Most of the cookies I bake during the holidays, I also make throughout the year. The one I do not make at any other time of year is mincemeat. For me, mincemeat is a Christmas tradition, one started long ago when my family still lived in England.
Sometime in the early 1900’s my great-grandmother from my mother’s mother’s side immigrated to New York from England. With her she brought only a few belongings, among them her recipes and traditions for Christmas. These included recipes for mincemeat, mince pies, mince cookies, and a very old recipe and bowl set for plum pudding. These traditions and recipes were handed down to my grandmother and then to me.
Yes, there is an obvious skip in generations there. My mother, although she loves the traditions, had no interest in doing the work. I on the other hand had no intention of allowing these traditions to be lost. At the age of 18, when I moved out on my own, I began playing with these recipes, the heart of what epitomizes Christmas for me.
It is rather ironic that I would want to make any of these recipes, because growing up I hated mincemeat and plum pudding. (Okay, if I used ironic incorrectly here, feel free to correct me. I never seem to get it right.) Even knowing that eating one bite of plum pudding would guarantee me good luck throughout the coming year, I wouldn’t touch it. Not until after I began making my own mincemeat and plum puddings, did I come to appreciate the wonderfully, deep flavors that take years to develop.
Both mincemeat and plum pudding are recipes that need to be made well in advance of the holidays, we’re talking years here. The longer these things age, the better they get. In fact, I would not suggest eating or using either of these things until they are at least a year old.
Of the recipes I use mincemeat for, mincemeat cookies is the only one that I will make days or weeks before Christmas. Mince pies and plum pudding are saved exclusively for Christmas eve and Christmas day. I will admit that for many, mincemeat is an acquired taste, along the lines of fruitcake. Once you get a taste for it, however, it is a taste you will crave all year-long.
- 10 Tbsp. Butter, softened
- 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
- 3 Eggs
- 1 1/2 Cups Aged Mincemeat
- 3 Cups Flour
- 1 tsp. Baking Soda
- 3/4 tsp. Salt
- 1 Cup Walnuts (optional)
Cream shortening and sugar till creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions. Add mincemeat. Stir in dry ingredients.
Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 for 15 minutes.
I do warn you these cookies are best if eaten within three days, as they do tend to become dry after that point.
Cracking open a jar of homemade, aged mincemeat every December is one thing that screams CHRISTMAS for me. The smell is something that stirs memories of Christmas’s past, family get-togethers, and traditions holding fast through the generations, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.