Who says mincemeat pies are for senior citizens and people with no sense of taste?
Up until last year – I did.
But that was before my uncle offered me some mincemeat tarts he’d just taken out of the oven. They looked a lot different from the British holiday treat I grew up with. For starters, the filling didn’t resemble clumpy tar and it wasn’t gloopy stuff from a can. It was homemade and actually looked…well...good.
It was still mincemeat though, which means at some point my uncle added pig or beef fat to the mix (called suet) and I can’t say that ingredient has ever made my mouth water. I reluctantly took home a plate of a half dozen, fully expecting to give most of them away or throw them out, but I ended up eating them all myself.
I asked for the recipe (which is originally from Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto) changed it up a bit and made it at home.
While the idea of suet grosses some people out, most of it melts away during the baking process. The dominant flavours are apples and citrus, but the Christmas spices give more depth than, say, an apple pie. And don’t worry, you won’t even taste the animal fat. Honest.
- 3 lemons
- 8 medium apples
- 4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 ½ cups dried cherries *
- 2 ½ cups seedless raisins
- 2 cups finely grated suet*
- ½ cup chopped mixed candied peel
- 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. cloves
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. brandy, apple cider or apple juice
Grate lemons, squeeze out juice into large bowl. Peel, core and grate apples coarsely to make 8 cups. Mix all ingredients together, except for brandy (juice, apple cider.) The mixture will be a little runny, but most of the moisture will be absorbed by the dried fruit after it sits for a couple of days. Cover the mixture in a plastic container and leave it in the fridge for a week or two. If you find the filling is too dry, add the brandy to moisten it up. Add more fruit if the filling is too runny.
*The original recipe calls for currants, but you can add more raisins, dried cranberries, dried strawberries or any dried fruit you want.
*You can find suet at butcher shops or even the meat section of your supermarket this time of year. Sometimes you can get it pre-grated, just make sure that it’s a fine grate.
As for the pastry, make it yourself or buy ready made tarts at the store.