/ Food & Drink

The Great British Mince Pie Bun Fight

Home-made mince pies with icing sugar and a sieve

It’s the night before Christmas, and all through the house, my family are making merry. We’re enjoying a relaxing Christmas Eve. Only one thing could spoil the night – our traditional fight over the perfect mince pie.

I love Christmas Eve – it’s one of the best bits of Christmas. My family is all together, and we’re making the most of a lovely Christmassy reunion. Then my mum pipes up: ‘Who fancies a mince pie?’

A silence descends. There’s awkwardness, a bit of foot-shuffling, and a couple of mumbled hmm’s. Eventually my sister asks the dreaded question: ‘Are they home made?’

Because my family can’t just be normal – we can’t just tuck into any old mince pie – battle lines have been drawn around two distinct camps.

There are those, like my mum and me, who think you can’t beat a home-made pie: slightly battered and misshapen, perhaps, but more Christmassy because they’ve been made with love. My sister is head of the rival camp: those who won’t touch home-made mince pies with a 12-foot candy cane.

It’s all in the pastry

As the keen bakers among us know, it’s impossible to make mince pie pastry that’s soft and sweet and shortbread-y like the pies you get in the shops. When I’ve tried I’ve ended up either with rock-solid chunks of something akin to cardboard or a half-burned half-soggy mess.

Even when my mince pies look like something out of Delia’s recipe book, they still taste somewhat… well, amateur. I’d be ashamed to leave one by the fireplace for Father Christmas to critique – he’d probably prefer the carrot we leave out for Rudolph.

And for my sister these amateur mince pies just aren’t good enough. She goes for taste over tradition every time, and if I throw a party and proudly announce that I’ve made my own, she’ll sigh and produce a packet of pristine shop-bought ones.

Mustn’t crumble

No matter what my sister thinks, I’ll get the rolling pin out and make my own mince pies. They might be rubbish, tasteless, poor imitations of their shop-bought cousins, but they’re Christmassy, damn it, and that’s what matters to me.

Do you make your own Christmas food? Or do you go for the shop-bought pies, puddings and cakes? I won’t judge you, I promise – as long as you assure me you make your own stuffing.

What sort of mince pie do you prefer?

Home-made (52%, 90 Votes)

Shop-bought (27%, 46 Votes)

I don't like mince pies (22%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 177

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Made two dozen mince pies yesterday and nothing wrong with the pasty. It’s the bought pies that are cardboardy.

But if that’s what people like….

While I admire your commitment Nikki, I tend to apply a formula to any home baking to make sure the effort is reflective of the end result. Now – if I can buy a pack of shop-bought mince pies for £1 or £2 rather than spending a few pounds more and hours in the kitchen (for what is invariably a less tasty product), the baking exercise is no longer viable.

Baking may not ‘technically’ be a science, but in many ways it is. I think I proved that today!

Patricia says:
24 December 2012

I was brought up on home made mince pies although my Mum now buys shop ones !
However the tradition has stuck and we always make our own including our own mincemeat.

We make a large batch of mincemeat every 3 years and by the third year the brandy has soaked through and it’s delicious!

I do cheat however on the pastry and use ready made puff pastry 🙂

“for what is invariably a less tasty product…”

You must be doing it wrong. How is that the TV schedules are stuffed full of food programmes and people still can’t (or won’t) cook?

Hi Phil, I’ve no doubt you’re right – I’m doing it wrong! However, I’m not sure I’m willing to put in the effort to make them come out better than shop-bought pies (although I’m sure it can be done). I’m a keen baker and go out of my way to whip up lots of sweet-treats, but mince pies are technically beyond me. It’s the pastry I struggle with!

Well if a mere bloke like me can do it you should be able to.

I’m a good bread maker, but when it comes to pastry my hands are too warm.

Martin Hadlington says:
11 December 2017

We make our own, sugar reduced, mincemeat and its fine. Recently purchased a jar of leading brand mincemeat. It appears to be a bit of fruit and suet suspended in a sugar syrup. The sweetness masks any other flavour. So much for reducing sugar in food! With home made pies, the pastry and the filling can be tailored to family taste.