I think it is safe to say that I may be the only person in the entire Jellybean office who has never had a mince pie… Partly due to the fact that it is not in my Christmas tradition as in France they are not a thing, and also partly due to the fact that I’ve always thought it was meat, which never appealed to me. After doing a little bit of research on the history of mince pies I discovered that I was not entirely wrong and that mince pies were, once upon a time, made using meat.

The History

The first mince pie is recorded in a cookbook published on a scroll in 1390, appearing under the rather gruesome name of “tartes of flesh”. An array of different meats would be blended up to form the mince filling and often the meat had gone past its best and so to disguise this it would be mixed with suet (the raw, hard fat of beef or mutton), dried fruit and sugar (used sparingly as it was very expensive) amongst many other spices such as clove. They were made to serve many diners at once, rather than the sweet treat that we consider them to be now (hence the meat and the suet, not very vegan if you ask me!)

Mince pies haven’t always been related to Christmas. It was during the Tudor era that mince pies became a Christmas tradition. Waaaay back then they were cradle shaped to represent baby Jesus’ cradle. The crusaders had returned from the Holy Land with many foreign spices. They insisted on celebrating Jesus’ birthday with a pie containing spices from his native land; cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. These three spices also represented the three gifts given to Jesus by the Magi (the Three Wise Men).

Now in 2019 with the not-so Medieval invention of the supermarket, it seems there is a yearly competition between most, if not every, food retailer capable of providing the public with mince pies. From ‘Which? Best Buy’ through to heated articles published by leading newspapers, the mince pie competition rages in all its festive magnificence. With this in mind, we decided to put this year’s mince pie offerings to the test, with the harshest food critics as taste testers, the Bean team.

The Taste Test

Our participants munched on a selection of Leatherhead’s finest mince pie offerings, from Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Poundland and Lidl.

So, what was Jellybean’s verdict?

  1. Waitrose 12 Mini All Butter Mince Pies

“They look so buttery they’re glistening.”
“Not too big, not too small, just right.”

Although the verdict was split, with a few people mentioning the significant amount of air in the mince pie which seemed to be a replacement for mince, resembling a Walkers packet of crisps, the King of quality came out on top.

Waitrose mince pies were hailed for their buttery pastry and elegant Christmassy appearance, although in our opinion if you’re charging top prices, the mince should be filled to the top. Still, it seems Waitrose have lived up to their name once again.

  1. Lidl Deluxe 12 All Butter Mini Mince Pies

“That’s a solid mince pie.”
“Good filling, right up to the pastry lid. They look pretty. A good mince pie.”

Ranked in second place was Lidl’s Deluxe Mince Pies, with many people mistaking them for Waitrose! They were hailed for their pretty appearance and buttery pastry, but criticised for tasting more like an apple pie than a mince pie, pleasant nonetheless!

  1. Sainsbury’s 6 Deep Filled Mince Pies

“They look a bit home baked.”
“Good filling to pastry ratio.”
“Looks juicy, nice filling…”

The verdict was once again split on Sainsbury’s offerings. Some hailed them for their ‘home made appearance’ whilst others called them ‘tragic’ and looking like they had ‘pastry warts’ (ick!) on top.

But their generous size and deep gooey filling made up for their overly crumbly pastry and slightly amateur appearance.

  1. Poundland Lyons 6 Mince Pies

“That sugar distribution is terrible it looks like someone did it with their eyes closed.”
“The pastry is so burnt it was like I was eating dry toast.”

The general consensus was that these were very dense, burnt and overly boozy with a shockingly uneven sugar distribution on top. One Bean was so unimpressed she said she felt like she was eating a burger and that it looked more like a pork pie than a mince pie! Although it was remarked that there was no soggy bottom and a firm crust, so it’s not all bad considering they were only a quid. (You get what ya pay for, eh!)

So there you have it, the Beans have spoken. You are now fully equipped with both a history of the mince pie (surprisingly handy as Christmas party small talk) and our version of ‘Beans Best Buy’ to guide you in your mince pie fix this festive season.

By Solene and Charlotte