In spite of our cynical, curmudgeonly world view, we’re actually BIG fans of Christmas here at Gorilla. Almost exclusively because it means that we can eat and drink exorbitant amounts without anyone asking ‘is everything ok?’, or ‘is there something you want to talk about?’, or ‘how many bottles of Brandy have you drunk this week?’ (the answer’s 2, btw).
Possibly the most crucial aspect of the food side for us is mince pies. Those little parcels of fruity deliciousness bring an enjoyment that far exceeds their cost, plus it’s ok to eat them from about early November these days.
But, with so many varieties of pie on the market, how can your average person on the street know they’re not picking the wrong one and ruining Christmas? Quite simply, they can’t. But we want to change that, so we’ve tried a wide range of mince pies, from cheap to finest, from homemade to mass produced, to give you the knowledge you need to make the right pie choice this Christmas.
We’ve tried seven in total and will give you our verdicts on each, taking into account filling, casing, aesthetics, sickliness, Christmas joy and philosophical statement. For you robots out there, we’ve scored the pies on each of these criteria so you can make a quantitative assessment and probably take all the fun out of Christmas, you miserable gits.
Tesco Finest All Butter Pastry 12 Mini Mince Pies
David Price: I approach these with prejudice; I don’t like mini-mince pies. They feel stingey in a season of generosity and indulgence, plus it gives you a shitty pastry-to-filling ratio. They taste dry and the filling is too viscous. But to be honest, that’s by the by. The philosophy of these pies disgusts me; faux luxury, tiny identical looking pie-drones, coming for me to make me one of them. Small. Insignificant. The snowflake on top is pretty though.
David Knight: There is something crushingly bleak about a box of identical snowflakes. Surely the whole point of a snowflake is that it’s unique? These mini sadness bombs seem to flaunt their middle-class uniformity, with their artificial homeliness and Courvoisier filling. I did enjoy the textures and the chunky pastry top has a certain appeal, but there’s not much inside. At best Tesco Finest is style over substance, at worst they’re a harsh reminder that we are all simply cogs in some vast, terrible machine.
DK: The homemade pies have a rustic, wholesome aesthetic, with a dry, biscuity casing and a satisfyingly juicy filling. Everything about this seems to work. The fact that perfection and uniformity was attempted but not actually reached makes the finished product all the more genuine, and the very antithesis of the factory-line pies that strive for that faux-natural look.
DP: So inviting, with no packaging to speak of. The casing is biscuity and it compliments the filling nicely. This is Christmas joy in a pie. This is festivity incarnate. There is also a humble beauty to it. It lacks the mass produced aesthetic perfection of the other pies, but its imperfections, rendered by human hand, make it beautiful – There is no great beauty that doth not have some strangeness about its proportions.
Glenfiddich 6 Luxury Mincemeat Tarts
DP: Like the way a rich person doesn’t need to tell you they’re rich, the Glenfiddich’s feel they don’t need to show off either. Their look is minimalist, if you’re being polite, or basic, if you’re not. But the taste reveals the pie’s upper-class pretensions; tastefully rich. It’s possibly the best tasting pie, but I have to mark it down for its luxuriousness. It’s not an everyday pie to have with a cup of tea, this demands cream and whisky. It makes me realise the value of mediocrity in mince pies; you need an element of disappointment for it to really feel like Christmas.
DK: I actually wasn’t expecting much from a pie containing whisky, especially one that calls itself a ‘tart’ on the box, but Gelnfiddich surprised me. I think a lot of its success is down to the biscuity top, which really compliments the filling and the whisky (the booze itself is not at all overpowering, another plus). This is the kind of pie you have to sit down to eat, which isn’t necessarily a compliment. It’s also a pie that, more than any other, fills me with an overwhelming nostalgia for a rose-tinted, country-side childhood, filled with alcohol and tears.
Hale & Hearty Deliciously Wholesome 4 Luxury Mince Pies
DK: This pie is evil. Destroy it with fire.
DP: With a name that ignores the ‘show don’t tell’ rule of communicating, these pies are all-round horrible. Brazenly showing off its filling in a way that none of the other pies do, it is provocative and arrogant. But it doesn’t have the taste to back it up. These were bought from Wholefoods and are gluten and wheat free, and the taste is pure horror. So, so dry, with a plasticky after-taste. And the second bite is even worse. Tears. Utter fucking tears. Has removed the essential ‘mince-pie-ness’ of a mince pie, while trying to convince us it really is a mince pie. It’s two men in a horse costume telling you jump on and take a ride. No, mate. No thank you. Not now, not ever.
In Part 2 we take on the supermarkets and reveal the best mince pie of 2014.Part 2