Among the holiday treats from my childhood were cookies shaped in half moons, the sweet dough pressed around a dollop of mincemeat and puffed to a golden brown.
The cookies were favorites in our household; although for me, the appeal was probably more the pie crust dough than the sweet mincemeat inside. Mom used jarred mincemeat from the grocery store, and I don’t think I realized “real” mincemeat actually contained meat until I was grown and away from home. I have a feeling that had Mom used “real” mincemeat, those cookies would not hold such a place of fondness in my memory.
What is Mincemeat?
Minced meat started as a way to preserve meat, using sugar as the preservative. As a spiced meat pie, it was a medieval holiday tradition in England; the minced and preserved meat was loaded up with dried fruits and spices and was served as a main dish. Nowadays, the mixture is more fruit than meat, in particular, since dried fruit, spices and sugar became more readily available.
The beginnings of the mincemeat pie as a Christmas tradition probably started about the time the Crusaders began returning from the Holy Land in the 11th century. The warriors came bearing gifts of oriental spices — cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — and the pies were often shaped as cradles (or coffins) with a doll representing the Christ Child placed on top. Gradually the pies grew smaller, the shape became round, and the meat was reduced in favor of spices, sweeteners and dried fruit. The mixture was often steeped in brandy.
Over the years, the pie has become more sweet and less savory, but it remains popular at the holidays.
Dolores Kraus, Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, would like to a find a cookie recipe her mother had in the late 1950s or mid-’60s. It was for mincemeat cookies that may have been called mincemeat stars, and it was printed on the box or jar of store-bought mincemeat. The dough was more like a cookie rather than a pie crust dough, and it had a slight orange flavor.
OLD-FASHIONED BARBECUE SAUCE
Jean Crocket, Idabel, Oklahoma, is searching for an old-fashioned barbecue sauce that does not include ketchup or tomato sauce. She says it was kind of watery.
Betty Kelley, Vail, Arizona, remembers a rice pudding recipe from years ago that has gone missing. It included uncooked rice, milk, eggs and butter, and it was cooked in the oven and stirred every 15 minutes.
Evelyn Jessen, Pittsgrove, New Jersey, would like to find a cake recipe that was in a Pillsbury bake-off book back in the 1950s or ’60s. She thinks it was called Hawaiian Torte, and the top contained brown sugar, coconut and maybe pineapple, and the topping was baked with the cake.
Pat Upchurch, Ardmore, Oklahoma, remembers a recipe called Pineapple-Coconut Candy that her mother made and sent to her brother who was in the Army during World War II. It included pecans if they had any. “My brother’s son has heard of this candy, but has never tasted it, and we would all like to enjoy it again. The recipe was lost after our mother passed away in the 1970s. Sugar was rationed during the war, and we would save and save and save until Mother had enough on hand to make this candy,” she says.
• Donna Reiter, Cambridge, Minnesota, says her family remembers a dish made by her grandmother that contains mashed potatoes, rutabagas and shredded pork roast. Her great-grandparents were German immigrants, and her grandfather was Pennsylvania Dutch, but she’s not sure which side of the family the recipe is from.
• Catherine Conner, Manassas, Virginia, remembers a recipe for barbecued short ribs that may have been in GRIT or CAPPER’s a number of years ago. It contained tomato sauce, vinegar and spices. The meat was soaked in a marinade overnight, and the next day the ribs were cooked in the marinade until done.
• Sue Clemente, Rutland, Vermont, is looking for a lost recipe from her childhood. She says her mother used to make what they called “choker cookies,” which were a type of sugar cookie that included chocolate cookies. The cookies were higher and rounder than other sugar cookies.
• Betty Schmidtlein, Richmond, California, hopes someone has a persimmon cake recipe to share.
• Cora Bash, Stuart, Iowa, has lost a recipe for Cherry Mash Candy Bars. The center fondant was made with cherry flavoring, not chips. The recipe also includes ground nuts and chocolate chips, which were mixed together to form the bottom and top crusts, with the fondant in the center. It was cut into bars.
• Armyllis Isom, Bedford, Indiana, is looking for a lost recipe called Chicken & Mushroom Risotto.
• Bonnie Elliott, Belleville, Kansas, hopes someone has the Lemon Meringue Pie recipe that was printed on the back of the Argo Corn Starch box. She calls it foolproof, and she would love to have the recipe again.
• Elizabeth Goodman, North English, Iowa, lost a recipe for Rhubarb Bars when her family’s home burned down. She says the recipe included a mixture of oatmeal and other ingredients. Half was spread in the pan, followed by a layer of raw rhubarb, possibly mixed with sugar. The rest of the oatmeal mixture went on top of the rhubarb. She says it was a bar cookie.
If you’ve been looking for a long-lost recipe, or can provide one, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Recipe Box, c/o Grit and CAPPER’s, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. Email is our preferred method of communication, and requests and submissions will be more likely to be answered in a timely fashion if sent electronically. Please include your name, address and daytime phone number on any correspondence. Recipes cannot be returned; we will forward the first 10 recipes to the person who made the original request, and then file the rest for possible online or print publication. Addresses are not printed to allow us the opportunity to publish recipes before sending them on to the requesting party.