For me, eating mincemeat tarts always goes hand in hand with decorating the Christmas tree. Along with some Christmas music and a glass of wine. Getting a perfect tree to decorate can be a daunting task. This year I sent my husband out to the local garden centre to pick one out. He hit the jackpot by bringing home a lovely and full tree that wasn’t too big or too tall and was perfectly straight.
A few years ago in Canada we picked out and cut down our Christmas tree at a tree farm. Apparently there is an art to growing the perfect Christmas tree. The trees need pruning throughout the year so that they grow evenly and you don’t end up with one of those trees that is full on the bottom and skinny on the top. I suppose you would assume that growing up in Canada I would know this about Christmas trees but I grew up decorating the same fake tree year after year. So when I took my husband for a Canadian Christmas tree farm, it was a first for me too. There is something lovely about having a real tree.
I was hoping this year my son, who is two, would be interested in helping to decorate the tree but he had no interest. We made a good team though. My husband was in charge of setting up the tree. I was in charge of arranging the decorations. And my son took charge of eating the mincemeat tarts. I made my mincemeat tarts in advance this year and popped them in the freezer ready to bake whenever I need them. Just like having a real tree, nothing compares to homemade mincemeat tarts.
To make the tarts, I used Rachel Allen’s mincemeat and shortcrust pastry recipes found in her Bake cookbook. The mincemeat recipe makes a large volume (6 lb) so I have provided half the amount here. This recipe should make enough for 24 regular size tarts or 48 mini tarts or a combination of the two. The mincemeat needs to mature for 2 weeks in a sterilised jar before you can use it to make tarts. So if you haven’t made your mincemeat already, you have just enough time to make homemade tarts for Christmas eve.
Mincemeat Ingredients – 1 large cooking apple (peeled cored and cut into chunks), finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon, 125g butter (chilled and grated), 140g raisins, 140g sultanas, 140g currants, 65g candied peel chopped, 325g soft dark brown sugar, 25g chopped almonds or pecans, 1 tsp mixed spice, 40ml Irish whiskey or brandy.
To make the mincemeat, cook the apple chunks in a small saucepan with a teaspoon of water, covered over low heat, for approximately 10 minutes or until the apples are soft and pulpy. Allow them to cool. In a large bowl, mix the apple with the remaining ingredients and put into sterilised jars.
The pastry recipe makes enough for 12 regular size tarts or 24 mini tarts (despite the fact that Rachel says it makes more – she must roll some pretty thin crust). Alternatively, you could use frozen pastry which is easier but not as tasty as pastry made from scratch.
Pastry Ingredients – 200g plain flour, 100g chilled butter cubed, a pinch of salt, 1/2 to 1 medium egg beaten.
To make the pastry, whizz the flour, butter and salt in an electric mixer using a dough hook. Then add half of the beaten egg and continue to mix adding more egg as needed until it forms a moist dough. Flatten the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes before using. Roll out and cut your pastry then line your tins and fill with mincemeat. Bake the tarts in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes until golden.