Tag Archives: mince pies

Palm-oil free mince pies – and everything else!

We’re very pleased to be able to say that from the start of 2017, Riverford has been 100% palm-oil free. For the most part, this was straightforward to achieve: we added ‘no palm oil’ to the criteria any new products must meet, and that was that. We also needed to replace palm oil in a couple of our existing products. Luckily, this was only our Christmas puddings and mince pies, so we had all year to experiment and get the new recipes absolutely right!

Palm oil is the most used vegetable oil in the world. As well as being cheap to produce in large quantities, it has a very long shelf-life, and a high melting point, remaining semi-solid at room temperature (much like butter). This means it can be used in lots of different ways: frying at high temperatures, adding to baked goods, creating margarine, and even in cosmetic products like lipstick and soap.

For all its advantages in the kitchen, there are serious environmental concerns about the production of palm oil and the vast deforestation that has often been perpetrated to make way for plantations. The palm oil industry has been making efforts to become more sustainable in recent years, most notably with the establishment of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and its certification scheme in 2004. However, we still don’t feel that using any palm oil sits comfortably with our values.

So, we began playing with our Christmas pudding and mince pie recipes. In the puds, we replaced palm oil with organic vegetable oil. The result was much the same, with no real noticeable difference in the light, fruity texture (except a weight off our minds).

In the mince pies, we’ve substituted the palm oil with organic British butter. We had to fiddle about with the recipe a bit to get the texture spot on. While we were at it, we also made the pastry cases deeper, so we could spoon in even more festive filling. We’re really pleased with the result: rich, buttery pies, with a generous filling of plump vine fruit, citrus peel, almonds and a slosh of brandy.

From now on, you can rest assured that every Riverford product is not just 100% organic, but also totally palm-oil free. It may be the easy option, but we know we’re better off without it – why not try our new recipe mince pies and see for yourself!


Making our famous mince pies

Want to know how we make our legendary mince pies? Our Riverford Farm Shop kitchen elves have been busy working extra hard these last few months. It’s mince pie season and we’ve got over 100,000 of them to make!



Each pie is individually handmade by our bakery team. We begin by making the mincemeat to our secret recipe which has been tasted and tested numerous times by our development team. The rich and heady mix is then left to infuse and develop in flavour.



Come morning we’re up bright and early and hard at work constructing these Christmas classics. The buttery pastry that we make is flattened into the tin cases, the mince meat is generously spooned in and the whole thing is topped off with a pastry lid.

One of the team mans the oven, juggling upwards of 500 pies at once! Getting the cooking time right is a difficult skill. Each tray of pies are inspected when leaving the oven for the perfect golden-brown finish.



Finally they’re finished off while they’re still warm with a light sprinkling of sugar. Our team have to taste every batch we make, that’s a lot of mince pies to be eaten! It’s a tough job!



Our mince pies come in packs of six and as they’re handmade you might even be able to pass them off as your own, we promise we won’t tell any one!

Getting floral in the mud

Monday 26th November 2012

On and on it goes; the river is spilling out of its banks, springs are rising from unexpected places and once again the ground is sodden. We enjoyed a brief respite in the middle of November and managed to harvest some carrots. Conditions were borderline and they came out of the ground well caked – it will take a lot of work to get them clean enough to sell or store. A certain amount of soil helps the carrots to store, too much wet soil can deprive the roots of the oxygen they need to stay alive. Even a dormant root needs to breathe while sleeping the winter away.

As for the spuds, we must wait. We still have 80 acres in the ground but have decided to wait and pray. Aside from the diesel burned and mess made lifting all that earth, harvesting in wet conditions causes huge damage to the soil structure with its delicate flora and fauna. If it doesn’t dry up we may end up waiting to dig them in the spring, not necessarily a bad thing, provided they are well ridged and do not freeze.

Leeks, cabbage, sprouts, kale and cauliflower are running late but are arriving at our barns in increasing volumes. Harvesting is mostly done by hand. Wellies don’t get stuck like tractors, so our hardy field workers soldier on regardless. For the most part they remain cheery; some people just hate being indoors and seem able to shrug off conditions that would be considered intolerable by 99% of us. The view and their contact with nature must help. I used to be one of them but doubt that I could hack it now.

On another note; the pies, preserves, hams, bacon and tarts we sell are made by my food-crazed brother Ben, in the barn where my father once kept his pigs. Two years ago he started winning prizes for his mince pies and has been besieged by gourmet outlets wanting to sell them ever since. The answer is always no because they are handmade in small batches and we can’t make enough. There will be a few night shifts to get there but we are guessing you will buy 150,000 of them this year.

They are very good, but they will run out.

Guy Watson