Wendyl Wants to Know: Let's not mince words
Nature's Harvest Gourmet
Fruit Mince Pies
280gm or 8 pies for $4.99
These pies taste good, but they do have a staggering 29 ingredients in them.Christmas mince pies are a must-have for any social occasion this month as they have been since the 13th century. The traditional British Christmas mince pie is thought to have come about with the return to England of European crusaders who brought Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices. Originally the mince was a mixture of minced meat, suet, fruits and spices but in the Victorian era they left out the meat which is the way we make them today. These pies taste good, but they do have a staggering 29 ingredients in them, mainly because margarine is used in place of butter and the usual plethora of preservatives, stabilisers, pH balancers, colours and flavours added to make it appealing on the supermarket shelf. It's quite a challenge to look at a little pie which is gone in two mouthfuls and realise that you are ingesting such a cocktail of ingredients. Let's see what is in them.
Fruit (30 per cent) [Apples, sultanas, currants, citrus peel] This is your basic fruit mince which is used in Christmas cakes, puddings etc.
Wheat flourKitchen staple flour found in most baking.
Margarine [Vegetable oil, water, salt, emulsifiers (471,322), di-alpha tocopherol (307), flavour, colour (160a), EDTA (385)]
You may remember my exhaustive analysis of margarine a few months ago which found that if you're going for real food, butter is a better alternative, especially for baking. But let's analyse these ingredients:Vegetable oil Most likely canola.WaterSaltDi-alpha tocopherol (307)This is a Vitamin E extract taken from oils and is most likely in here to avoid the margarine going rancid.Flavour No idea what this would be but I presume it is synthetic as if it was naturally derived the label would say so. Emulsifiers These are in the margarine to keep oil and water mixed together.
471 is mono and diglycerides which are synthetic fats and 322 is partially hydrolysed lecithin which is isolated here from soybeans.
Colour (160a)This is carotene, needed in margarine to make it yellow, like butter, not grey as it would be otherwise. EDTA (385) Which is an easy way of saying Ethylenediaminetetra-acetic acid. Healthy eaters stay away from this as it is not only a persistent organic pollutant, which means it doesn't degrade in the environment, but there is some concern about its health effects as studies have shown it exhibits slightly toxic qualities. It is most likely in the margarine as a stabiliser. Now for the rest of the ingredients.
Icing sugar [Sugar, cornstarch] Who knew icing sugar was made from sugar and cornstarch? This will be in the product for decorative sprinkling over the top I presume even though I could see little evidence of it on the product.
Sugar Water GlucoseThis is sugar syrup probably taken from corn. Thickener (1442)This is hydroxypropyl di-starch phosphate which is made by treating starch with propyleneoxide and phosphoric acid. The resulting starch is more stable against acid, alkaline and starch-degrading enzymes and provides colour and shine to products.
Skim milk powderThis is just like the stuff you buy in the packet when you go camping. I'm not sure why it is in here, but I'll hazard a guess that it is for flavour this far down in the list. SpicesThese will be spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Salt Acidity Regulator (330)This is citric acid, in here to keep the pH of the mince pie balanced.
Stabiliser (412)This is guar gum, extracted from the guar shrub found in Pakistan and India. It is in here as a stabiliser which helps keep the pie looking good and not crumbling into pieces when it is packaged, transported and stored. Raising Agent (450,500)These raising agents do the job of baking powder but in this case they are 450 potassium pyrophosphate and 500 sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. Preservative (202)To keep everything fresh this is potassium sorbate.FlavourMost likely a synthetic flavouring rather than natural, otherwise the label would state this.Colour (100)This is circumin or turmeric which gives the product a yellow colour.
May contain traces of sulphur dioxideThis will be here because it is commonly used as a preservative for dried fruit which is 30 per cent of this product.
My recommendation:According to a recipe I found where you make up your own fruit mince and pastry you can do this with only 17 real food ingredients and about an hour of your time to make 25 pies. I know everyone is time poor but an hour spent in the kitchen instead of watching television might turn out to be more rewarding than yet another episode of Two and a Half Men. You also get the satisfaction of feeding your family real food instead of additives. This product contains wheat, soy and milk products.
* It takes 17 real food ingredients to make these at home instead of 29 ingredients used in these mince pies.
* When you take out the 15 real food ingredients that leaves 14 additives in there to flavour, colour, preserve and stabilise.
* Replacing butter with margarine adds many unnecessary ingredients.