Nothing says Christmas like mincemeat tarts with hard sauce. Low carb mincemeat is nestled in gluten-free almond flour pastry for a holiday treat that tastes every bit as good as the original.
Some things just deserve to jump to the head to the head of the line. They deserve special treatment, they deserve to push every thing else out of their way while they take up their rightful place in the limelight. It is even true of recipes. I often have a backlog of recipes waiting in the wings, and usually I publish them in the order in which they were made. But sometimes one is so good or so exciting or just simply fits the circumstances so perfectly, I find myself pushing the rest off so I can get that one out there into the world. This is the tale of one such recipe. (And if that doesn’t sound like the start of a Dickens novel, you can call me Ebeneezer Scrooge).
Mincemeat tarts are something I grew up eating around the holidays, and I’ve always loved them, especially with a nice dollop of boozy hard sauce melting on top. Our version of homemade mincemeat tarts consisted of ready-made pie dough and sugary mincemeat from a jar, baked until golden brown and bubbling. Despite their lack of authenticity, I loved the sweet, citrusy, spice-laden tarts and always went back for a second helping. I’ve been mulling over how to get that same flavour in a healthier low carb package for 2 years now, and this year I decided to give it a go.
These days, mincemeat doesn’t actually contain any real meat, and consists mainly of dried fruit and apples cooked with sugar, spices and some brandy. Traditionally, however, it is made with beef suet (raw beef fat) and that seemed like my biggest obstacle. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of finding beef suet in my area. I even tried a local British Foods store, a tiny little hole in the wall in an awful strip mall on a very busy thoroughfare. No luck there, although the proprietor indicated that they’d be getting some vegetable suet in before the holidays. Not in time for me to attempt low carb mincemeat, it would seem.
But it struck me that as I was already straying far off the traditional path for mince, I might as well go whole hog and use a completely different source of fat. I decided that a good quality extra virgin coconut oil, like Kelapo, would have just the right consistency. For the rest of the filling, I swapped out the majority of the raisins with sugar-free dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. I did keep one small apple in there, although a reader suggested that chayote squash might make an even lower carb substitute. I skipped the candied peel and just added more lemon and orange zest to get that same sharp citrus flavour. And then I cooked it all with some Swerve Sweetener and added a little brandy at the end. The end result was right on the money – I knew it the moment my husband declared that the house smelled like A Christmas Carol.
I’ve also been working on making my almond flour pastry a little sturdier and easier to work with, without losing tenderness or adding more carbs. This has definitely taken some experimentation, but I’ve found that the addition of a little arrowroot starch and some coconut flour seemed to work. It’s still fragile and can tear and crack a little when being shaped. But it patches back together so nicely that the final product looks great.
Put these two things together and you’ve got yourself some delicious low carb, gluten-free mincemeat tarts. I am extremely proud of these, I will admit. In terms of ingredients, they are wildly un-traditional. And yet I defy anyone to tell the difference. I know my mincemeat tarts and these are the real, albeit unconventional, thing.