pie club

...mince pie mayhem

 

Pie Club 2012

For those new to the club, this page is where you will find the latest mince pie reviews, the thrilling climax that is the Pie-Offs, along with graphic crumbshots and introductory twaddle. Clear? Good.

Bring on the pies!

Check out the final standings in the group stages league table.

The Pie Club Pie-Offs 2012


Thanks for joining us at the business end of proceedings. The Pie Offs pit one pie against another in a straight knockout deathmatch, and with only four competitors left, mince pie tasting doesn't get harder than this.

Our semi-final line up is as follows:

Tesco Finest versus Asda Extra Special
M&S Classic versus Sainsbury's Taste The Difference

Each tie is decided by a panel of three tasters, each with a vote, so no tie can be drawn.

Without further ado, let's plough on.

Semi Final One


Tesco Finest (TSF) v Asda Extra Special (AES)


First Bite:
What seemed a decent nutty start from TSF, is quickly nullified by AES's opening deep-tang salvo.


Second Bite:
TSF can't get a foothold in this tie as AES continues to crush subtlety with overpowering fruity booze.


Final Bites:
TSF may have topped the league table, but they haven't performed in this tie, leaving AES to dominate from start to finish. I suppose I should give Pru Leith some credit is she The Special One of mince pie management?


Mercifully, it's over now, and Asda Extra Special will feature in the Pie Club final 2012, crushing the dreams of all at Team Tesco.


Semi Final Two


M&S Classic (MSC) v Sainsbury's Taste the Difference (STTD)
As all Pie Club aficionados will know, this is a rerun of the epic Porkins Memorial 2005 Final which famously went to Extra Pie. Another titanic duel is on the cards then.


First Bite:
Another slow start from a home team, MSC allows STTD to grab this Pie Off by the scruff of the neck. The fumes coming out from STTD's drunken inner all but knockout the teetotal MSC.


Second Bite:
MSC isn't done yet, and rallies with truly decorous spicing that more than matches the heavy handed lacing of a groggy STTD. It seems that we have Noel Coward versus teenage Frankie Boyle.


Final Bites:
Incredibly, the timeless elegance of MSC is able to keep the spirited drunk from Sainsbury's at bay, but can they claw back the deficit from the early bites?


It's easy to remember why this pair went to Extra Pie back in 2005's Final, they are almost inseparable. But separate we must, and it's with regret, as neither of these legends deserve to lose, that we say goodbye to MSC for another year and well done to Sainsbury's Taste The Difference for battling through to face Asda Extra Special in the final.


Grand Final 2012


Asda Extra Special(AES) v Sainsbury's Taste The Difference (STTD)
Can Asda garner its first championship crown since 2002, or can Sainsbury's break their duck after coming so close in 2005?
Panel: PC, Lisa from Youlgrave, Phill from Chez Vegas.


First Bite:
A decent start from both pies, as you might expect at this level. Both pushing out big, bold Christmas pudding essences.

Second Bite:
There's no let up in the strength of delight being dished out from both teams. STTD may be making a bit more noise in the chew arena, but AES are making steady progress towards splendour.

Final Bites:
As the pastry dust settles, the panel start to feel the weight of history on their weary shoulders. Reluctantly, the vote is at last taken. Can't give you full access to the discussion, but we can let on that it all came down to aftertaste.


It is our great pleasure to announce that by a margin of 2 votes to 1, have taken the title of Pie Club winner 2012. Well done to all concerned at Leiths and Leeds, we're sure you've made Walmart proud.


After all that, our only duty is to thank all the participants and tasters for making this yearly event the Premier League of mince pie competition, and thanks to anyone who has given us the gift of their lunchtime, particularly now that there are almost an infinite number of ways to waste time online.

So until next time, it's back to our more meaningful employment, teaching calligraphy to the homeless.

Have a great Christmas and make every attempt to flourish in 2013.

All the best

Pie Club

Pie reviews - group stages


Following a stewards enquiry into Bettys mince pies, they have been disqualified as more tart than pie. Dour Yorkshire tears have been shed, but realistically, other than the strangely alluring corrugated card base, there was little to commend it.
Therefore, today sees the last review in the group stages before we launch into the knockout phase, or Pie Offs, as they have become known. Have we saved the best until last, or after four years of world domination, can we find a chink in the armour of M&Ss flagship pie? What was once the Connoisseur became the Collection, and having tired of two years under that banner, its latest incarnation Ultimate stands before us today. But is it the same beast?
 Wheres the foil, man?  Pie shaped bath bombs
Wheres the foil, man? Pie shaped bath bombs
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Ultimate mince pie 15th Dec 2012 £2.99 4
Container Style
A clear topped plastic box of the ilk more accustomed to displaying scented candles or gift soaps. The golden card contributes to the ambience of twee squared (twee squared = nane). Sorry, Im lapsing into the grip of chronic reverse snobbery.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Firstly, it seems that foil is not welcome at a gathering of the upper echelon. Absent of foil cases, these festive treats leap straight from the box and into the mouth without the usual fingery delay. Egg wash, conversely, is a preserve of the upper class pies, and is combined with outrageously large sugar crystals atop this shiny fellow. 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
Its cracking, but not in the Northern sense. Maybe the lids have been rolled too thin, or perhaps they have been dried in a manner unbecoming of such high-brow fayre, either way it isnt a good look. The cracks betray a problem with crispness that one bite confirms. More of a shatter than a crunch, the buttery biscuit flavours do not make up for the dropping danger inherent in such fragile creatures. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
As youd expect from a chew informed by Armagnac and kirsch infused-cherries, there is a mouth-watering blitz to the inner cheeks. Almonds, nibbed and roasted for your pleasure make their presence felt amid an exquisitely saporous slop, leaving only the lack of girth to bemoan. 22
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
How the other half live! Smothering their mincemeat in expensive spirits, then surrounding them in brittle pastry timebombs, in many ways its a mugs game being posh. Ill leave these to the show-offs and them what claim expenses, not us good honest folk in fuel poverty. 19
Second Opinion - JC, Pie Club Comptroller Marks out of 25
Here at Pie Club we often have to refute accusations of a strong M&S bias. Its true that they have fared extremely well down the years, but that points to skill and consistency in the bakery; it does not make us label whores. That said, it seems the perennial champs themselves are intent on testing the theory that well dole out top scores to anything theyve had a hand in.


