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Mincemeat Pie or Tarts

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Mince pies have been eaten at Christmas time in Britain for hundreds of years. Medieval mincemeat in "Old England" was quite different from the mincemeat we're generally familiar with today. Back then it contained as much meat and suet as fruit, and only a touch of sugar. Today traditional mincemeat still contains meat, but fruit is now the dominant ingredient and the sweetening has increased by a large measure. It's now usually made with beef, rather than the medieval mutton. In the north country of New England you'll find it often made with venison and sweetened with maple syrup.

Our version is a typical New England mincemeat. It will make 2 quarts, enough for 2 1/2 to 3 small tarts or three 9" pies. The mincemeat is best when it's made several weeks ahead of time to allow the flavors to mature.

At a glance

Prep
Bake
Total
Yield
3 small tarts or three 9" pies

Ingredients

Choose your measure:

Crust

Filling

  • 1 pound venison or lean beef
  • 1 quart apple cider or 2 cups cider and 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 pound ground suet or 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed currants
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed golden raisins
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, cut in half, or 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • minced rind and juice of 1 lemon (or orange if you like it less tart)
  • 1/4 cup spirits (maple liqueur, hearty red wine, rum or brandy)
  • 1 cup blanched, chopped almonds or other nuts, optional

Instructions

  1. To make the mincemeat: Trim the meat if necessary and dice it into small cubes.
  2. Pour the cider into a large saucepan or small kettle and add the sweeteners and spices.
  3. Add the meat and bring this mixture to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Skim any foam that comes to the top during the first hour of cooking.
  4. After 2 hours, turn off the heat and remove the meat with a slotted spoon.
  5. Add the currants, raisins, cranberries and lemon rind and juice to the hot cider/broth mixture. Let these steep while you grind or mince the meat along with the suet, if you're using it.
  6. Return the meat (and suet) to the fruit mixture, bring back to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 1/2 hour. Boil off enough liquid so the mixture is thick.
  7. If you opted not to use suet, melt and blend in the butter at this point.
  8. After the mixture has cooled, add the spirits and nuts, if using. This adds flavor and helps preserve the mincemeat.
  9. Cover and store mincemeat in a cool place for 2 or more weeks if you have time. Give it an occasional stir and add 2 or 3 more tablespoons of spirits if you wish.
  10. To make a pie: Roll half of the dough to a 14" circle.
  11. Fit the dough into your pan, and fill 1 1/2" deep with the mincemeat. Roll the remaining dough into a circle and place on top of the filling.
  12. Wet the top edge of the bottom crust, pinch the top and bottom together to seal, and flute the edge. Cut a design or several slits in the top of the pie to vent steam.
  13. To make tarts: Roll out your dough and cut the pastry into rounds 5" or 6" in diameter, or big enough to fill the cups of a muffin tin, with smaller circles for the tops. Carefully place the larger circles in your muffin tin.
  14. Fill the shells about half full with mincemeat.
  15. Moisten the rim of the dough with cold water, place the slightly smaller rounds of the dough on top of the filling and, with a fork or your fingers, press them to the bottom crusts.
  16. If you wet the rim of the muffin tin before you press top to bottom, the little pies will come away from the tin more easily after they are baked.
  17. To bake both pies and tarts: Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  18. After you put the pies in the oven, turn the heat down to 375°F and bake the 9" pies for about 35 minutes.
  19. Bake the tarts for about 20 minutes. If they begin to brown too quickly, turn the heat down to 350°F for the final 5 to 10 minutes. Let the small pies cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from the muffin tin.
  20. Store, chilled, for up to a week in the fridge, or freeze for up to 6 months.