Last night I attended the Starry Night event at the Waterloo Region Museum and got to see the heritage village at night with lanterns and kerosene lamps going. I worked there many years ago and it was a good reminder of the world in which the women of the New Galt Cook Book were living. A world where the short daylight hours today were important for accomplishing everything needed for Christmas. So tonight I’m making a classic seasonal recipe from Pie section of The New Galt Cook Book (1898). It is Mrs. G. A. Graham‘s recipe for Mince Meat. This version doesn’t contain meat unlike the other two recipes. One uses tongue and the other simply states meat. All three recipes include suet.
This recipe makes a huge amount so I’m cutting it in half. I’d prefer to cut it further but after all my own Christmas activities I don’t have the brain power to cut it in third or quarters. I also don’t think I have a bowl big enough to hold and mix such a large recipe. I pulled out my largest mixing bowl and got to work.
The first task was cutting up the apples. I had a four pound bag of discounted Macintosh apples and I added another pound of Northern Spy apples so that I had 5 pounds of apples. (Doesn’t that sound like an arithmetic problem?) I didn’t bother to peel the apples. I cut them in quarters and removed the cores. Then I sliced them and chopped them further into small pieces. This task took the most time but it gave me time to think. I realized that all I could hear was the clock ticking and the crisp sound of the apples as I cut into them and the plop as they pieces landed in the bowl. I wonder if Mrs. Graham worked in a similar atmosphere?
I weighed my suet and discovered I needed almost two of the bags I buy in the frozen meat section of the grocery store to get 1 1/2 pounds of suet. It was time to start weighing the dried fruits and peel. I added 2 1/2 pounds of raisins, 2 1/2 pounds of currants, 2 pounds of lemon peel, and 1/2 pound (8 ounces) of citron peel. The next instruction had me a bit stumped “every kind of spice”. What sort of spices should I use? After spending almost a year with this cook book I have a sense of the most common spices used in the baking recipes so I started measuring. I added 1/2 tablespoon of each of the following: allspice, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I stirred everything together since I thought it would be easier while the ingredients were still dry.
Time to move on to liquids. I zested 3 lemons and then cut them using my lemon squeezer to get as much juice from them to add to the bowl. If you are using a type of apple that will discolour quickly you might want to add the lemon juice earlier. I poured in 1/2 a bottle of red wine since I didn’t manage to make any of the wine recipes in the cook book. The final ingredient was 1/4 cup of molasses. I took out a heavy spoon and worked to mix everything thoroughly. It was time to pack it into containers to store in the fridge. Mrs. Graham would have put the mincemeat in jars and stored them in a cold place ready to use in making all the mince pies or tarts needed over the Christmas season. Mince meat isn’t cooked ahead. Instead it is stored allowing the flavours to blend. Then it is spooned into pie shells and baked. That’s the moment the mince meat is cooked. I tasted a bit of the mince meat but the real test will be once it is cooked.
Mrs. G. A. Graham is Annie May Nichols. She was born in Toronto in 1859 to Martha (nee Tassie) and Simon Nichols. Annie married George A. Graham in June 1881 when she was twenty-two. The couple married in Toronto but George was a 29 year old bookkeeper in Hagersville at the time. Their only child Evalina was born in November and based on her birth record it looks like George is a bartender in a hotel in Hagersville. The informant for the certificate is John Lawson who is listed as a Hagersville Hotel Keeper. By the 1891 census the family live in a hotel called the Imperial operated by George. The Imperial Hotel was a respectable hotel with comfortable rooms and a dining room with good food. The census lists a cook so I wonder how involve Annie is in the operation of the hotel. At the time of George’s death of stomach cancer in 1907 they lived in Dorchester near London Ontario. He was 54 and still a hotel keeper. Since their daughter was newly married I wonder what Annie did next? Could she stay on at the hotel? Or was this a mistake? There is an Annie and George Graham in Toronto in the 1911 census and the ages are correct and this George is a hotel keeper! Annie dies in 1934 and is listed as a widow so George must have died at some point. Her death is recorded in Toronto where she’s been living at 194 Inglewood Drive.
The “raw” mincemeat is okay. The main taste is the fresh and juicy apples and the dried fruit. Cold suet is not a nice flavour or texture but I hope it will be amazing once cooked. I think it might need more spices but I’ll wait a few days until I use it to make a pie.
Mrs. G. A. Graham
Ten pounds apples, three pounds suet, five pounds raisins, five pounds currants, four pounds lemon peel, one pound citron peel, one tablespoonful of each kind of spice, six lemons, juice and grated rind, one bottle homemade wine, also a half cup molasses.