Ground meat was once contained in a crust and known as Christmas pie. The Puritans associated the pie with the Catholics and therefore, they were banned. But the concoction has survived and can be found pre-made in jars around Christmas.
Composed of apples and other fruits, it did indeed contain meat at one point. These days, the only meat in ground meat is tallow or beef fat that is found around the kidneys of cows, sheep or pigs. Read the label. You can also buy it in a vegetarian way. Tallow is usually replaced by palm oil. I do this without any oil at all.
Due to the spices and brandy in most recipes, ground meat is best if the fruit is allowed to absorb these flavors for several days. Some recommend three days, while others believe two weeks is better. Just assemble and refrigerate ahead of time so you can bake cookies later.
Double the following minced meat recipe if you are making a pie. I myself prefer these little stuffed baking party cookies. It’s a bit of work, because you have to roll the dough, but then you also roll the dough for a pie.
Peel, core and cut a Granny Smith apple. Chop and add ½ cup of raisins and ¼ cup of figs. Stir in ¼ cup of brown sugar, ½ teaspoon of orange zest, 2 teaspoons of ginger, ½ teaspoon of nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon of cloves. Add 2 tablespoons of cognac. You can also add ground nuts if you want. I wait to see what the consistency will be and I thicken with the nuts if necessary or I dilute with a little orange juice. You can add cranberries or dates as well for variety. To mix or chop more finely (you will use ½ teaspoon of this filling for the cookies), mix everything in a food processor.
For the pastry, and believe me it’s worth it, cream 6 ounces of softened cream cheese with 1 cup of real, softened butter. (A less or low fat version of butter does not harden well enough to roll.) Cut in 2 cups unbleached flour and 2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest. You can use bleached flour, but it tends to be more sticky when you spread it. The dough will be crumbly; knead until a smooth ball forms. Shape it into a rectangle, cover and refrigerate until firm. One hour should be enough. Flatten it more and it won’t take that long to firm up.
Roll it down into a 17½-by-12½-inch rectangle and cut it into about 35 2.5-inch squares. Spread it out on baking paper to make it easier to transfer to a cookie sheet. A pizza cutter works great. Pour a ½ teaspoon of minced meat in the center of each square. Fold the dough over to form a small rectangle and firmly seal the 3 open edges with a fork. If it is not firm enough, they will open during cooking. Sprinkling with powdered sugar after they’ve cooled makes them a little more festive.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 14 to 16 minutes or until edges are golden. Grease your cookie sheet or use parchment paper. You will love these. Remember to put a few aside as a reward for all your hard work. They melt in your mouth, and you will regret not having doubled the recipe. But then you should have enough ground meat to do just that.