I concede.

Winter has a foothold. No way to stop it. The only around it is straight through it.

This is the time of year when I start concentrating on my list of the "benefits" of winter. I have to concentrate on the things I can actually enjoy until, come spring, we can hunt for fiddleheads.

First off: Mincemeat pie! Authentic. Made with deer meat.

Growing up in the North Woods up east of Lincoln, living with my grandparents — and with Grampa Roy a Maine Guide, and Grammie Mable the best of country cooks — we had mincemeat pie all winter long, eaten warm, of course.

When it came time to make the mincemeat, made with the neck meat, in the huge pots on the wood stove, if it wasn’t exactly "in the season," it was my job to stand on the sofa and watch out the window in case anyone came down the farm road. If so, I would alert Grammie and the pots would be taken out to the woodshed.

I now have a "secret source" for genuine mincemeat pie. Not many of my kids and grandkids like mincemeat so I haven’t made Grammie’s mincemeat for some years now. It’s quite a process. I go to my secret source. Indeed, I got my first today. Half of it is already gone. (I’ll put Grammie’s recipe, over 100 years old by now, at the bottom here.)

But I do still make her apple pie. Back then, apple pie was eaten warm with a slice of cheese. If you’ve never eaten it that way, give it a try.

So, what else. Oh right. Firing up the wood stove. The friendliest of steady heat instead of the on again, off again furnace. And the smell of wood smoke. But running the wood stove is more of a chore for this old gal nowadays so I save it for special occasions, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and blackouts, which we will have. Guaranteed. Oh, and firing it up to boil a big pot of boiled peanuts.

The first time I had boiled peanuts was when I lived for a time in Florida. I was driving down the road with my brother and saw someone sitting out on his lawn tending a fire under a big black iron "witches'" cauldron. In answer to my question, my brother told me he was boiling peanuts and selling them from his yard. So we pulled over and got a small brown paper bag of them (double bagged) for 50 cents.

I wasn’t all that impressed that first time. But they grow on ya. Definitely an acquired taste. But once you like them, they are addictive. (I use unsalted, in the shell, peanuts — available in large bags at the store — and salt them to my taste as they cook. (Cover well with water, add some salt, bring to boil. Once you have a rolling boil, I put a trivet under the pot to lower the heat. Let simmer for a few hours, checking every now and then until they are soft.)

One of my very favorite of "winter benefits" is "cocooning" and wool bed socks.

I love to haul out my vintage Hudson’s Bay six-point red and black wool blanket. The point system was woven into a section of the edge and signified the size and price. Six-point was for king size. Each point represented one beaver pelt for the Native Americans to "buy."

That blanket, along with a down comforter, makes a great cocoon for burying down for a long winter’s sleep. Pulled up over my ears and with roomy wool socks on my feet, I’m as happy as the proverbial bug in a rug.

Then there's snowshoeing. My first pair of snowshoes were handmade for me by Grampa Roy, in the Canadian Ojibwa Indian design, complete with red and green tufts of wool on the outer frame. I was about 7 or 8 and he made them scaled down to my size, laced with full-grain rawhide. (They burned up with the farm some years later. How I would love to find a pair.)

I never could cotton to the snowshoes of today with the metal tubing. The advantage, they say, is that they are lighter. The traditional wooden/rawhide snowshoes hold you up on the surface of the snow so's you skim along easily, while the aluminum ones sink down in so you have to lift your foot and snowshoe up and out each step. You spend more time huffing and puffing than enjoying your trek.

I still have my genuine Alaskan muck-lucks someone gave me a few years ago — the best "boot" ever for snowshoes. But I can't go off into the woods like I used to and definitely not alone. If I fell down, I'd be there until maybe some fisherman found me in the spring.

And this month, there’s Thanksgiving. And for me and mine, we will have our traditional gathering — with as many of the family as we can. That’ll be more than six, for certain sure.

Grammie Tucker's Mincemeat

(For about 12 quarts)


4 pounds diced neck meat (deer) or beef

Grated peel of 2 oranges and 1 lemon

2 lbs. beef suet

2 lbs. sugar (I use raw)

1 fresh grated nutmeg

2 lbs. chopped seedless raisins

1 tbsp. cloves

2 lbs. currants (we grew them on the farm)

1 tbsp. cinnamon

4 lbs. chopped apples

1 tsp. salt

½ lb minced citron ½ cup orange ju

½ lb. candied lemon peel, minced

½ cup lemon juice

4 cups hard cider

2 cups brandy

Boil the deer meat (or beef) and suet together 'til tender. Drain and cool somewhat. Put through grinder. Mix with all remaining ingredients — except the brandy — in big pot (I use my lobster pot) and cook on medium or medium low — depending on your stove (I always used the wood stove) for 1 ½ hours. Add the brandy, put into sterilized jars and seal.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award winning columnist, is a graduate of Belfast schools, now living in Morrill.