Weve become accustomed to change in the M&S upper echelons, but this was entirely unexpected. Uniformity is eschewed for artisanal handcraft and theres unassuming understatement where weve come to expect power and majesty. The all-butter crunch is reminiscent of the Connoisseur of 2009 but the unhappy ratio of crust to filling means the chew is dry and unsatisfactory despite the (albeit low key) presence of Armagnac and kirsch. Its not a write off by any means, but weve come to expect so much more than mere potential from the eight-time champions.
19
Total Marks 96
Any Other Business If I wanted to upset the Status Quo, Id just lobby for a surcharge on Just For Men and Levi 501s, but I found myself in the unusual position of being uninspired by M&S aspirational pie line. This may be the worst league placing for a Connoisseur equivalent in living memory, being one place worse than their sixth place finish in 2007. Crazy days.
Date Added 19th Dec 2012

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With only a couple of contestants left before the Pie Offs commence, now would be a good time for someone to strike a blow for the mincemeat underdog. Will it be Morrisons Luxury Mince Pies?
Interestingly, while we have labelled these pies Morrisons Luxury, it seems the purveyors have shied away from the glamourous epithet, opting instead to have two types of deep filled pies this Christmas. Tell your Nan to ask for the boozy ones the staff are usually immeasurably helpful.
 Morrisons other Deep Fill  Luxury in a Red Box? Treachery!
Morrisons other Deep Fill Luxury in a Red Box? Treachery!
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Morrisons (Luxury) Deep Fill 15th Dec 2012 £2 6
Container Style
At last, the British Racing Green box has been ousted in favour of a homage to festive wrapping paper (red, gold and white) but not the stuff you can see through, retailing at 1 for two rolls, from the outdoor market.
The viewing pane has relegated an intriguing crumbshot to the side panel. Id love to see more of the surrounding area it likely depicts a crumbless future world, or maybe a confectionary vivisectionists.
Appearance Marks out of 25
As star designs go, Id have to rate this one amongst the scariest. It might be the eight points that remind me of all things arachnid, or the creepy inner lines that resemble limbs, but I wouldnt thrust this toward the frailer end of the in-law spectrum. A good size, and generously sugared, if youll allow me to offer a modicum of encouragement. 19
Pastry Marks out of 25
Enjoying the sophistication and sweetness of a once-dunked Nice biscuit, I cant help enjoying this lightweight nibble. Well I can now that Ive forgotten that Octo-motif. 21
Filling Marks out of 25
Having suffered significantly from an abundance of emptiness beneath the lid in 2011, there has been a small improvement, with perhaps an extra 10cc thrown in the box overall. All the spices are invited to this bash, with plenty actually turning up, and the Bramley-cooled brandy doesnt ruin the night by claiming too many victims. Ive been impressed by the smoothness of the port/brandy mix in most pies this year, and this is no exception. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Sensible crunch (i.e. not in danger of replicating the Scottish crack), lots going on in the fruit follow up, and a whiff of booze on your breath afterwards; this has put a smile on my face. I suppose thats not the greatest recommendation, giving my propensity for gurning like a constipated Brian Cox. 20
Second Opinion - JC, Pie Club Libero Marks out of 25
I dont know if their colour scheme mischief has messed with my palate as well as my head, but Morrisons have gone very close to passing off their luxury entrant as a common-or-garden red boxer. The pastry is the giveaway, all shortbread crisp and buttery with an underbelly softened by boozy vapours. The insides are a crippling disappointment by comparison, with the advertised brandy and port apparently long gone, leaving a filling almost devoid of variation save for the occasional crack of stalk. After years of knocking, Morrisons have sloped dejectedly back down the path when they should have been kicking the door down. 16
Total Marks 97
Any Other Business You cant help but feel for these battlers from Bradford. They put out a solid team to face me and then theyve let themselves down with their away form in the second opinion. Heartbreakingly, they miss out on the Pie Offs by a couple of points, but as Greg Lake would have us believe, the Christmas we get, we deserve.
Date Added 17th Dec 2012

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Co-op Luxury are back again. They're the same as last year but we've taken the trouble to write a new review rather than just re-hashing last year's bilge. The difference is negligible, if truth be told.
 Same old same old  Co-op Luxury All Butter
Same old same old Co-op Luxury All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Co-op Luxury All Butter 2nd Dec 2012 £2 6
Container Style
Same box as last year, with the Co-op's favoured three-pie viewing pane at the bottom and what would appear to be a religious cult's candlelit rite-of-passage ceremony up top. There is sugar absolutely everywhere and I've not even opened the box yet.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The Co-op continues to show a complete disregard for Pie Club opinion, running with the same tired underachiever they've been foisting on folk for years. The lid remains a clumsy, holly-topped affair, though sugaring has been stepped up markedly. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
Golden and crisp on the surface but buttery and yielding beneath, shot through with an enticing brandy preview. Something about books and covers might be appropriate here, you know. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
Not the biggest spoonful of vine fruit by any stretch, but the variation showcased here is hard to fault, with glace cherry chunks and almond shards holding their own among some hefty usual suspects. Brandy and spicing are lower key than the pastry preview suggested, but there's certainly nothing to fall out with. 18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Still underachieving, then, but there's a suggestion that the Co-op might not be too far away from mounting a challenge. Better architecture and some minor tweaks within could easily see them rubbing shoulders with the glitterati come Christmas 2013. 18
Second Opinion - PC, Pie Club Marks out of 25
Without an inner plastic bag to contain its excitement, the Co-op Luxury box becomes a Builders Dream, containing six loose teaspoons of sugar, free to swish and spill. Your first bite will be fair reward for the dustpan and brush work needed immediately after an eager opening. Butter and brandy will be your abiding memories of the comfortable chew, which could have put up a bit more resistance for those of us who like our fruit feisty. 18
Total Marks 87
Any Other Business Gallic baking demi-god Eric Lanlard recently reviewed mince pies for the Observer Food Monthly, sensibly aligning himself with Pie Club doctrine pouring scorn on the ludicrously poor Waitrose Hestons. Allez, Eric!
Date Added 13th Dec 2012

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I still have fond memories of my grandparents cajoling me round Booths in Poulton-le-Fylde many years ago, buying me a Peperami and a can of Barbican to stop me grumbling about my tired little legs. But will my sepia-tinged nostalgia alone be enough to fire Booths into Pie Off contention?
 The Grape Escape?  Booths Luxury All Butter
The Grape Escape? Booths Luxury All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Booths Luxury All Butter 10th Dec 2012 £2.19 6
Container Style
The most austere box of the season so far, all grey and two-tone brown, like a mid-range menswear catalogue from the 1970s. In keeping with the retro theme, Booths have dug out the Spirograph to render an attractive snowflake motif, though the crumbshot serving suggestion is unlikely to appeal to anyone familiar with the little mole who knew it was none of his business. Clear plastic inner, bagged.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Small, pale and very much slapdash, with significant seepage poking its way out from within. Rejects rebranded as luxury goods in the hope they can get away with it on their 'local grocer' ticket. 11
Pastry Marks out of 25
So thick that I almost called off the search for sultanas midway through excavation. The lid is far less arduous but if I didn't know better I'd be questioning whether this was really its first appearance at Pie Club. 13
Filling Marks out of 25
Easy on the eye, with an immediately apparent mixture of festive fruit and nut. Not so easy on the palate, however, with lemon taking an unusually high profile throughout, and fennel throwing in an unexpected appearance mid-chew. Luxury innards need to be all kinds of better than this if they're going to get by without booze. 12
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Too much sweetness and not nearly enough light. After three years of disappointment from the northern food heroes, I'm starting to wonder if my expectations have been set unrealistically high. These pies put the boo in Booths. Convenient, that. 12
Second Opinion - Bram Winship, Swansea Marks out of 25
Not the prettiest pie I've ever seen. The lid was wonky and the filling was spilling out over the sides. I took a bite and found the pastry buttery, but a bit too chunky. The filling was very sweet but I liked the nuts and the tanginess was unusual but not unpleasant. Not bad, but I've had better. 15
Total Marks 63
Any Other Business We may have been a little dismissive in our description of Booths' new colour scheme. However, while conceding that 'lavender, olive and saffron' have a more romantic resonance, visits to Chorley and Preston have only served to reinforce our version of the truth.
Date Added 11th Dec 2012

