Take 7 Mince Pies

Today’s traditional mince pies bear little resemblance to those enjoyed in the Middle Ages. Back then, mince pies were filled with minced meats, mostly game, plus liver and hearts. Various flavourings and spices enhanced the filling. Mince pies, having been banned with other Christmas celebrations by the Puritans in Oliver Cromwell’s time, came back into favour after the restoration in 1660. Their meat content also gradually changed, and has today virtually disappeared.

Walkers Glenfiddich > These combine the rich, all-butter shortbread of Walkers with succulent mincemeat that has been enriched with 12-year-old Glenfiddich Whisky. Generously sized mince pies come in foil cases but have plain tops with little steam holes. A good balance between pastry and filling, which is deliciously boozy with obvious fruit pieces, stem ginger included, and distinct flavours but the pastry verged on the tough. The package gives a good description of ingredients and heating guidelines. Price: £3.50 for 6 luxury mincemeat tarts.

Walkers > Baked in the heart of the Scottish highlands, Walkers mince pies have the crumbliest, melt-in-the-mouth pastry (although it is a touch too salty) with a sweet filling of mincemeat that’s loaded with fruit and flavour. Again the pies are a generous size, come in foil cases and have a plain top with little steam holes. Good description of ingredients and heating guidelines included on package. Price: £2.45 for 6 luxury mincemeat tarts.

Cole’s Traditional Foods > These come in a stylish container and are attractive, holly-decorated mince pies. The pies came in individual foil cases with a sprinkle of sugar. They are well cooked with a nice, golden colour but soggy pastry that was hard to swallow and left a salty aftertaste. The filling was rather dry, not as generous as one would have expected. Suitable for home freezing and vegetarians. Cannot warm in a microwave and may contain traces of nuts. Price: £3.25 for 4 cranberry mince pies with orange liqueur.

Pearl’s Luxury Deep Dish Mince Pie > “A rich and succulent luxury deep-dish mince pie,” proclaimed the package. A great disappointment once opened and cut. It resembled a shallow sponge cake in a tart case. There is hardly any mincemeat between the thin layer of shortcrust pastry and the crumbly sponge, topped with icing sugar. Overall, the pie has a distinctly artificial taste and texture. The appetising cover photograph with luscious filling was very misleading. Price: £1.45 for one, 6-inch pie.

Iceland > A pretty star decorates the top of these pies but they proved undercooked and difficult to get out of the foil cases in one piece. They definitely need more baking not just warming up. Soft, crumbly pastry and blunt, questionable filling. The package gives a good description of heating guidelines and ingredients. Among other things, it contains preservatives and citric acid. May contain coconut and nuts. Veggie friendly. Price: £1.39 for 6 deep fill mince pies.

Iceland > Shallow pastry cases and very basic appearance, in two packs of 6. Pale looking pastry, which perked up once warmed. Crumbly, overgenerous pastry with hardly a trace of filling. The mincemeat had a rather artificial smell and taste. May contain coconut and nuts. Veggie friendly. Price: £1.49 for 12 shallow mince pies.

Royale Bakeries > Shallow-pan mince pies with a nice golden colour and a light sprinkling of sugar. Attractive mince pies with a hole in the centre but no foil cases. Soft, sweet pastry (more like the texture of sweet bread or soft biscuit) that’s nothing like the rest of the mince pies. Good, generous filling but again with distinctive aromas. Overall, a good product but not as a mince pie. Lacking in packaging and information. It has to be one of the shortest ingredient lists ever: “Flour, yeast, sugar, mincemeat.” The only local made mince pies put to the test. Price: £1.30 for 4 mince pies.

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