Abby Borden’s mincemeat pies
With Christmas on the doorstep, it is good to imagine Abby Borden in a white apron in front of the old iron wood stove on Second Street making up her mincemeat pies to take on calls to her half-sister Bertie Whitehead on 4th street and Bert’s two children, George and Little Abbie. Mincemeat in the 1890’s was quite different from the Nonesuch mincemeat in jars on supermarket shelves today- it actually did have meat in it and was the perfect way to preserve and use up leftover scraps of beef, venison or other wild game meat. Heavily spiced, this type of meat-spice concoction is still popular in many Middle Eastern countries today. If you visit the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast in Fall River, a little replica bottle of Abby’s secret ingredient is on display, rose water. The rose water was not used in the crust, but rather in the actual mincemeat, which contains apples and other fruits. This custom of using rose water in fruit pies is still observed in some Amish communities. Here is an old recipe for real mincemeat. The alcohol would have cooked away from the brandy in the baking, leaving the flavor – that is, if Andrew Borden allowed “spirits” in the house!
4 pounds venison, wild game meat, or beef
2 1/2 cups suet, finely chopped or grated*
7 1/2 cups chopped tart apples
3 cups liquid which meat of your choice was cooked in
5 cups granulated sugar
3 cups apple cider
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon rose water
3 cups raisins
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons ground allspice
2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 oranges
1 cup brandy or sherry
From Sullivan’s Goodbye Lizzie Borden, page 20 from information supplied by Abby Whitehead Potter, Abby Borden’s niece:
“”Mrs. Abby Potter recalls those visits and the little gifts which her aunt brought to the far less prosperous Whiteheads; especially she recalls her aunt’s freshly baked mince pies, into which Mrs. Borden had sprinkled rosewater to make them more tempting to taste and smell.”
Abby trundling along Second Street, turning at Rodman and continuing up to Fourth Street with pie basket in hand, sure in the knowledge of two appreciative little faces waiting for pie at journey’s end is a pleasant thought at Christmas or at any other time of year.
The pie sounds very tasty. I bet “Little Abby” looked forward to Aunt Abby’s visits. It makes Abby even more real thinking of her making pies.