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Those of us lucky enough to witness Chris Packham tear a strip off the artist formerly known as Prince for crimes against ornithology will never forget the actual sound of doves crying. Nor would we be tempted to make bold statements without a rudimentary grasp of the subject matter. I can only assume the marketing manager from Spar wasnt at the same Autumnwatch wrap party.
Anyway, according to Spar, its Party Time with their red box mince pies.
 Fit for the bin? Or above the chin?  Spar BOGOF mince pies
Fit for the bin? Or above the chin? Spar BOGOF mince pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Spar Mince Pies 7th Dec 2012 £1.8 6
Container Style
Functional and clear the large cover crumbshot (without a cleft reveal) certainly hasnt been fussed over. In fact, the whole package appears to be one Friday afternoons work, and the fevered anticipation of a 5pm pint is made manifest by their Party Time splash bubble printed on three sides of the box.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Definitely one of the innies, whereby the lid sits within the raised pastry sides, but this one has a decent swell that pushes up and beyond the surrounding walls. A giant amongst its Value brethren. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Look out for serious fragility on the ramparts, and dont expect much biscuity crunch. This one is very much designed to conceal the contents and do precious little else. 14
Filling Marks out of 25
Theres barely more than a teaspoon, which engenders bafflement as to how that lid was so bulbous. Hang on though; its a mighty mite! The syrup-coloured slop has some magnificent spiced fruit and a genuine twang apparent in the aftertaste. 20
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Way better than the pastry had led me to expect. The filling, however paltry in volume, packs a really joyous punch and instantly drags this pie up the league table. This is a solid session pie, which is just as well given its usually buy one get one free. A couple or three of these would line the stomach nicely during a lost afternoon on Gluwein. 18
Second Opinion - Robert Meakin, sat in a coffee shop near you Marks out of 25
This mince pie aims low but hits the target square. The makers clearly have no illusions. This is a B-feature pie, immediately apparent from the gauche red packaging and the splash that says party time. Those fearful words announce a lack of irony but also a lack of self-consciousness. I had feared the worst as the visual of the pie in person, as it were, do no favours either: The pie has a lid that sits incongruously atop a wonky base. As with snowflakes, each pie is different (here in the way they are each uniquely misshapen). However, to this palette the pie isnt too bad. The pastry is acceptable and while the filling-to-pastry ratio is not in favour of the filling, this is more peccadillo than mince pie malpractice. Within a few chews the filling is able to mix in and be felt and while the mulch quality is a distant dream it is a reasonable experience and avoids over-sweetness. The balance between the elements is acceptable. Not an award winner but also not the disaster one might fear. I thought to award 12.5 stars to reflect the average nature of this pie but then thought to round it up to 13. But since 13 is unlucky I have gone one further. 14
Total Marks 83
Any Other Business Only five days left to Dodecadingdong Day!
Our party is almost ready, just need to finish counting out the jumbo cashews into dozens...
Date Added 7th Dec 2012

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Pru Leith, it turns out, is not just the least profitable insurance branch in the UK, but a polymathic business woman of renown. She used to do some cooking a while back, but now shes more likely to have her fingers in pies than her hands in oven gloves. One such pie she has had her finger in is todays Asda Extra Special. Will we be glad of her digital interference, or suffer by her hand?
 No Likey, No Bitey  Asda Extra Special
No Likey, No Bitey Asda Extra Special
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Asda Extra Special 1st Dec 2012 £2 6
Container Style
A new minimalistic crumbshot accompanies the viewing pane, which seems a bit belt and braces but the sultry purple theme remains from Christmases past. Much is made of the tie-in with Leiths School of Food & Wine; lets hope its a more successful relationship than Hestons philandering with Waitroses mince pies.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Leiths havent insisted on a new visage for their collaboration, so the returning one big/ three small stars perform upon a glistening sugar stage. Its a good-looking pie, and therefore, credit is due for not tinkering for tinkerings sake. 19
Pastry Marks out of 25
A dash of fortified wine has infused this shell with real depth of flavour. It can be accused of sweetness to begin with, but once the crumb is churned, an impressively smooth aftertaste lingers. Structurally sound, given the lack of support from within. 20
Filling Marks out of 25
Peeking under the swollen crown, I might have expected more volume to this luxury filling. However, Alcohol by Volume fills any pleasure chasm created by the meagre dollop. It seems that the almost apologetic band of mini-fruits are packing heat, and assuage the forlorn chewista with a surfeit of top drawer aromas and spiced cocktail impressions. 20
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
I found this cheeky scamp quite moreish, although that may have more to do with my turps-nudging tendencies than its food element. Still, in the absence of Buckfast, this will fit the bill very nicely as a weekend morning eye-opener. 19
Second Opinion - Phill of Chez Vegas Marks out of 25
This was an eye catching, pleasing looking box with festive colours which promised at lot. Did it deliver? Well.. the pie itself also seemed to promise a lot, with the star design and sprinkles of sugar. The pastry was firm and crumbly, but held up well to the first bite. The texture pleasing, the filling sweet and generous, the hint of brandy was nice, but was a little overpowering. Would I actively seek out a Leith School of Food & Wine pie? Probably not, more of a gimmick than an enhancement, but clearly a high quality pie and worthy of a high placement. 21
Total Marks 99
Any Other Business My study of the English language had an abrupt end via a makeshift bonfire after leaving school, so I am unable to answer the many questions you may have regarding the missing apostrophe from Leiths School of Food & Wine.
Date Added 3rd Dec 2012

