I am not suggesting that you make mince pies for Valentine’s Day, because mincemeat is so controversial. People either love it or hate it. I’m one of those that loves it. I have such fond memories of mincemeat pies as a kid during the holidays. Mincemeat is just strange and unexpected. Dark-sweet-buttery-salty-earthy-ooey-gooey-old-world-deliciousness. You will either sigh with just the memory of it, or you will go running in the other direction.
So I just needed to make mincemeat once and for all.
I kept seeing fancy looking jars of it at the grocery store. Nope. I can make it.
I pulled out my trusty Joy of Cooking cookbook and got going. By the way, I chose to make mini pies, because mincemeat is very intense in flavor. So probably a teeny tiny tart is about right for most.
During the holidays I ended up with lots of scraps of pie crust dough, so I decided to roll it out and make little rounds using a 2″ cookie cutter.
Then pop them into a mini muffin tin and freeze them. Once frozen, I pop them out of the tin and put them into a freezer bag in the freezer to use at a later time. It’s such a great way to use all those scraps.
The Joy of Cooking recipe is pretty straightforward, and you will feel like you are living in a medieval village while you are making your mincemeat in your cast iron dutch oven, stirring with a wooden spoon.
I cut out teeny tiny hearts using teeny tiny cookie cutters (for Valentine’s Day, of course) with more pie dough scraps to make these extra festive and beautiful, and to keep the mince from drying out too much during the baking. Did I mention that probably nobody in my family will eat these? I plan on passing them out to friends tomorrow. I hope they still respect me afterwards.
Mini Mince Pies
(Mincemeat recipe from The Joy of Cooking)
- 1 recipe flaky pastry dough – try this one or this one.
- 3 medium Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/4″ chunks
- 1 1/2 cups dark raisins, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup walnuts, coursely chopped
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup brandy or apple cider
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- Grated zest of 1/2 lemon (I used a bit more)
- Strained juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- Starting with the apples, combine all ingredients in a heavy bottom pan or dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the bottom of the pot is almost dry and the fruits are glazed with a thick, molasses-like syrup, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
- While mince is cooling, roll out your pastry dough to no more than 1/8″ thick (a bit thinner is even better), and using a 2″ cookie cutter, cut twenty-four little rounds. Place them in a mini muffin tin (I made twenty four, and ended up with lots of extra mince, which keeps nicely in the fridge for a good week or two). Place the tin in the freezer. You can also cut out teeny tiny shapes using small cookie cutters (no more than 2 inches wide) with the dough scraps for topping the pies. Keep those cold in the fridge or freezer.
- To help cool down the mince, put it in a glass bowl and put the bowl in an ice bath. Stirring the mince helps with the cooling process. The mince needs to be at room temperature or cooler before continuing.
- When ready, preheat oven to 425° and place about 2 teaspoons worth (yes, I have a scoop that size) of mincemeat in each frozen tart shell. Gently flatten the filling with a spatula or wide knife. Place a cut-out topper on each pie. Place on middle rack in preheated oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is puffy and golden.
- Remove from oven and let pies cool for a few minutes. After about five minutes, gently remove pies from tin and let cool on a cooling rack.
- Enjoy at room temperature or chilled. I would not recommend biting into one of these while the center is still hot. Not that I ever did that. But it’s a bad idea.
**If you want to make these at a later date, mince will store nicely in airtight jars in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, and the teeny pie shells can be removed from the tin and stored in a freezer bag in the freezer for at least a month or two. When ready to prepare the pies, place the frozen pie shells back in the muffin tin for filling and baking.
**If you don’t want to bother cutting out pie crust toppers, you could try using a streusel topping instead.