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Old-Fashioned Mincemeat Drop Cookie Recipe

by Lorraine Thompson on January 24, 2011

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Yesterday, New Yorkers woke to a frosting—well, more like six inches—of snow. Snow-day sounds followed hard upon: ice scrapers scratching, snowplows beeping and neighbors cursing and threatening to leave home, hearth and spouse for Florida.

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I zipped my lip.

I love snow. I feel the delight for two feet of powder—and more on its way—that only another frost-deprived, third-generation Californian can appreciate.

It never snows in California.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up, we had two seasons: temperate and temperate-with-fog-and-rain. When I moved east, New York’s four distinct seasons were a revelation.

There’s something deeply satisfying about seasonal rhythms. You feel a restless anticipation as one cycle peaks. Then you start to notice, like old friends, the next season’s harbingers. Temperatures change, gradually at first, but then moving to exciting—at least for Californians—hot and cold extremes. And each quarter brings unique flora extravaganzas: spring’s blossoms and luscious-leaved verdancy, summer’s fruit-heavy harvest, fall’s glorious, fiery leaves and winter’s denuded branches blanketed in powder.

When my children were young, snow days were jubilant holidays. Padded in snowsuits, hats, scarves and mittens, they spent the day sledding nonstop into dusk. I saw them once or twice when they clomped home to peel off ice-encrusted outerwear. They sipped cocoa, re-donned gear, warmed and fluffed from the drier, and headed back out to the hillocks.

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I made pots of soup or stew for dinner and yeasty homemade bread spread thickly with sweet butter. I’d usually whip up a quick cake or batch of cookies as well. None of us ever got fat.

It was a magical time.

Today with one child grown, one in college and one in high school, I don’t fuss over melted snow in the foyer, soggy mittens or a barking boxer dog panicked he’ll be left out of the sledding action.

My teens are more likely to spend snow days buried in blankets, stealing a few more hours of sleep to recharge their expanding, disobedient minds and bodies.

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Just as well I’m not burdened with puddles, piled coats and extra housework: Today I’m glued to a laptop for eight-hour stretches, banging out marketing copy and blog posts. I have email to tackle, a mile-long Evernote to-do list, and ever-present Twitter in a browser window…

Just as well those messy, noisy, magical snow days are over. Right?

Never too old for comfort food.

But since my kids still appreciate home cooking, when bodies emerge from duvets, they usually find comfort-food. And, hell, a batch of cookies, too. It only takes a few minutes—especially with these easy Old-Fashioned Mincemeat Drop Cookies.

Vintage cookie recipe from the San Joaquin Valley

I pulled the recipe from my grandmother’s crammed receipt card box. For the record, those soft-voiced, mid-century scratch cooks were fierce culinary over-achievers: No plain old chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies for them. My grandmother and her friends competed ruthlessly—in their bridge-playing, Edwardian ladylike fashion—to create delicious, one-of-a-kind sweets.

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Their baked goods often relied on backyard fruit, berries and nuts—like my grandmother’s recipe for persimmon cookies. Very likely the recipe was created to use up the pesky persimmons that grew near her driveway: The fruit hung on fecund, arching branches, threatening to drop in exploding orange bombs on Grandmother’s ice-blue Ford Falcon.

Mincemeat cookies, fragrant with spices and studded with raisins and nutmeats, were another favorite.

For an A-mazing Treat, try making these cookies with Homemade Mincemeat with Garam Masala. Jarred mincemeat also works perfectly.

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Old-Fashioned Mincemeat Drop Cookie Recipe

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup Demerara sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mincemeat
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric beater—or a whisk and strong arm.
  3. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating mixture until fluffy after adding each egg.
  4. In a separate medium-sized bowl or a large measuring cup, blend flour, soda, spices and salt.
  5. Mix flour-spice mixture into creamed butter and egg mixture in two portions, beating well after each addition.
  6. Stir in mincemeat and nutmeats. Purists use a wooden spoon to avoid breaking up the nuts. I use the electric mixer on its lowest speed and don’t see any difference.
  7. Drop the dough onto a greased cookie sheet in rounded tablespoons. Bake 8-10 minutes until cookies are puffed and bottoms are slightly golden.
  8. Allow cookies to cool slightly on sheets for a minute or two. Remove cookies to a rack to cool.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

14 comments - Please leave another.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Rose Silver February 1, 2011 at 11:24 am

Is that a hot chocolate on the last photo? I never tried eating cookies with a cup of hot chocolate. I think its time to try that one. LOL. Thanks for the recipe.