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Magically, there are only 12 days left before Dodecadingdong Day. Although, I must admit, Twitter hasnt been set alight by this once in a lifetime party event. No doubt everyone is just waiting until the last moment to organise whose Dodecadingdong Day Do to attend.
Sainsburys currently have their more expensive entrant safely ensconced within the Pie Off places, but will there red box chum, Sainsburys Deep Fill join them for the end of season extravaganza? Find out now.
 Veteran Pie  Sainsburys Deep Fill
Veteran Pie Sainsburys Deep Fill
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sainsbury's Deep Fill 26th Nov 2012 £1.69 6
Container Style
Where has all this lime love come from? A perfectly nice red box has been ever so slightly dunked into a vat of light green paint, just to be trendy, I assume. The crumbshot eschews crockery of any ilk in favour of red carpet tiles, which garners top marks for originality but gives off a dropped at the office party kind of vibe. Red plastic inner (bagless).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Since the Inglorious Bakewells submission to Readers Pies I cant help but see the double holly leaf/berry motif as militaria. The two commendations from some long-forgotten bakery war hang neatly on a smart brown uniform. Neat and tidy. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
A little heavy-handed on the dust, but skinny with the sugar; this shell must never be decommissioned unaccompanied. Heres hoping the filling has the calibre to do battle with such a smothering force. 12
Filling Marks out of 25
Thank goodness theres life in the little fella. A jaunty splash of OJ keeps matters fluid, allowing the well-drilled, if staid, vine team to reach their tastebud objective suffering only minor losses (joy and hope). To be fair, I shouldnt be looking at this level of pie to bring me a new hope. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
The first casualty of Christmas is always the truth (and Bernard Matthews pristine slaughterhouse floor), so I think I should own up to actually liking the overall result of all that pedestrian slop amidst perfunctory pastry. This is one of Pie Clubs rare examples of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. 18
Second Opinion - Lisa Lovell, Youlgrave Marks out of 25
The insipid looking box did not raise my expectations at what lay inside (are the pies on pieces of carpet??)
The pie looked, well, ok. There was something faintly obscene about the holly and berries, but perhaps thats just me. The pastry was a borderline pass in most places a nice cooked colour, with a hint of sogginess that just kept away. The bite was crusty but it did leave a cloying that you couldnt quite escape.
The mince was, again, ok. Slightly sloppy looking but with enough fruit showing to give you hope. The taste was verging on acidic but not eye-wateringly so.
The overall sensation was unremarkable. It wasnt a pleasant experience, but not a terrible one either. That said, I had to eat an apple afterwards to cleanse the palate.
17
Total Marks 82
Any Other Business Should my ganache topped mince pies (see Readers Pies)fail to tame your mince pie/chocolate mash-up urges, you can go the whole hog at Hotel Chocolat.

Or you can just get me a Terrys Chocolate Orange.
Date Added 30th Nov 2012

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Ah, Aldi. Perennial favourites of the seasonal lefty taste-testers who refuse to admit that the high street bourgeoisie are turning out better fare than their prole counterparts. Let's see what they've really got, shall we?
 The SS  Do not adjust your set
The SS Do not adjust your set
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Aldi Specially Selected 25th Nov 2012 £1.69 6
Container Style
Brown. Everywhere. So very brown. If Aldi made Specially Selected rainbows they'd come in seven shades of brown. There's a picture of a brown pie on a brown table. It's al just really, really brown.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Evidently trying to shake off time-honoured "ruthless efficiency" stereotyping, Aldi have turned out the most mishapen collection of pies in recent memory. They look like they've been put in a vice that has been steadily tightened until secrets were divulged. 11
Pastry Marks out of 25
Unusually squishy, in particular the undercarriage. Yields under pressure without undue crumble, but there's a hitherto unencountered rubbery quality at play here and the sweetness smacks of lab production rather than shortcrust alchemy. 12
Filling Marks out of 25
Run-of -the-mill vine fruits bob about in a sickly sweet brown-orange swamp. There's the occasional hunk of nut and a rare glace cherry shard but there are no heroes here. It's very much every man for himself and they're all struggling. Essentially red box innards souped up with cheap booze. 13
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
The Germans may have won the World Cup and the Eurovision Song Contest down the years, but global domination in the mince pie arena is some way off on this evidence. Sloppy, ill-conceived and wholly unappealing. 12
Second Opinion - Rob Meakin, annals of Pie Club history Marks out of 25
The packaging for this pie holds ones attention without resorting to the gaudy trickery a snob might expect from a company owned by the German nouveau riche. It is classical even, and has confidence. The pies appear earthy and attractive and the makers claim that they are Passionate About Fooddoesn'teven seem misplaced or loud. Unfortunately, and it grieves me to say this, the passion for this crust is misplaced. The pastry breaks well under the incisors but by the time the molars come into play there are problems. Early chews have a dryness that cannot be offset by a filling that lacks the important mulch quality. Instead it has a uniform consistency. It is also very very sweet, which takes over and dominates when instead it should become a party to the overall event. The sweetness of this filling bullies all other tastes before it. It is a sad and desperate attempt to introduce zing, and feels vulgar. Interestingly, I consumed this pie with two friends, one of whom admitted to actively disliking mince pies. And yet this gentleman was won over and sang its praises. As such, Aldi appear to have made a mince pie for people who dont like mince pies. 10
Total Marks 58
Any Other Business Recent news informs us that Aldi are set to compete with fine wine merchants by moving in the high end booze market. That being the case, might we suggest they slip some into their pies next year.
Date Added 27th Nov 2012

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Putting season upon season of unbridled horror behind them, Sainsbury's shocked the world last year by taking their revamped Taste the Difference all the way to the Pie Offs. TTD took a comprehensive big stage gubbing at the hands of the M&S Classic but, a year on, it's back for more, older and wiser but hopefully no drier.
 Och pie the noo?  Sainsbury's Taste the Difference
Och pie the noo? Sainsbury's Taste the Difference
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sainsburys Taste the Difference 24th Nov 2012 £2 6
Container Style
The TTD box has always been a classy affair and 2012's mode of carriage is no different, all regal purple and flourishes with a three-pie viewing pane offering a sneak preview of these distinguished competitors.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Chiselled good looks have never been much of a issue for the TTD, whose problem has always been finding the substance to match the style. Once again, he's all broad-shouldered and bronzed, with a double holly motif adorning the biggest air hole in Pie Club. 22
Pastry Marks out of 25
Scottish pastry engineers Walkers make their first appearance of the campaign having presumably settled the differences that blighted previous contributions to the Sainsbury's cause. Crisp on the surface, softer beneath and rich with butter throughout, with just a hint of a boozy do soaked in for good measure. 22
Filling Marks out of 25
The lack of moisture showcased within is unmistakably Sainsbury's, but years of painstaking quantum recalibration have finally reached an apex The chew encountered here is, I think, unique. The tang and boozy warmth comes without excess goo, leaving the plump, juicy vine fruits and plentiful array of nuts and peel to shimmer and shine on their own. Very much a chewer's chew. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
PC's second opinion (see below) only serves to prove what I think we all knew anyway. This was always going to be a pie to divide the critics but, for me, at least, the idiosyncrasies of the TTD make for a welcome change from the cinnamon and orange oil norm. 21
Second Opinion - PC, Pie Club Marks out of 25
Emperor Hadrian knew a thing or two about mince pies, or at least thats the message I take from his insistence on segregating the wildlings of the Highlands from us delicate flowers in the beautiful south. Yet another festive season my come and go without a competitive creation from those master bakers of Walkers. Enjoy crisper pastry than would be best, less filling than youd expect from the burly exoskeleton and the idiosyncratic whiff of acetic acid and broken dreams. I find it interesting that Sainsburys only import their TTD pies, with the red boxer being made somewhere less windswept, and furthermore, how can it be that each red box pie provides 13% more calories than its more luxurious TTD counterpart? 15
Total Marks 101
Any Other Business The Pie Club stats department informs us that a spy from the Swindon branch of Walkers spent upwards of half an hour perusing the site for a confidence boost. This is probably as good as it's going to get for them, I think. What we give with one hand, we take away with the other.
Date Added 26th Nov 2012

