Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mincemeat Tarts

Mincemeat is a grown-up taste; few children seem to like its rich sweet-sour combination of ingredients. When I was young, my mother made mincemeat pies and little mincemeat tarts every Christmas. I didn't like the pies because there was just too much mincemeat in one bite, but I remember loving the little tarts.

Mincemeat began as a way of preserving meat with sugars, vinegar and spices, and evolved into a dish that is usually associated with a traditional English Christmas. Cooking in America gives an interesting dateline of the history and folklore of mincemeat.

The tarts are really just miniature pies, and making them is a simple process. What you end up with is pretty, delicious and nowadays unusual addition to the holiday table.

I make my tarts using green tomato mincemeat. If you didn't have a chance to make your own mincemeat, however, there is still a commercial variety available at most supermarkets, usually under the brand name Nonesuch. It comes in either a dry, condensed package or ready-to-use in jars, usually in the pie filling section of the store.

First, make your pie crust. It's easy, really. Here's my recipe:

Gather your tools: favorite mixing bowl, pastry blender, measuring cup, rolling pin, cutter for the circles, pastry board(or table or counter top or wherever you plan to roll out your dough), and muffin or tart pans.

2 cups plain flour (not self-rising)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup of butter (margarine or shortening can work; I like real butter)
about 6-8 tablespoons cold water (put ice cubes in the water to get it really cold. Really.)

Mix the flour and salt together. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or a fork (but the pastry blender is works best). Add the water, using only a little at a time, until the mixture will hold together. Divide the dough into two parts. Roll out on a floured surface to the desired thickness and size. (you may need to sprinkle a little flour on the dough as you roll it out if it sticks to your rolling pin, and add a little to the floured surface

Now if you were making a pie, you'd lift the pastry into the pie pan at this point for the bottom crust of the pie, then roll out the rest of the dough for the top.

But we're making tarts, so after you've rolled out the dough find something to cut it into circles. I used this one--I suppose it's a cookie cutter, but it was just the right size to cut the dough to fit into my muffin tins.

Line your muffin or tart pans with rounds of cut-out dough; then drop in spoonfuls of prepared mincemeat. (I used the green tomato mincemeat I made a few weeks ago.)

Roll out the rest of the dough and cut out tops for your tarts. (At the holidays I sprinkle the tops with red and green colored sugar. Yesterday I just left them plain.)

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the top crusts are lightly browned.

Remove the tarts from their pans as soon as they come out of the oven. The juices in the filling usually spill over the sides of the tarts during baking and if you leave them in the pans, the sugars in the juice will harden and you may have a difficult time getting them out in one piece. I use a dinner knife to gently loosen each tart from its pan and lift them out with the knife and one finger.! That's all there is to it.

The taste of these little pies sends me back to the old house in Manassas, the smell of pine and eggnog, the music of Christmas in the air, and everyone laughing and happy. It's a very good memory.


Samantha Winter said...

Hi Granny Su
Mincemeat is available here every year! Nice site.

Granny Sue said...

Thanks for stopping by,Sam!

My mother was from Caldecote near Cambridge, England, so many of our Christmas traditions came from her memories of growing up in England. Mincemeat was one of them. I wish oh I wish we had a market like you describe! But with so many regulations a lot of things, like selling cow's milk, can't be done by the small farmer. Very sad, I think.

Janet, said...

They look good. Mincemeat is something I've never had, at least I don't think I have.

Anonymous said...

They look just like I remember! I can almost taste them. Miss you and looking forward to seeing you.

Granny Sue said...

Hey Theresa, I'll have to remember to bring some mincemeat with me when we get together to make the fruitcakes!

The Tile Lady said...

They look delicious! I do like mincemeat, but couldn't help but think that these tarts would be so good as pecan tarts, too! :-)

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