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Mincemeat: The Best of Christmas

December 11, 2020

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Mincemeat Muffins.

 

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. 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 or prepared mincemeat in any of these recipes. 

 

 

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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. 

 

 

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 a floured surface, roll out dough to a 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. Spoon mincemeat into shells and top each with a star. Brush pastry stars and tart edges with the egg white.

4. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven; let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

 

 

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. Coat 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; stir in mincemeat. Spoon into prepared pan.

3. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean.
Remove from oven; let cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan.

APPLE AND MINCEMEAT PUDDINGS

MAKES 12 to 15

This spiced-up mincemeat recipe can be baked in a cupcake pan or in a specialty Bundtette pan that makes 12 individual puddings (cooking times will vary; recipe can make up to 15 cupcakes). Serve it with custard sauce, heavy cream, or vanilla ice cream.

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch ground cloves

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and grated

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

5 ounces butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup mincemeat

1 tablespoon milk

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Custard sauce, heavy cream, or vanilla ice cream, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 12-well cupcake pan or specialty Bundtlette pan, such as one from Nordicware brand, with baking spray with flour.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt nutmeg and cloves.

3. In another medium bowl, combine apples, lemon zest and juice, and brown sugar. 

4. In a large bowl, beat butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir in vanilla and mincemeat; stir in flour mixture, milk and apple mixture. Spoon into prepared pan.

5. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven; let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before removing puddings from pan. Serve with custard, cream or ice cream.

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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