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Somethings been bugging me, and Im not referring to my 1980s Billy Bookcase from IKEA Dortmund. No, Im perturbed by my growing tolerance of other pie beliefs. See the latest submission to Readers Pies for further proof.
The second M&S competitor of the week now after the Classic review of Tuesday, see below for Thursdays Luxury words.
 And Rudolph likes the carrot  M&S Luxury Recipe All Butter
And Rudolph likes the carrot M&S Luxury Recipe All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Luxury Recipe All Butter Mince Pies 15th Nov 2012 £2.49 6
Container Style
Marks new broom has been understandably busy changing luxurys branding from a frosty blue to a warmer golden atmosphere. What puzzles me about the four-man crumbshot is that the pies are displayed on top of a pile of used plates which makes them leftovers where I come from.
Appearance Marks out of 25
I must admit that I have never seen so much going on atop a pie lid. We have any number of different skin tones, theres a sprawling snowflake design, a handful of holes and even a touch of blight or soggy top akin to the regular Waitrose woes of a few years ago. Shes not pretty, this posh lass, just busy. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Proper butter batters through early blandness to produce a satisfying finish. Gentle pressure did not provoke any distinguishable reaction from the lid, and even unnecessary thumbing was repelled successfully. 21
Filling Marks out of 25
Well-oiled sultanas burst with each bite flooding the chew basin and drowning weaker flavours under their tipsy onslaught. Distinct hues can be observed amidst the brown wall of fruit, which is always welcome, and feels like a mark of respect toward those inclined to inspect. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Ignore the cluttered top elevation, and release this entrants inner beauty with a hearty chomp. Soon your mind will be awash with visions of post-Carolling spirits beside a flaming fire/co-worker. 20
Second Opinion - JC, Pie Club Top Brass Marks out of 25
Whisper it, but there may be chinks in the armour. While not uncommon in mere Pie Club mortals, seepage blight in an M&S offering has been all but unthinkable until now. Four from this box alone, with who knows how many thousands of others affected around the country. Some majesty remains, of course this always was a proud competitor, after all but its hard to look upon this faded beauty without a feeling a sense akin to loss. The luxurious innards are as easy on the eye as ever, but even the warm glow of brandy and port appears dimmed by this tragic affliction. A sad day for pie fans everywhere. 19
Total Marks 98
Any Other Business Im hearing interesting things about Marks and Spencers flagship Connoisseur pie this yearwhat sort of meddling can we expect, I wonder, from the new broom team?
Date Added 22nd Nov 2012

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Today sees the return of a hardy pie club perennial, coming back unscathed each and every year no matter how crappy the winter has been.
 You again?  That's Asda Pies (pats back pocket smugly)
You again? That's Asda Pies (pats back pocket smugly)
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Asda Mince Pies 18th Nov 2012 £1 6
Container Style
Asda's way with an austere container has gone unrivalled for years but this year's affair is particularly bleak. Red and black, with nothing whatsoever in the way of box-edge embellishment. The no-nonsense "6 Mince Pies" legend suggests resignation, while the filling in the cleaved foreground pie is so far removed from the real thing that it might just as well be a nativity scene or an action shot from a Segway race.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Asda certainly aren't expending any energy on pie design - these boys look exactly the same now as they did back in 2006. Dinky and cute with a Beth star on a sunken lid. Next. 12
Pastry Marks out of 25
Traditionally, this is the bit where we describe the pastry as "short and sweeet and not entirely unpleasant" before comparing it to a diminuative, often wholesome, pop princess de jour. Insert yours here, bearing in mind we've already used Shakira, Kylie and Rachel out of S Club. 14
Filling Marks out of 25
Three parts Hartley's, two parts Haribo, with a thimbleful of sultanas thrown in as a half-hearted nod to pretence. More slurp than chew, with orange overwhelming any attempts at festive spicing. 12
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Hard to really take a dislike to despite its many and obvious flaws. Still, time for a change, if only because we ran out of things to say about it three or four years ago. 13
Second Opinion - Brighty, ex-Hants Marks out of 25
I found a pie lost among the debris on a bookshelf. It seemed alright so I took a bite and it was okay, if a little diminutive. In fact, cuteness maybe the key to the charm of the Asda red boxer - a perfectly edible parcel at any festive party, it will be as ubiquitous as Katherine Jenkins this Christmas, with a similar tan to boot. Its such a neat, well groomed dainty thing, with a pretty sugar crust. What a shame it turned out to be quite flaky and annoying. 16
Total Marks 67
Any Other Business Good Housekeeping has been peddling its usual brand of festive nonsense, with this year's "shock" headline declaring Aldi Christmas puddings better than Fortnum & Mason's. Pie news to follow. Maybe.
Date Added 21st Nov 2012

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We've had a bit of breather the last few days, more to do with beer and birthdays than the usual technical issues we hide behind during unexpected lulls. Still, we're here again now. The new dawn begins with an old favourite.
 Return of the Giant Slits  Classic
Return of the Giant Slits Classic
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Marks and Spencer Classic 18th Nov 2012 £1.69 6
Container Style
M&S have given their boxes a new look for 2012, with red box acknowledgement confined to the container sides. The starkly white front sees six homeless pies huddling together for warmth in a cardboard box that is clearly too small for their collective needs. For reasons that may never become clear, the scene is completed by an inexplicable stag's head, an unseasonal butterfly and a side of cranberry.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Controversial; minimalist; lazy - the slit has been called many things since its debut in 2010 but a third year in the role of distinguishing mark sees it enwoven into the very fabric of MSC history. Ventilation aside, this legend's appearance has remained unchanged since the glory days in the middle of what folk who should really know better still call "the noughties". 19
Pastry Marks out of 25
As crisp and buttery as ever, though perhaps slightly undermined by this season's extra sugar. Structurally, though, it's difficult to fault, holding strong through the initial bite but yielding delicately during the chew. Aspirational stuff. 21
Filling Marks out of 25
M&S's brave, unswerving faith in the jackhammer punch of clove yields rewards once again. It lends a savoury note to the more readily available festive spicery of cinnamon and ginger and underpins a persistent orange tang that would almost border on the unremarkable without clove's presence. As close to a luxury interior as red box pieing is ever likely to get. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Tweaking and tinkering has been the hallmark of the M&S range for many a year, but they knew some time ago that they were onto a winner with the Classic. Fulsome fruit and nut bound by spiced orange oil alchemy on the inside and a pastry that puts many top end rivals to shame on the out. As ever, very much in with a shout. 21
Second Opinion - PC, Pie Club Marks out of 25
Ignoring the peculiar snow dandruff theme on the new box front, you are met with the now familiar slit-topped six of post 2010. A particularly puckered pie (due to extreme escaping forces) presents a new quandary for this Club veteran; to bite or to kiss?
With marital vows intact, my reward is a clove/tang chew of renown. Fleeting butter yields lazily to a lasting, spicy finish, and my MSC championship dreams are reborn.
21
Total Marks 103
Any Other Business *The word classic means something that is a perfect example of a particular style, something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality. The word can be an adjective (a classic car) or a noun (a classic of English literature). It denotes a particular quality in art, architecture, literature and other cultural artifacts. In commerce, products are named 'classic' to denote a long standing popular version or model, to distinguish it from a newer variety. Classic is used to describe many major, long-standing sporting events. Colloquially, an everyday occurrence (e.g. a joke or mishap) may be described as 'an absolute classic'.

