molten animal fat and hot fruit was kinda pleasing. Tasted much less like the modern version than I’d expected.

    And now my stomach hurts.

  4. You’re quite right: once the alchemical processes of the kettle are completed, what you have is a dark brown, spicy, gooey mass in which neither fruit nor meat remains entirely distinct, although not quite merged, either. It sets up into a thickish sort of jam once it cools.

    Of course you made your pie crust with high-quality leaf lard, didn’t you? Without that pig-kidney fat, you just won’t get the real Shakes the Clown kinda nightmares.

    • Yup. From the same shop that obliged me with a special bespoke order of suet on the spot.

      Do you do this boiled cider thing?

  5. I do, but not for mince pie. Boiled cider is key to a good apple pie: cut and sugar your apples and put them in a colander over a mixing bowl. Leave them for half an hour, then boil the secreted juices with a good slug of cider till it’s a caramelly syrup. Toss the sliced apples with the juice and put it in the crust to bake. No nightmares–just good wholesome pie- eating delight. (And a superb breakfast, per Mssrs. Emerson and Holmes)

    I raise my fork to you, Scholar-Adventurer of the Kitchen Range!

    • yeah it’s amazing stuff. dunno that i’ve ever made an apple pie (i’m more about the tourtiere) but i will check that out.
      the mince pie experiment was interesting. reactions were largely positive. & my stomach is upset.

      happy thanksgiving, melynda.

        • Jackie
        • Posted November 27, 2009 at 10:49 am
        • Permalink

        Any nightmares or homicidal urges?

        • mrparallel
        • Posted November 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm
        • Permalink

        Any nightmares or homicidal urges?

        Nothing beyond the usual, thanks for asking.

  6. Apropos of the dark side of mince: it was H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite dessert for the winter months.

    • News I can use. Got a source for that?

  7. In a letter to Robert E. Howard, 7 November 1932, Lovecraft writes, “Pie is my favourite dessert, and blueberry (for summer) and mince (for winter) are my preferred kinds.”

    The Internets–they’re powered by love. A sweaty-palmed, furtive, unholy love. But it’s still love.

    • Was it not Randy Bachman who said “Any lovin’s good lovin’ / So I took what I could get / I took what I could get”?

  8. Are mincemeat and plum pudding related? My family used to make a Xmas plum pudding with dried fruit and suet, steam it for hours, and then set it on fire with brandy. The suet was normally used to feed the birds but for this one exception. Are there any plum pudding homicides?

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