Scraps of any meat, boiled until tender
Suet or salt pork, chopped fine
Apples, 1/2 to 2/3 as much as there is meat and suet
Spices to taste, especially cloves
Lemon peel [grated] and juice, optional
Sugar or sweetened fruit juice (optional)
These may be made of almost any cheap pieces of meat, boiled till tender; add suet or salt pork chopped very fine, half or two thirds as much apple as meat; sugar and spices to your taste. If mince pies are eaten cold it is better to use salt pork than suet. A lemon, and a little syrup of sweetmeats will greatly improve them. Clove is the most important spice.
From The Young Housekeeper’s Friend by Mrs. [M. H.] Cornelius, Boston, 1863
Comment: Mince pies, today comprised entirely of fruit, were originally minced meat pies, and the humble origins of the dish show through plainly here. Of course the use of spices (imported, therefore expensive) and lemons (likewise) rather belie the author’s claim that this is “very plain.”
Mince was usually made in the late summer or fall when fruit was ripe and meat was being slaughtered for winter storage. It would be made in large quantities, with substantial quantities of brandy or wine included for preservation, and kept in stone jars in the coldest part of the house, usually the cellar. Enough for one pie would be taken out as needed and the jar resealed. The process allowed the using-up of any scraps of meat and fat which might otherwise go to waste during the abundance of slaughter-time.