*From Wikipedia
Date Added 20th Nov 2012

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The last time todays contender Waitrose All Butter - managed a top four finish, Spains footballers were a hapless bunch of underachievers with a booming construction industry to invest in. So its swings and roundabouts really.
On another note, fans of spooky films from 1984 may enjoy the latest entry onto our Readers Pies Page. Visit at your peril
 See You Cherry!  Waitrose All Butter
See You Cherry! Waitrose All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Waitrose All Butter 3rd Nov 2012 £2.49 6
Container Style
Having settled on a very in-joke about Christmas Jumpers for this years boxes, Waitrose have lost confidence in themselves for the luxury version. Instead of a jokey festive design on their wool effect frontage, they have gone for a chunky golden knit, which is neither funny nor appropriate. Still, you can concentrate on the viewing panel to avoid any further embarrassment on their behalf. Brown plastic inner tray (bagged).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Another mighty beast from the denizens of whiskyshire, Walkers have given these the full bake. Their tanned lids are spartan and judiciously sugared, and their machismo is further proven by the thunderous clunk that shatters the silence, if not the plate when clumsily dropped to the table. 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
You know your top set are going to get a stiff test when biting into a Walkers crust, and so it proves. Id be disappointed if they began pandering to our lowland whims, but I cant take these to grandmas, lest she be making a Boxing Day appointment with the prosthodontists. Steady biscuit notes becalm the post crunch, at least. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
Dry, but in a good way. Each component rushes at you individually and must be dispatched via your enamel blade a kind of Kill Bill Crazy 88 scene for dried fruit. There is an overarching swirl of cherry amid all the lumpy carnage, which makes for an unusual cocktail finish. 18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
It must be very confusing to be manufacturing mince pies for so many of our well-known brands, each with their own demands, and each determined to stand out from the crowd. How they have arrived at such a cherry heavy mix for this year is anyones guess, but maybe they are harking back to the most famous of all cherry inspired victories the Somerfield Best Ever win of 2007. 19
Second Opinion - Lisa Lovell, Youlgrave Marks out of 25
Whereas the red box held a certain appeal this brown box lost the plot slightly. It looked like a washed out baggy jumper and there was no picture of a mince pie to give you a clue. The pie itself looked very attractive, and indeed in an identity parade would have been the one you picked. The first bite led you to believe that you had made the right choice - crumbly pastry of exquisite proportions and a buttery aftertaste that made you close your eyes and savour every last bit. That was until you got to the mincemeat. It was tangy to the point of being acrid and left a taste at the back of your throat that lingered for hours, even days. What a shame. 15
Total Marks 90
Any Other Business Believe it or not, Waitrose are still selling those Heston Blumenthal pine sugar and puff pastry mince pies that simply disappoint. If you want innovation in a mince pie, look no further than the ganache-topped masterpieces on the Readers Pies page.
Date Added 15th Nov 2012

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Far be it from me to suggest anyone shops at Tesco, or that anyone should buy 7 pots of Jersey Double Cream to accompany todays Tesco Finest mince pies, but check out the fuel savings you could make if you are willing to risk your arteries turning into a cholesterol motorway on Tesco.com.
At the risk of alerting Disney, please enjoy todays third and final installment of the Tesco Trilogy.
 Forking Brilliance  Tesco Finest Mince Pies
Forking Brilliance Tesco Finest Mince Pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Finest Mince Pies 1st Nov 2012 £2 6
Container Style
Retaining the misty-focused blue twinkle backdrop and six-man pile up of last year, but spot the difference fans will be screaming about the cake forks (and other things but I wont spoil the fun). They have gone to some trouble to recreate 2011s look and feel particularly with the graphic nature of the crumbshot, allowing a close view of each of its chewy workings. Understandably, this new box is still at pains to point out the expensive cognac within.
Appearance Marks out of 25
A reasonable likeness of the cover shot pies, although the sugaring is more lifelike. The 2011decor has been abandoned in favour of 2010s Ronnie Barker-friendly* four holes. The pie Im presented with, from my random choice, happens to have a slightly mislaid lid, but I can forgive a casual lean, particularly when full of cognac. 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
Not sure what the covers description of All butter deep shortcrust pastry is alluding to, unless someone has insisted the deep is removed from the filling description in favour of the nonsensical use for deep pastry. Semantics aside, the pastry turns out to be bordering on exquisite, with a rich softness infused with some of the tang from inside. 22
Filling Marks out of 25
The booze waits out the initial skirmish between slick fruit slop and crunchy nut titbits, preferring to influence the more consistent mash of the late chew. The result is a sense of something well put together and adult, in the polite sense. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Courvoisier is used sparingly, but intelligently and the pastry should comfortably lift the pie from mid-table. To my mind, this entrant very rarely lets us down, and they have continued to impress here. Ok, they had a slight dip in 2011, but with the return of the very successful four pronged [lid] attack of 2010, they could be around come the shake up, mid December. 21
Second Opinion - JC, Pie Club Obi-Wan Marks out of 25
On the face of it, Courvoisier VS Cognac really ought to be up there with the likes of Barcelona vs Real Madrid and Alien vs Predator. This isnt that kind of VS, though, is it? Still, if the Very Special plaudits afforded the booze can translate to the pie as a whole, we may nevertheless have a classic on our hands. The sweet, crisp pastry gets proceedings off to a delicately solid start, giving way to a drier-than-anticipated semi-ooze fruit and nut. Brandy abounds without overpowering, giving subtle orange a chance to shine in its supporting role. All told, this is good stuff from the Franco-Jew tag team. 21
Total Marks 105
Any Other Business *The family of Ronnie Barker would want me to make clear that I meant that four holes could be deliberately mispronounced as four rolls to distress a diminutive shopkeeper, I imagine.
Date Added 14th Nov 2012

