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To kick off this new series of taste tests I look at mince pies from each of the leading supermarkets. In addition to taste, texture and appearance I will also look at ingredients for additives (I believe in as natural ingredients as possible ) and overall value for money. On the whole, I was impressed with the quality although all were a little too sweet for my own tastes, and compared to home made ones. The price however was consistently high across the brands; more than 60p per pie, which compared to normal mince pies is nearly three times the cost.

Read on for the verdicts on each brand….

IMG_2366 Waitrose:

These pies have pale thin and short pastry with a deep filling, right to the top of the lid. The different vine fruits are visible and to be honest it looks like a standard mince pie.  On the whole the declaration is pretty free from nasties. However its a shame to see margarine instead of butter in the pastry, and not even declared dairy free. The pastry has a good crumble and isn’t too sweet, and neither is the filling which is rich with visible vine fruits.

OVERALL VERDICT: A very good mince pie, that is top of the pile for me

IMG_2372Marks and Spencer:

The thin, short pastry actually has some browning on the star but it could do with more mincemeat filling as it has reduced in cooking. The filling itself contains visible vine fruits and candied peel, and the star lid differentiates it from gluten-ous mince pies at your gathering… As is standard M&S policy these feature no additives, colourings or preservatives. Great to see real butter, over processed margarine in the pastry, and named vine fruits. It is a festive treat after all. Taste wise, the pastry is a little bland when compared to the others. But the filling isn’t too sweet and star lid makes for a lighter pie.

OVERALL VERDICT: A visibly different mince pie, lighter on pastry but not on taste.

IMG_2369Udis (available at Tesco):

Very wide and flat looking mince pies made from pale pastry with a heavy dusting of ‘sugar coating”. The filling was very dense without visible fruits, and looked almost smooth. Not what I would expect from a traditional mince pie, but Udi’s is an Amercian company…  The taste was dominated by the sugar coating and it left an unusual mouthfeel afterwards. The filling was free from any texture of fruit or peel and the pastry was quite thick, making the pastry to filling ratio imbalanced. The ingredients list was lengthy when compared to the others, including flavourings, colours, margarine and their ‘sugar coating’ made from glucose syrup, cornflour and palm oil. I imagine this is to replace icing sugar for processing reasons… but I would rather see natural caster sugar. Its good to see Bramley apples used for the puree, though it is rather lost in the declaration.

OVERALL VERDICT: Didn’t look or taste like a British mince pie to me, and too many additives for my taste.

IMG_2431Sainsbury’s

Thick, biscuit like pastry reminiscent of shortbread encases a substantial filling rich with raisins, sultanas and currants. They look chunky with their thick pastry lids but are well filled with mincemeat. Ingredients are mostly free from allergens, but contains the usual preservatives and palm oil, but no colourings or flavourings. It should be noted though that these cost only £2.19 per pack making each pie nearly 10p cheaper than the rest.

OVERALL VERDICT: More homemade style mince pies, with a good spiced filling.

IMG_2428Sainsbury’s – (Iced)

Fondant icing topped mince pies make for a real sugar hit. Neat little crimped edge pies with a thin pastry case contains a filling that in combination with the topping makes it too sweet for my own tastes. The addition of the icing too increases the number of additives such as emulsifiers and sucrose esters taking away from the fact (and probably the reason for) that these pies are both gluten and dairy free. For this I can overlook the margarine. It should be noted though that these too cost only £2.19 per pack making each pie nearly 10p cheaper than the rest.

OVERALL VERDICT: Super sweet mince pies for the sweet toothed

So, which is the best mince pie out there? In my opinion, my vote is for Sainsbury’s, but I have to admit, I enjoyed most of them and am pleased to see improvements in quality and ingredients across the board.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and naturally gluten free Christmas!

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