Ingredients in traditional mincemeat pie include meat, usually beef, raisins and currants, Granny Smith apples, and the candied peels of citrons, lemons and oranges. Brandy, fresh lemon juice, grated zest and nutmeg are also common ingredients.
Many modern recipes eliminate the meat, substituting vegetable shortening and adding figs and cherries to boost texture. Traditionalists insist that real mincemeat pie must include minced beef suet, the hard fat found around beef loin and kidneys. In addition to suet, many old recipes include chopped rump steak and even venison.
While many recipes are alcohol-free, traditional mincemeat is flavored with brandy or dark rum. Because mincemeat is usually eaten during the holidays, recipes call for traditional fall and winter spices. Although spice profiles vary, most recipes include brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and crystallized ginger.
Fruits used in mincemeat pie usually include chopped Granny Smith apples for tartness and texture, whole currants, raisins and prunes. Although the amount of citrus varies, most recipes include both orange and lemon juice, zest and candied peels.
The key to a good mincemeat pie is slow cooking over low heat. The finished texture should be thick, and the flavor should be rich, slightly meaty, roasted, mellow, bright and smoky.