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We are now less than a month away from Dodecadingdong Day, or 12-12-12 to the uninitiated, whereby all things 12 are celebrated. Look out for more on that nearer the time, but getting back to the pies, today sees the continued sprawl of Tesco across our web-landscape with their second entry what we like to refer to as Tesco Red Box Mince Pies.
 Value shades it  Tesco's Red Box
Value shades it Tesco's Red Box
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Red Box Mince Pies 12th Nov 2012 £1 6
Container Style
We have been treated to a brand new design. The electric twinkles have been replaced by candles, the fancy square plate replaced by basic white crockery, surely we had all the austerity we needed via the Value range? Red plastic inner tray (bagless).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Overhang has been consigned to the history books in favour of the lid within style sported by the likes of Lyons and other second tier offerings. If it wasnt for the outlandishly large star atop this mincer, youd do well to spot the difference from its less illustrious Everyday Value brother. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
Any poking out from under that vainglorious motif looks and feels a touch overdone, and presents only cloy as a characteristic. The box-front claim of buttery shortcrust must have been squared with the legal team over a series of pressured meetings, late at night, many ending in tears. 13
Filling Marks out of 25
As unwelcome a colour as it is possible to produce from these ingredients; those not put off can expect a steady currant depth with a lighter twist of citrus to lift the gloom. Better than I expected, but I am surprised that there seemed to be less overall than in the Value range. 16
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
With my new-found charity toward hopeless pies, I can (just about) imagine a pie like this sufficing for groups of rugged men on their way to a Christmas cage-fight spectacular, particularly if they find things like spice or fruit girly. But they would probably have (wisely) bought the Value pies, to save more money for Energy drinks and Stella. 15
Second Opinion - JC, Pie Club Management Marks out of 25
With last years precarious lidding now jettisoned in favour of unfashionable innies, these pies have taken the appearance of accomplished amateur rather than mid-range pro. Chunky so-and-sos despite a distinct loss of stature and filled to the brim with delicately spiced but slightly oversweet fruits, Tesco might actually have made a truth of the less is more fallacy. Not title contenders, exactly, but certainly worth the entry fee. 16
Total Marks 75
Any Other Business Maybe the Star of David emblem atop could be prophetic of a competition with its Everyday Value twin being a six-pointer to avoid relegation from the top tier of competition
Date Added 13th Nov 2012

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If you dont want to waste a pound on some mince pies, or youve spent more than you thought on Diamond White and 200 Spanish cigarettes, then you can still enter into the spirit of the season with todays offerings. Dont leave the box lying around though, as it might look like a cry for help.
Welcome to Everyday Value, Tesco style.
 Tesco Everyday Value  The Austerity package
Tesco Everyday Value The Austerity package
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Everyday Value 15th Oct 2012 £0.75 6
Container Style
Quite fussy for such a plain box, Tescos own austerity package cant bring itself to truly let go of decorative desires. Their mostly white carton is adorned with an aerial crumbshot (a first, I think) and a square of jolly symbols of the season. This could work as a more mainstream pies away strip. Red inner tray (bagless).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Theyre deeper than you might imagine, and certainly deeper than the suspiciously distant crumbshot allows you to expect. No room in the budget for motif atop, but some spare sugar has been cast upon their ribbed lid. 16
Pastry Marks out of 25
Benign, well-structured and utilitarian. The bite is less powdery than many more costly creations, and the lack of flavour purposely avoids polarising its argumentative demographic. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
Youll find the fruits reluctant to escape their firm pastry captor, and even once cajoled into an open fight, they dont do down without a fight. There are pleasing currant moments amid the apricot overtures. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Obviously, no one is expected to go mad for these lesser lights of the Christmas canon, but they are definitely good enough to stand out amongst a buffet trestle laden with defrosted party food. For those that must. 17
Second Opinion - 'Jane of Derbyshire' Marks out of 25
An intelligently crisp case but a greasy underneath to the extent that it would leave a mark on my table, however unlikely that scenario would be. Those succulent fruits have left an unfortunate acidic aftertaste. On another note, they would be fine to give to my mother-in-law. 15
Total Marks 81
Any Other Business It will come as no surprise that Hollywood are currently underway with Austerity Package 3D, the first Yorkshire-based budget stripper romp to feature Anaglyph technology and Chris Rock.
Date Added 12th Nov 2012

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Technical difficulties (I mislaid the camera lead) prevented Friday being pie day yesterday but we're back now, thanks. Today sees Bradford grocers Morrisons back in the fray.
 Moz Deep  Joy of Christmas?
Moz Deep Joy of Christmas?
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Morrison Deep Filled 6th Nov 2012 £1 6
Container Style
After years of arsing about with their 'red box' colour scheme, Morrisons have given it up as a bad job altogether this year, presentlng their standard class entrants in a box entirely bereft of festive joy. Bleak barely begins to cover it. It looks like telly footage from the early 80s, and if they think the token nod to convention on the ends and to the rear is going to satisfy traditionalists, they can think again. Poor form, William.
Appearance Marks out of 25
There's no sign of meddling within the box. The familiar finger-and-thumb fluting and Christmas tree motif are looking a bit tired around the edges these days but this pie's individuality at least means you know what you're getting yourself into at the office party. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
Like a cloud. Seriously. They may look robust, but venture beyond the most delicate of grips and you'll be treading dangerous ground. Hold your breath or pay the price. 13
Filling Marks out of 25
Deep within, indistinguishable brown-black shapes lurk in a shallow, dark brown pool. There are no real surprises in the chew one way or the other, even if caraway and ginger do have a rare influence on the spice palette. 14
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Not dreadful, but certainly some way from contention. The cavernous gap beneath the lid does little to aid structural integrity, while the filling is far too safe to make up for its sparsity. A middle order red boxer at best. 13
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Lancs Marks out of 25
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge - I dont mean to be grossly disproportionate but, with Remembrance Day looming large, these words came to mind as I sunk my teeth into this pie. Honestly. My hopes and expectations were shattered as the golden promise of crisp pastry crust yielded to reveal a cavernous domain -a lumpen goo glistened, sluglike and inert within.

OK, so while it doesnt really compare to the experience of soldiers in the Great War, this pie definitely had me cursing through sludge. And not to take an already-exhausted analogy still further, but it will certainly leave you feeling somewhat bereft.
12
Total Marks 67
Any Other Business Morrisons have recently been accused of "losing touch with its core shoppers", which is a long winded way of suggesting they've got ideas above their station. Like putting their red box pies in a white box, for example.
Date Added 10th Nov 2012