Lorraine Thompson February 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

Rose, it’s tea–with a little sugar and milk. But hot chocolate would be divine with these spicy cookies. Hope you enjoy the recipe. : >

Melanie Schoenhut February 2, 2011 at 9:52 am

Tea with cookies is really a nice one for a cold weather. I want to make your recipe that will be an enjoyable one with my kids.

Mrs Hamilton December 8, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I’m doing Christmas baking (2012) and needed to use up some mincemeat. This recipe proved to be very nice indeed.

Merry Christmas from Victoria British Columbia, Vancouver Island, Canada.

CIN December 17, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Made these cookies tonight using home canned venison mincemeat. Used brown sugar and had to bake a few minutes longer at 325 in my oven to prevent burning. The cookies are !!!Wonderful!!! Thank you for posting this. I have been unable to find a copy of the recipe my grandmother used 50 years ago and this one is a perfect replacement.

CIN December 17, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Merry Christmas from Northern Michigan, USA

Lorraine Thompson December 18, 2012 at 4:13 am

@Mrs. Hamilton: I’m glad the cookies were a success.

@CIN: I’m so glad you liked the recipe. I’m curious: how is my grandmother’s recipe similar or different compared to your grandmother’s? I’ve never before run across another mince cookie recipe and would like to try others.

Lorraine Thompson December 18, 2012 at 4:15 am

@CIN And Merry Christmas to you. I’ve always wanted to visit Michigan–nice to “meet” a home cook from there. : >

maureen January 1, 2013 at 6:07 am

Wow, this is incredible. My brothers and I have been looking for years for a replacement for Mom and Gran’s mincemeat drop cookies. It was lost along with other clasics when my mom got ill and my dad was cleaning out “old papers” from her pantry.
I haven’t made them yet, but they look and sound pretty much the same. It is many years since I had them but as I recall my moms had a glaze on them.
Can’t wait to try them.
Gran too…she is 104 in April and enjoys when I bring her baked goods on my Sunday visits.

Romie October 18, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Ms Thompson, what mincemeat do you use for your recipe?

Lorraine Thompson November 28, 2013 at 4:14 am

@Romie: For packaged mincemeat, I favor None Such condensed mincemeat. It comes in a small box and you reconstitute it–I use apple cider and a splash of rum. If you’re ambitious, I have a recipe for Homemade Mincemeat with Garam Masala http://www.copywriterskitchen.com/2010/12/28/homemade-mincemeat-with-garam-masala-recipe/

Brenda December 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Lorraine, I am so grateful for this recipe AND for the idea of reconstituting boxed mincemeat with cider and rum, which is exactly up my alley. I haven’t made your recipe yet, but it is in the queue for next weeks’ cookie exchange. I have recently discovered that I am of the brand of people who love a good fruit cake (such a bad rap!), and I got all crazy about finding “good” recipes. Through that search, I got the idea of a mincemeat spice cookie from Nonesuch, but your recipe seems much more spice-like, which continues to be exactly up my alley. My question: I happen to have more almond extract on hand than vanilla, and I wonder if you think the flavors of this recipe would be suited to the almond flavor. Or, should I just stick with vanilla? Thanks very much, and Merry Christmas from mid-Michigan on this snowed-in wintry day.

Lorraine Thompson December 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm

@Brenda: I, too, love a good fruitcake–as well as black cake, plum pudding, mincemeat and almost any other sweet that mixes candied fruit and spices. I hope you like this recipe. I think you’ll find it super easy to whip together and bake–drop cookies are the perfect no-fuss cookie for the holidays when you’re busy with so much else. Regarding use of almond extract: ordinarily I’m all about culinary improvisation, but I think for this homey recipe, it’s best to stick with plain old vanilla.

Catherine Maclean December 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm

From snowy Durham County - just northeast of Toronto, Canada! I love the nostalgic sense of this recipe! My Bermudian grandmother would have said ‘receipt’! This also reminds me of a similar cookie that my Scottish grandmother used to make.

I plan to make this tonight before the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society’s annual Christmas tree decorating get-together tomorrow! Thanks so much, Lorraine - and Merry Christmas to all!

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