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Mince pie test

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Festive season treats wouldn’t be the same without fruit mince pies, but it’s a tricky choice deciding where to buy them from.

Getting into the mood for the festive season, the team at The Independent on Saturday, who are a good mix of gourmet foodies and lovers of good food in general, decided to taste a sample of what’s on offer at major retailers chosen at random.
 
In the blind taste test, the team did not know which retailer the pies were purchased from, and rated the pies based on appearance, texture, taste, and ingredients. This year we even included a gluten-free mince pie in the tasting test.
 
The mince pies from Woolworths took the crown this year for overall taste, texture, appearance, amount of filling, pastry, spiciness and sweetness. 
 
Checkers and Pick n Pay jostled for second place, with Checkers just ahead. 
 
The fruit mince pie that was our least favourite was the gluten-free pie from Woolworths, because of its mysterious “meaty” flavour (there was nothing on the ingredients list to account for the flavour).
 
The reviewers: Lindsay Slogrove (LS), Frank Chemaly (FC), Sihle Mlambo (SM), Tanya Waterworth (TW), Snethemba Hlela (SH), Duncan Guy (DG) and Arthi Gopi (AG).
 
Food Lovers Market mince pies. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ANA
 
Food Lovers R29.99 
for a pack of 6
LS: Tasted delicious at first bite, but delivered an awful “chemical” after-taste. Quite sweet and a bit crumbly. 2.5/5
 
FC: They looked good and even had a home-made feel about them. They also had the best pastry that melted in the mouth. The filling was deep and packed with mincemeat. At first taste it got full marks. Plenty of spice and fruit… but then came a truly horrible plastic after-taste. I dived for the water. 1/5
 
SM: Looks like a sugar bomb, I expected a lot of sweetness. Left an undesirable after-taste in my mouth, while the pastry was not bad. Very sweet; after the one bite I had, I did not want to have more. 3.5/5
 
TW: Good pastry with lots of fruit but with a strong overtone in flavour that spoiled the overall taste. 2/5
 
SH: Spices are nice and strong but there is an after-taste that is not quite pleasant. 2/5
 
DG: A perfect mince pie. Its high mince-to-pastry ratio immediately gives me the sense I am not being ripped off. It also looks traditional. The taste is strong as well as sweet. 4/5
 
AG: Overwhelmingly too much of everything in this little pie. In a bad way for me. 2/5
 
Woolworths mince pies. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ANA
 
Woolworths R34.99 
for a pack of 6 
LS: Not too sweet or spicy, and with firm pastry and a fine-textured filling. A safe bet. 3.5/5
 
FC: The pastry was good and nicely cooked. It was quite crisp but did melt in the mouth. The filling was plentiful and not overly sweet with good spicing and fruit flavours. A nicely balanced mince pie. 3.5/5
 
SM: Looked the most appealing, had a “come eat me” feel about it. Nice and fruity, in a chewable desirable, I-wouldn’t-mind-more kind of way. Crumbles a bit. 4/5
 
TW: Looks the most appealing with a good sprinkling of sugar, lots of fruit but pastry not quite “melt in your mouth”. 3/5
 
SH: Looks appetising, nice crunchy pastry and spices are well balanced. 3/5
 
DG: It lacks richness. 2.5/5
 
AG: A nice hit of pastry, not very jammy nor sweet, appealing golden colour. 3.5/5
 
Spar mince pies. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ANA
 
Spar R34.99 for a pack of 6
LS: Firm pastry and subtle-to-tame filling. Not too rich, so also a safe bet. 3/5
 
FC: This had way too much pastry and very little filling. More jam tart than mince pie. 2/5
 
SM: For all the good looks, I was left disappointed when it came to the taste, expected more and was sold a dummy. The pastry was just right and probably the least sweet of all the mince fruits. 3/5
 
TW: Great flavour, but could have had more fruit. 3/5
 
SH: Nice and crumbly pastry, just not enough filling but quite tasty, filling not too sweet. 3/5
 
DG: A bit heavy in pastry. 2.5/5
 
AG: Too much pastry going on here, and spices overpower the filling. 2/5
 
Pick n Pay mince pies. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ANA
 
Pick n Pay R32.99 
for a pack of 6
LS: A tad dry, with firm pastry and a blandish filling. 3/5
 
FC: These looked like they might be home-made but they had way too much pastry. The tops were cooked, but the bases were very doughy and the filling – what little there was of it – had no flavour. And way too sweet. A bitter disappointment from last year’s winner. 2/5
 
SM: Looks lardy and overall unappealing, but despite the unattractiveness, the mince fruit was very enjoyable. It did not crumble, a bit on the sweet side, leaving a welcoming taste in the mouth. 4/5
 
TW: Appealing home-baked look, plenty of fruit filling, but pastry crunchy on top, slightly undercooked at bottom. 3/5
 
SH: Coconut taste, very crumbly pastry when being cut. Tasty, well-filled. 2/5
 
DG: Not bad. The crusty feeling of the pastry gives it added value. 3.5/5
 
AG: Sugar on top of pastry hits you first, soft pastry and raisin-heavy. 3/5
 
Checkers mince pies. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ANA
 
Checkers R32.99 
for a pack of 6
LS: Even though the pastry fell apart, this was my favourite  – a delicious citrus flavour was the most notable flavour, and not too sweet. 4/5
 
FC: The pastry was a bit heavy. The lids of the mince pies even came off when we unpacked them. But the mincemeat filling was pleasant with a balanced spicing and fortunately they were not overly sweet. 2.5/5
 
SM: Another one with a blandish look, tasted nice, very fruity. Crumbled in my hand. 3.5/5
 
TW: Although this mince pie fell apart, definitely my favourite, a great fruity flavour and soft pastry. 4/5
 
SH: Very nice melt-in-your mouth texture, a nice crumbly pastry, enjoyed the taste. 4/5
 
DG: Crumbly. Pastry-heavy but the mince tastes okay. 2.5/5
 
AG: Soft pastry, average filling. Too pale. 1/5
 
 
Woolworths Gluten Free mince pies. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ANA
 
Woolworths Gluten Free R49.99 for a pack of 6
LS: Bit of a shock for a vegetarian, with a strong meaty flavour. Way below par. 1/5
 
FC: I liked the filling. it had a strong but rounded flavour with plenty of spice and peel. But I disliked the disintegrating pastry that crumbled into nothing in the mouth. 2.5/5
 
SM: Looks nicely presentable, left a piercing after-taste, not very enjoyable. 3/5
 
TW: A meaty taste overwhelmed anything else. 1/5
 
SH: Not a very pleasant taste, didn’t enjoy it at all. Least favourite. 1/5
 
DG: Odd after-taste. Altogether a bit different. 2.5/5
 
AG: Don’t go near if you do not like a smell or taste of meat in your fruit mince pie. Beware. 1/5
 
THE INDEPENDENT ON SATURDAY
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