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You know when you cant think of the right word, and you end up using an alternative that doesnt quite work? Like saying you empowered the alcoholics in your admin team, rather than enabled them.
Anyway, Mr Kipling has provided another perfect example he has only gone and printed that his mince pies are Britains favourite. It took a while but I finally worked out that he means ubiquitous.
 You be the judge  The Defendant
You be the judge The Defendant
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Mr Kipling Mince Pies 16th Oct 2012 £1.7 6
Container Style
A new face has arrived in Kiplings marketing department. He likes cartoons and fun. To be fair, his reindeer and tea service have lifted a painfully dour box out of the doldrums. That Britains Favourite Mince Pie* banner is an ode to misinformation, mind.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Clumsy work from the lid department has resulted in dark edges via a heavy handed bake. On a festive note, the motif offers a glimpse of fir, if you will. Overall, Im not incensed yet. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
It would be wrong to assume that Mr Kipling is crouching under his desk, rocking back and forth with eyes tight shut, muttering to himself stop judging my pastry on its own, tell them nanny, tell them. Its more likely that the stale biscuit notes, and thick, flavour-quashing walls are his gift to a world that laughed at his dreams of becoming the first Milky Bar kid. He showed us alright! 13
Filling Marks out of 25
Continuing the good work from 2011, the collection of over-sized vine fruits was scarcely spoilt at all by anything resembling the exceedingly murky slop of Kipling annals. With decent spices to boot, Im happy for the old man. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Its my favourite Mr Kipling ever, although a trawl through scores past may prove me to be just as outlandish with my claims as the man himself. Even that hateful pastry cant dampen my enthusiasm for the jolly decent filling. Its moments like these that make me think that maybe we might be getting somewhere. Ill snap out of it in a minute. 17
Second Opinion - JC, Pie Club Leader Marks out of 25
Another round of festive laurel-resting from Mr Kipling, whose reputation as a leading wholesale confectioner owes more or less everything to his cherry bakewells and nothing whatsoever to his consistently dreadful mince pies. Buttery notes in the pastry are surely chemically rendered, while the vine to vine fruit ratio within adds an unnecessary element of danger to an already unappealing chew. Snap, crackle and pop have no place in seasonal baked goods. 13
Total Marks 79
Any Other Business Im not sure who had the last laugh at that Milky Bar audition, as the lad who won the role went on to become Lionel Ritchies UK hair stylist before running East Anglias most respected knitting shop and vegan art cafe.
Date Added 8th Nov 2012

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Like a football manager going back to a former club, or Richard Burtons second crack at Liz Taylor, my pie club return is bound to end in triumph. Isnt it?
Anyway, on we go with another member of 2011s bottom three Waitrose Shortcrust.
 Bitter about lemon  Waitrose Shortcrust Jumper
Bitter about lemon Waitrose Shortcrust Jumper
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Waitrose Shortcrust 22nd Oct 2012 £1.49 6
Container Style
This seasons must have item, the garish Christmas sweater has been lovingly recreated amidst Waitrose pies this year. No one loves it as much as I do, but then Ive always been a bit mawkish over knitwear.
The button motif is obviously used to make sure the design wasnt perfect. Theres even a crumbshot tucked away on the side for good measure. Black plastic inner (bagless).
Appearance Marks out of 25
Reminiscent of MSC in its pomp, we see a virtually untouched lid but for two parallel, linear depressions at the nave. I can certainly empathise with the hole cutter who couldnt bring himself to penetrate perfection. 21
Pastry Marks out of 25
My first soggy bottom of the campaign. It seems that the blight of seepage haunts Waitrose annually, whether upwards through the lid or via a suspect undercarriage. The bite is on the way to shortbread, but only in so much as Cape Canaveral is on the way to the moon. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
Given how densely populated by vine fruits the ugly inner appears, Im surprised to be confronted with a citric sick-note dampener. The bulk of the sultana army have been drowned in a red sea of preservative tinctures, leaving your mouth cured of cheer. 12
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Great box, really chaps, great box. These six will adorn many pantries leading up to the great day, but once unsheathed and on the table, they have to stand up for themselves and even that jolly design work wont stop the atmosphere turning from drunken hilarity to abject despair. 13
Second Opinion - Lisa Lovell, Youlgreave Marks out of 25
The box was very inviting, reminiscent of Scandinavian jumpers, with a little mince pie in the corner as an afterthought. The pie itself carried on this theme with simple shaker lines and an unadorned lid. The colour was attractive, slightly darker at the edges, but perhaps just a tad pale in the centre. I eagerly went to peel away the foil, and imagine my disappointment when the pie lid came away in my hand. It went rapidly downhill from there - the pastry was just too crumbly and collapsed in a crestfallen heap. The bottom was soggy and translucent and only held its innards in by some Divine intervention. The mincemeat itself was of an indeterminate taste and texture it was obvious what it was without drawing attention to itself. I waited for some one taste to push its way to the forefront, but alas it wasnt to be. Still it filled a hole. 17
Total Marks 79
Any Other Business The last time I provided a full pie review Michael Jackson was alive, which is almost certainly unconnected, but should he rise to live again after this webpage is updated, you must start to wonder
Date Added 6th Nov 2012

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Ah, the glorious sixth. As is tradition, the dying bonfire embers and thick smog blanket herald the much-anticipated return of competitive mincing. And thats not all - like Lando reunited with the Falcon for the Jedi run on the Death Star, founding father PC returns to fold, pouring scorn where mediocrity flourishes and heaping praise on, well, Marks and Spencer. Will this be the year their stranglehold is broken? Probably not. Time, however, will tell.

This is Pie Club.


Who better to get out of the way early doors than last years wooden spooners? The Co-op have foisted some horror shows on our collective digestive system down the years but, with a garish new box housing this years offering, hopes of an improved showing in 2012 spring eternal.
 Co-op Deep Filled  Same pies, different box
Co-op Deep Filled Same pies, different box
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Co-op Deep Filled 4th Nov 2012 £1.69 6
Container Style
The Co-op has abandoned the traditional red carriage, reverting instead to an eye-catchingly bright purple for their standard class entry. New colour scheme aside, its a decidedly dull affair, with five pies standing around waiting for something to happen. Not surprisingly, one of them is yawning. WARNING: the innards displayed here bear absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the ones in the box. Black plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The box might be all shiny and new but these pies definitely arent treading virgin ground. That immediately recognisable slapdash lidding and giant primary school star motif has been striking fear into the heartburn of pie enthusiasts the world over since pie began. The sugar work is improved and this years hue is altogether more enticing, but excessive seepage underneath has rendered the base more or less translucent. 13
Pastry Marks out of 25
Trepidation at first bite proves largely unfounded as the pleasingly crisp lid serves to counter mildly clagging walls. The sweetness from the rooftop sugar gives a lift to a rather bland, but not entirely unpleasant pastry. The base is a bit thick, if were being picky, but things are shaping up better than could reasonably have been expected for this perennial also-ran. 15
Filling Marks out of 25
Oh my, its a murky do in here. Uniformly brown innards render constituent parts all but unrecognisable, but cinnamon and orange make themselves known amid the gloom and candied peel lends variation to a largely uneventful chew dominated by the clove overlords. 14
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Its been tweaked rather than completely overhauled, but this isnt a bad red box effort from the Co-op. A bit more care in presentation and a little more bite within could easily see these annual tail-enders take middle order. Could do better, then, but have certainly done a whole lot worse. 15
Second Opinion - PC, Pie Club Marks out of 25
Turning your telly off and getting that glass up to the neighbours wall, you can hear the clink of glasses and a faint Jona Lewie. Yes, you can sing along and yes, you can make your own over-sized cocktail, but its not the same is it? Co-ops muffled chew engenders those very feelings of despair, as you know theres a fruit tang and a buttery melt happening, but they are in someone elses mouth. 15
Total Marks 72
Any Other Business The Ilkeston Advertiser takes this year's Google Prize for Premature Christmas, priming the Derbyshire public for Santa's "imminent" arrival as early as October 11th.
Date Added 6th Nov 2012

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