GRANGEVILLE — The rhythmic sounds of chopping, the pungent smells of fresh apples, lemons and boiled meat and the harmony of happy chatter rose from the basement of the United Methodist Church in Grangeville as the parish ladies began making their famous mincemeat for the annual Christmas bazaar.
For 68 years, the members of the United Methodist Women’s Group have congregated to prepare a time-honored recipe used in classic mincemeat pies.
“We do it just before Thanksgiving so that people can have it for Thanksgiving,” said Emily Poncin, stirring a bowl of raisins and lemon juice.
The mincemeat, packed in quart jars, is mostly intended to be sold at the annual Christmas Bazaar, this year on Dec. 7. Often, however, people snatch it up even before it can be displayed.
“Last year, we sold out before the bazaar,” said Shirley Lane, who organizes the mincemeat making party. “One lady called me about three weeks before the ad (in the local newspaper) came out, because she wanted to be sure to get on the list for this year because she didn’t get hers last year.”
In the past, the ladies have prepared about eight batches with 10 to 12 quarts per batch. They mixed just 4½ batches when they gathered earlier this week because, Lane said, they want to sell everything they have on hand.
And while there is often a waiting list and a rush on the mincemeat available, mincemeat isn’t something that appeals to everyone.
“It’s kind of ebbs and flows,” Poncin said. “You almost have to be raised with it to like mincemeat. It’s kind of in your heritage. People buy it for their aunts and uncles and grandmas and that kind of thing.”
“What I’ve found is that the younger people, like 40 and younger, don’t like mincemeat,” Lane added. “They haven’t grown up with it, and so it’s usually the older people that buy it and love it.”
To accommodate those who may be adverse to eating meat in a pie, the ladies also prepare meatless mincemeat.
The church ladies began making mincemeat in 1951 to help support their ministries. The original recipe was devised by Effie Woods and included meat, cider, vinegar, sugar, raisins, currants, citron, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and molasses.
The same recipe is used today, utilizing venison and suet donated by Grangeville Meats. The ladies donate the other items.
Carol Warden’s mother and grandmother were in that first group of Methodist women who started the mincemeat project, back then called “Ecumenical Mincemeat.”
“At that time, they used all the wild meat they could that people would donate, like the necks and the rib cages and stuff. I remember my mom boiling all (that meat) up and us stripping the meat off of all the bones, her grinding it and then we’d have packages of ground up meat waiting to come to make mincemeat.”
Although most of the meat was scraps from deer people hunted locally, a man once donated moose meat he’d shot during a hunting trip in Alaska.
“I just remember those big old pots and everybody stirring and chopping,” Warden said. “The first year it just went over really good, and so they have done it every year since then because it was the best mincemeat ever.”
Through the years, people have come to look forward to the annual mincemeat making project and often stop the Methodist ladies on the street to ask when it will be ready.
The price has been raised from $8 a quart to $10 this year, but the mincemeat is not a big moneymaker.
“It’s expensive to buy the oranges and lemons (and other ingredients), but it funds our mission projects for our (United Methodist Women’s group),” Poncin said.
The church also sponsors a strawberry shortcake booth during the July Fourth Border Days celebration that contributes to the mission fund.
“I do think there is a need for it, because we get the calls from people that really like it,” Lane said. “Sometimes we make pies (for the Christmas bazaar social), and everybody pitches in.”
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