There’s nothing I can say about mince pie that the late Cliff Doerksen didn’t write a thousand times more brilliantly in his James Beard award-winning story The Real American Pie. But the occasion of Cliff’s memorial service two weeks ago presented me and former Reader art director Sheila Sachs with the opportunity to make the meaty pastries that everyone agreed “reliably caused indigestion, provoked nightmares, and commonly afflicted the overindulgent with disordered thinking, hallucinations, and sometimes death.”

I’ve read and reread the piece numerous times, so I don’t know why my thinking was so disordered when I bought enough ingredients to double the San Francisco Chronicle recipe he cites—especially since he clearly indicated that he scaled it down just to make two pies. I think I was emboldened by the promise of Sheila’s German-engineered steel apple peeler, which, as it turned out, apparently only works efficiently with German-engineered apples. We learned a few other things during the three day-process: don’t leave boiling apple cider alone in pricey enameled Dutch ovens, beef suet makes an excellent skin moisturizer, and you can’t add too much booze to your mince (though you can definitely add too much sugar).