Mincemeat Hand Pie Met a Tart

Until I was an adult I had only a fairy tale version of what a mincemeat pie was and I’m afraid I was not impressed.  When I met a real mincemeat pie I was still not inclined to change my mind.  I don’t like the idea of it – the color of it, or the cloying sweetness and ick of the resulting mush.

So why in the world am I posting a mincemeat recipe?  For love, of course.

Cap’n Awesome’s family hails from hearty old England way back in the day when it was fine to boil everything until it resembled neither food nor even a doorstop. I’ve been regaled with stories that give one bad dreams about how his poor beleaguered grandmother cooked everything to death and beyond.

But there is that one time of the year where his grandmother becomes a culinary saint and that is during the Christmas holiday when she made mincemeat and something called a carrot pudding full of an odd assortment of characters and a large chunk of suet. Collecting the suet for the pudding became as much a ritual as was collecting just the right Christmas tree – requiring a trek to the woods (for the tree) and another trek to the butcher whose relationship you cultivated all year just for this moment of getting the very best suet – whatever that was. I never asked. And I still don’t want to know – so don’t tell me even if you know.

After the kids grew up and we stopped hosting a holiday that was fit for a family reality show, I stopped making that dastardly carrot pudding (someone else procured the suet). The only reason – THE ONLY REASON – most of the family ate the thing was because it came with a pile of hard sauce. Hard sauce that was missing the alcohol but not the 30 other pounds of butter and sugar. The pieces of carrot pudding were always tiny because it was pronounced “so rich” and was totally dwarfed by the pile of hard sauce that accompanied it on everyone’s plates. Go figure.  I wasn’t sure why they just didn’t make hard sauce and stop there. No one would tell on them and grandma was long gone.

Fast forward to this summer past and a conversation about what we should do with the holiday edition of the blog. I was thinking adorable little cookies and cupcakes. Cap’n Awesome was apparently thinking dark thoughts. He asked if I could make some mincemeat. And after a significant pause, I actually said I would consider it.  Then he pushed the window of opportunity and asked if I’d make the requisite carrot pudding. That snapped me back to earth.  I told him that hard sauce was not shameful. We could make a whole batch sans the carrot pudding and serve it in elegant dishes. And no one would know. Except you guys (cause now it’s in print).

No carrot pudding necessary, but the mincemeat was still on the table.

There would be rules. It would have no meat. No lard, no suet. It might have a sundry of dried fruits, organic. And spices, but it would not have meat. It might have vegetable shortening – organic. It might have alcohol because it surely would need it.  Who puts several ounces of dried fruits into a pan and heats it up with sugar and calls it edible? Not without a good stiff drink it isn’t.

So with a great big thanks to David Lebovitz for doing all heavy lifting and to Nigella Lawson for having the good sense to make a mincemeat with character and not completely from dried fruits or even meat. After taste-testing both recipes, I’ve adapted their work and married the recipes with a nod to the ever famous Grandmother without whom none of this would be possible.

After letting the recipes marinate for a week or so and taste-testing, it was evident they were made for one another (along with grandma’s inspirations).  So the whole thing was mixed together and thus was born the Mincemeat Hand Pie Met a Tart Recipe – inspired by David, Nigella, and Grandma and a lot of liqueur.

Best to make this concoction ahead of time and let it cure in the refrigerator for a week or so. You can make a big pie, small tarts, hand pies, or anything like that. Feel free to use your favorite pie crust recipe or this one here.

Mincemeat Hand Pie Met a Tart
Be sure to heat the mixture up gently and be certain the dried fruits plump up some and the cranberries get popping and then mushed. The alcohol does count as an important ingredient and you might find yourself adding a splash or more after it sits for a week or so. Feel free to experiment, or use whatever dried fruits you have in the cupboard. The mincemeat won't care - the more the merrier apparently. And while Port is great, red wine works. Brandy and Rum are good, but Whiskey and Grand Marnier are great, too.
  • 10 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 10 oz. dark raisins
  • 10 oz. dried currants
  • 8 oz. dark brown sugar
  • 6 oz. chopped dried figs
  • 4 oz. Port
  • 4 oz. chopped dried cherries
  • 4 oz. golden raisins
  • 3 oz. candied orange peel, chopped (organic)
  • 3 oz. candied lemon peel, chopped (organic)
  • 3 oz. organic solid vegetable shortening
  • zest and juice of one orange
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 oz. honey
  • splash of vanilla, almond, and lemon extracts
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 3 oz. brandy
  • 3 oz. dark rum
  1. In a large saucepan, mix all the ingredients together except brandy and rum. Heat over low heat just until cranberries start to pop and you can smash them with the back of a spoon and the vegetable shortening is melted. Stir well and heat thoroughly, stirring often. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and add the brandy and rum. Stir into a mincemeat mash.
  2. Spoon into a container (glass is best) and refrigerate. Best after it cures for a week or so. Lasts for some time. Add more brandy and rum if the mixture gets too pasty and thick.
Pocket Pies and Tart
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Butter several small tart pans and line a baking sheet with parchment for pocket pies.
  2. Make a batch of 3-2-1 pie dough. For hand pies, cut 5 inch circles and spoon a heaping tablespoon of mincemeat on one half. Brush with milk or beaten egg and fold over and seal. Make a vent or two or three and place on parchment lined baking sheets.
  3. For tarts - line several tart pans with dough. Fill with mincemeat mixture. Top with a dough cutout and place pans on baking sheet.
  4. For both tarts and hand pies, bake at 400 for 10 minutes and lower temperature to 350 and bake until pies crust and golden and filling is bubbly - about 18-25 more minutes. Remove when crust is a nice deep golden color and the filling is leaky and bubbling. Cool on racks.

For more mincemeat delights try these:

Quick Mincemeat from David Lebovitz

From Food Timeline and Channeling Grandma’s Ancestors

Traditional Mincemeat Pie From Saveur



  1. it’s completely filled with beautiful mincemeat filling!!!

  2. Coming to this late, but hahahaha, my grandmother was British. We didn’t have carrot pudding (although she used to reminisce about, I kid you not, both Spotted Dick and just plain suet pudding), but we did have plum pudding at Christmas with hard sauce, and mince pies. This might make the mince pies tastier to you — we ate them with hard sauce too. And Nana made our hard sauce HARD. Note, too, that the plum pudding was soaked in brandy and set on fire. The British have some strange ideas about food.

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I have a gluten-free friend and have been looking for something to bring to a potluck — now I’m overwhelmed with choices!


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