Friday, December 19, 2014

Mincemeat Tarts

by Sheila Connolly

Mincemeat pie has long been associated with Christmas—think Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, where a mince pie awaits at the end of the final meal. (BTW, Tori Avey, who write about food and culture for PBS, called Dickens “a true Victorian foodie, a man who took serious pleasure in eating and drinking.”

Long, long ago, when I first heard the term “mincemeat,” all I could think of was the “meat” part. I was pretty sure I didn’t want meat in my dessert. Luckily nobody offered me any mincemeat.

But then one summer many years ago I had a job in a department store in London (Simpson’s Piccadilly—I had a great time!), where if we worked the late opening days, we were entitled to “tea” in the basement cafeteria, around five. Tea might include tea, of course (black or white), plus kippers and buns and—mincemeat tarts. I quickly became a convert.

This past week I was strolling through my supermarket and was halted by a display of teeny, tiny boxes of mincemeat, in a package smaller than a kid’s juice box. Surely you jest! That little box will make a whole pie? But the maker was serious: it’s dried mincemeat, that you have to restore by adding water and boiling for a minute. This I had to see to believe, so I brought one box home as an experiment.
Okay, it looks like dog food,
but it does get better!

But I don’t like the stuff well enough to eat a whole pie’s worth, so I decided to recreate the tiny tarts instead. If you want to dress them up for the holiday, use a decorative cutter instead of a plain round one for the top crust.

Mincemeat Tarts


1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tblsp grated fresh grated 
     orange peel
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted 
     butter, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 large egg yolk
2 Tblsp orange juice (more if needed)


3/4 cup purchased mincemeat
3 Tblsp minced crystallized ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Glaze: 1 egg, beaten

Mix together the flour, 6 Tblsp powdered sugar, 2-1/2 tsp orange peel and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and process in spurts until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and 2 Tblsp orange juice.  Add the liquid to the processor and blend until moist clumps form (add more juice by teaspoons-ful if needed). Gather the dough into a ball and flatten. Chill for 30 minutes. (By the way, this made a very nice crust: it’s light and flavorful, and also easy to roll and handle.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter or grease 18 1-3/4 inch mini muffin pans. Mix together the mincemeat, ginger, cinnamon, and the rest of the powdered sugar and orange peel. (A note on muffin tins. I have lots, many of them vintage. I tried my two smallest ones, and while the baby size made nice two-bite tartlets, it was easier to shape and remove them from the slightly larger tin.)

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to make a 17” round. 

I had to include this--it was a gift from my sister-
in-law and it's just gorgeous!

Using a 2-1/2” round cookie cutter, cut out 18 dough rounds. Press a round onto the bottom and up the sides of each muffin cup. (A note on forming the bottoms: try not to tear the sides while pressing them into the molds, because then the filling leaks out and the whole thing sticks to the pan. I found the rounded top of a champagne cork worked quite well. If you don't have one, go out and buy a bottle of champagne--now!)

Fill the lined muffin cups with 1 heaping teaspoon filling (do not overfill). Now, you can go one of two ways with this next step: (a) seal the top with a smaller circle, or (b) say the heck with it and use whatever little decorative shape you want. (The second is easier!) For (a), using a slightly smaller (1-3/4”) cookie cutter, cut out 18 more rounds (reroll the dough if you need to). Brush the edges of the smaller rounds with some of the egg glaze. Place one of the smaller rounds atop the filling in each cup, glazed side down, and press the edges to seal. Cut a small X in each top crust. For (b) just have fun!

Glazed and ready to bake
Brush the pies with the remaining egg glaze. Bake until the top crusts are golden, about 20 minutes. With a small knife, cut around each tart to loosen, then turn out onto a rack to cool. Don’t try to remove them while they’re hot, because then they’ll crumble.

And have a lovely holiday!  

Here are a couple of pictures of Dublin just before Christmas:

I do wish I'd bought the sign in the middle:
Life is What you Bake it

In case you can't guess, An Early Wake, the third book in the County Cork Mysteries, will be out in February.

You can pre-order it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble

And you can get a taste of Ireland for free with my e-story, Under the Hill (Amazon and Barnes and Noble)


  1. Life is what you bake it.... love it. -- Next time that sign needs to be yours. Thanks for sharing the itty-bitty mincemeat experiment and Dublin's Christmas.

  2. The tarts are adorable.
    Where does one look in the store for mincemeat?
    And for the uninitiated, you might tell what is actually in mincemeat.

    1. Libby, for the holiday season our grocery store put up a separate display (although I have no idea how many people still cook with it), with both the jars and the little boxes. I looked briefly at the list of ingredients, but I really didn't want to know. I know there is some meat in there somewhere (even in the dried version). There are also apples. But it tastes good!

    2. I always thought the "meat" was actually nothing more than lard. (If "nothing more" can be applied to lard)

  3. they turned out so pretty Sheila! I don't like mincemeat either, but I'd try one of these. My dad used to love mm, but especially the hard sauce that was served with it.

  4. Ah yes, hard sauce! My family used to put it on lots of desserts. I always hoped that there would be some left over, because I'd eat it with a spoon. (For those of you who weren't raised with it, it's basically butter and confectioner's sugar, with maybe some vanilla (or brandy) thrown in. Melts beautifully on any warm pie.)

  5. I remember having the same reaction about meat in the pie! LOL! I bet a lot of kids feel that way. I love your beautiful stars! Perfect for Christmas. So what does it taste like?

    Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures of Dublin at Christmas!

    1. Mostly spicy raisiny (is that a word?), Krista. I like the addition of the candied ginger and cinnamon, which makes it more interesting. And the hint of orange peel adds complexity. Gee, I still have some left over...

  6. I love making little pot pies and mini fruit pies with my cup cake pans, But I LOVE the shaped cut outs. I will be stealing that idea, so clever. They look great. Happy writing nd Happy Holidays.

  7. They do look pretty.
    Thank you for the free ebook.