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First Published 12-2005 Archived 1-2006


I just finished making a LARGE batch of "Empanadas". (Small mincemeat turnovers)!

Does anyone remember real mincemeat? The kind your grandmother used to make in the 1920's and 1930's, maybe even into the 1940's. With real meat in it? For some reason, in the 1950's they disappeared from the menu of most families.

I tell the younger generation what mincemeat is and they get grossed out!!

In New Mexico, the tradition of "Empanadas" is alive and well.

These are made only for the holidays in the winter, because they involve so much work.. . .But so delicious and satisfying when they are finished.

My mother and father would work diligently for 3 days making this great holiday delicacy. The first day, the lean beef had to be boiled and cooled. Of course this was an all day endeavor because of the amount of meat needed. At the same time the meat was cooking, the sweet potatoes were peeled and cooked also.

The next day, when everything was cooled, it was time to grind everything together! What a job that was! There was no food processor. They used the old fashioned meat grinder that had to be powered by a strong arm. It had to be set on the finest and smallest setting so the meat would be ground or "minced". No shredding was allowed in our house! Next to be "ground" was the sweet potatoes.

When all that was done, it all went into the turkey roasting pan, plus sugar, raisens, nuts, and various spices and back into the oven. The aroma was incredible!

Third day: All that was cooked is now cooled and ready to be enclosed by a nice flakey pastry. My dad would make the dough and cut it into the size circle that met my mom's exacting measurements. My mom did the work of putting the mincemeat mix into the pastry dough and sealing it with a fancy little turn of the edges by hand. This process was an all day affair with breaks only to eat and the occasional trip to the bathroom.

Last but not least:After the pastry was stuffed they had to be fried! This year I experimented and baked mine in the oven. As a means of cutting down the time needed and to cut down on the fat content of each empanada. Quite tasty, but not as flaky as when fried.

The reason the stuffing and sealing took all day is that my mom used to like to make them small. Not more than a heaping tablespoon in each little empanada. Every year they would make a total of 30 or more dozens!!!

Unbelievable! Why so many? That was their Christmas presents to the various neighbors, cousins and renters. Everyone received 1 dozen every year! Well, I didn't make that many, but enough to give all my children a dozen and a couple dozen left for me. I don't have to make as many as my mother because, as I said before, no one knows what real mincemeat is anymore! If you like real mincemeat and want my recipe, write to me and I'll send it to you!

Well, gotta go; those empanadas and coffee are calling to me! Everyone have a safe holiday! See ya next month.


Click here to download and print Empanada recipe

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