Aren't mincemeat tarts just one of the best Christmas pastries? I love the rich, spiced mincemeat, gloriously flaky pastry, and the dusting of icing sugar on top. Let's learn some history behind these delectable treats, plus how to make them.
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What are mincemeat tarts?
They are individual pies that are filled with mincemeat, a mixture of dried fruit, spices, and a little bit of brandy. Each pie is typically topped with a pastry and dusted with sugar.
What do they taste like?
The filling is typically aged to give it a rich, deep flavor from the sweet dried fruit, aromatic spices, and brandy. Mince pies are not overly sweet, but have a wonderful fruity taste.
What is mincemeat made from?
It is made from dried fruit, spices, brandy, and occasionally suet. Traditional mincemeat also would have contained minced meat, but that is no longer common.
Were mince pies illegal?
Mince pies never were actually illegal, although back in the 1600s, Oliver Cromwell did ban many festive foods to put an end to gluttony. Don’t worry; you definitely won’t get arrested for eating a mince pie!
Are they vegetarian?
Most modern mincemeat is vegetarian, although some brands do contain meat. For example, the American brand None Such still contains beef. Just check the label or make your own - it's really easy.
Are these treats British?
Yes, they are British. They have been enjoyed in the UK for hundreds of years, and are now popular throughout the world during the Christmas season.
What is in mincemeat?
It is made up of four main components: dried fruit, candied peel, spices, and liquids. You can make your own with the following ingredients if you want to customize it. You can use it right away, or if time permits, let it age for a few days or up to one week.
- Dried Fruit: any combination of dark and golden raisins, currants, prunes, or dates will be delicious.
- Candied Peel: orange and lemon peel are the most popular. You can also add a bit of citron peel.
- Spices: nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves are good choices.
- Liquids: a little bit of lemon or orange juice adds flavor, while ¼ cup of brandy preserves the mixture. For an alcohol-free version, use apple cider and vanilla extract, then store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Are mincemeat tarts good for you?
Of course, these are a Christmas dessert, so they’re not the healthiest treat out there. One homemade mince pie according to my recipe contains 366 calories, 8.5g of fat, 71.4g of carbs, and 51.9g of sugars. For more nutrition facts, scroll to the end of the recipe card below.
Why do you eat them at Christmas?
These treats have their origins in medieval times, when the Crusaders brought back the concept of mixing fruit, meat, and aromatic spices together. The English started serving mincemeat in large oblong pies to mark the Christmas season. Over the years, the pies have changed to round, individual-sized pies, and the filling rarely contains meat.
Can I eat mince pies when pregnant?
Yes, you can eat them when you’re pregnant. Most mincemeat does contain alcohol, but it is just a small amount and is cooked off when the tarts are baked at 400F. If you feel better making your own alcohol-free filling, substitute the ¼ cup of brandy for apple cider.
How long do they keep?
They keep sealed in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Alternatively, you can freeze them for up to 3 months.
How to Freeze
Seal them inside of a zip-top freezer bag and press out the extra air. Freeze for up to 3 months. To defrost, place them at room temperature or microwave individual ones for 30 seconds apiece.
How to Make
You'll need a large jar of store-bought or homemade mincemeat. If you're using store-bought, I recommend adding some fresh diced apples, diced clementine oranges, diced dried apricots, lemon and orange zest, and some freshly grated nutmeg for additional flavor. Adding extra fruit also stretches the filling.
Place all the fresh fruit, zest, nutmeg, and mincemeat in a bowl.
Stir gently until well combined, then set aside as you roll out the pastry.
Roll out the pastry thinly on a floured surface. Use a 3 ½-inch cutter to cut out circles of pastry, then place them in a 12-hole muffin pan.
Fill each tart with two or three spoonfuls of filling.
Top each tart with a pastry star, pressing it down on the edges to seal, and a sprinkle of caster sugar.
Bake the tarts at 400 F for about 20 minutes, until the mincemeat is gently bubbling and the pastry is a light golden brown. Let them cool on a wire rack, then enjoy.
- Add fresh fruit to store-bought mincemeat to improve the flavor and texture or make your own from scratch.
- Use homemade pastry for the best taste.
- Roll the pastry a little less than ⅛ inch thick. If the pastry is too thin, the tarts will fall apart; if it is too thick, the tarts will be dry and unappetizing.
- Be careful not to overfill the tarts, or they will bubble over in the oven. Fill each tart ¾ full.
- Top tarts with pastry stars for an extra festive touch.
- If your mince pies have pastry tops, sprinkle them with caster sugar before baking and with icing sugar after they've cooled. This makes them look pretty and adds an extra touch of sweetness.
- Want less calories? Don't put pastry on top of the tarts.
- Have extra mince pies? Seal them inside of a freezer zip-top bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Crosse & Blackwell Mincemeat: this vegetarian mincemeat is my favorite brand, with a beautifully rich flavor.
- Star Cookie Cutters: these cutters come in different sizes so you can always have the right star for your mince pies.
- Wilton Muffin Pan: this nonstick, 12-hole muffin pan is releases the baked mince pies easily.
- Set of 4 Sieves: effortlessly dust your mince pies with sugar using these stainless steel strainers.
Other Christmas Desserts
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This easy recipe for traditional mincemeat tarts will have you coming back for a second one! Add fruit to store bought mincemeat to make these Christmas treats even tastier.
- 2 ⅔ cups store-bought mincemeat (822g)
- 1 tablespoon clementine zest
- 1 ½ cups clementines, diced (235g)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ½ cup dried apricots, diced (100g)
- 1 ½ cups Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced (190g)
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pound 14 ounces flaky shortcrust pastry (850g)
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar (25g)
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted (15g)
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Pour the store-bought mincemeat into a large mixing bowl. Add the diced apple, dried apricot, diced orange segments, lemon and orange zest, and the nutmeg. Gently stir until well mixed.
- Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured surface, then use a circular 3 ½-inch cutter to cut out pastry circles. Line two muffin pans with the pastry, making sure to get it into the corners of the pan.
- Re-roll the scraps and cut out 15 stars with a cookie cutter to act as a lid for half of the tarts. Leave the other half plain, if desired.
- Fill each tart ¾ full. Top each one with a pastry star, pressing down its corners to seal it to the tart. Sprinkle the stars with caster sugar.
- Bake the tarts for about 20 minutes at 400 F. The filling should be bubbling, and the pastry should be a pale golden brown around the edges. If you're re-using a muffin pan to bake more tarts, let it cool before putting the next batch of pastry in the pan.
- Let the tarts cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then run a knife around the edges of each tart and carefully pop them out of the pan.
- Dust the star tarts with icing sugar, then serve.
- Want the best flavor? Add fresh oranges and apple to store-bought mincemeat, or make your own.
- Roll the pastry a little less than ⅛ inch thick. If the pastry is too thin, the tarts will fall apart; if it is too thick, the tarts will be dry.
- Fill each one ¾ full to prevent overflowing in the oven.
- Putting pastry on top of the tarts? Sprinkle with caster sugar before baking and with icing sugar after they've cooled to add a touch of sweetness.
- Freeze leftovers in a freezer zip-top bag for up to 3 months.
- Category: Pie
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: English
Keywords: english mincemeat tarts, mince pies, Christmas mince pie recipe
This recipe was originally published on November 22, 2017.