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Mincemeat: The Best of Christmas

December 10, 2018

By

KUVONA | DREAMSTIME

 

 

Ireland Hopping | By Margaret M. Johnson

Mincemeat, a mixture of chopped dried fruits, spices, and spirits, is one of Ireland’s most popular Christmas foods. It was developed more than 500 years ago in England as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking and was esteemed as holiday fare there during the era of Henry VII (1457–1509), who proclaimed Christmas a day of feasting. Some early recipes for mincemeat used suet, veal or mutton, and gradually cooks added ingredients like apples, Seville oranges, and red wine. When there was no longer any need to preserve meat with honey or spices, the meat in mincemeat was eliminated and replaced with fruit alone, although some cooks still use a bit of suet in their recipes. In Elizabethan England, huge mince pies were made during the twelve days of Christmas, and it became customary to offer a slice to visiting guests. The leap from England to Ireland was a short one, and mincemeat soon became a favorite ingredient in an Irish Christmas as well, especially in the form of mince pies, tarts, and muffins. Along with steamed pudding and fruitcake, mincemeat has been the standard-bearer of traditional Christmas desserts for centuries. You can use homemade (recipe follows) or prepared mincemeat in any of these recipes.

 

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MINCEMEAT TARTS

MAKES 18 TARTS

Pastry

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup ground almonds

10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Grated zest of 1 orange

4 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon ice water

Filling

1 cup homemade or prepared mincemeat

1 large egg white, beaten

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Make pastry. Combine flour, almonds, butter, zest, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse 8 to 10 times, or until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk and water and process for 10 to 20 seconds, or until dough comes together.
  2. Dust a work surface with flour. Turn out dough, form it into a ball, and then flatten into a disk; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. On floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch-thick round. With a 4-inch cookie cutter, cut out 18 rounds; transfer rounds into wells of two 12-well tart pans. Reroll pastry scraps, and with a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out 18 small stars.
  4. Spoon mincemeat into shells and top each with a star. Brush pastry stars and tart edges with the egg white and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to let cool for about10 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

HOMEMADE MINCEMEAT

MAKES 2 CUPS

1/4 cup sultanas (golden raisins)

1/4 cup currants

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup candied mixed peel, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped candied cherries

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Grated zest of 1 orange

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and shredded

1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons Mixed Spice or pumpkin pie spice

2 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons brandy

2 tablespoons dark rum

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, cover, and leave at room temperature for at least 24 hours. Transfer to a glass container, stir in additional brandy or rum, if desired, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

SHORTBREAD MINCE PIES

MAKES 20 TO 24 PIES

This recipe, from Griffin’s Bakery on Shop Street, Galway, is a Christmas specialty. There it’s made with shortbread cookies and filled with homemade whiskey mincemeat. Serve them warm with whipped cream and mulled wine.

Shortbread

3 cups all-purpose flour      

1/2 cup sugar                                               

8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces                                        

1 large egg yolk

5 to 8 tablespoons ice water          

Filling

1 1/4 cups prepared or homemade mincemeat

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey                                              

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

  1. Make shortbread. Combine flour, sugar, and butter in a food processor. Pulse 8 to 10 times, or until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk and water and process for 10 to 20 seconds, or until dough comes together. Gather dough and press it together until it forms a ball; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 325° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Dust a work surface with flour. Cut dough in half; roll out each half to a 1/4-inch-thick round. With a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out 18 to 20 rounds. Place half the rounds on the prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart.
  4. In a small bowl, combine mincemeat and whiskey. Spoon 1 teaspoon into center of each pastry round; cover with a plain pastry round. Press edges with a fork to seal, and then brush with a little water; pierce tops with a fork.
  5. Bake pies for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned; remove from the oven and then transfer pies to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Repeat with remaining dough and filling; dust cooled pies with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

MINI MINCEMEAT MUFFINS

MAKES 2 DOZEN

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 cup prepared mincemeat

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray two 24-well mini muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, butter, orange peel, and juice. Stir in flour mixture, and then stir in mincemeat.
  3. Transfer to prepared pans and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before removing the muffins from pan.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her cookbooks, visit www.irishcook.com

 

 

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