The Christmas supermarket taste test

We get it. Christmas is an extremely expensive time of year. So, Connie and I decided to take it upon ourselves to try produce from all the leading supermarkets and see whether, if you dig deeper in your pockets, the taste really is better. It was something we wanted to try for a while and we decided to share out experiences and opinions with you. Feel free to disagree with us but I thought it would help to streamline your Christmas shopping experience for next year!

STUFFING

Marks & Spencer

Sticky plum stuffing, 340g, £3.50

Oh dear, this is so sweet you could almost serve it with custard. It will be way too much with all the other rich food on your plate. 1/5

Aldi

Specially Selected British outdoor-bred pork, cranberry and apricot stuffing in a ceramic dish, 450g, £4.99

The quantity of apricots make this a very sweet choice, and there’s an unpalatable greasiness. Nothing a few extra breadcrumbs and some lemon zest wouldn’t fix. (Available from December 15) 2/5

Morrisons

The Best festive fruit & nut stuffing wreath, 475g, £4

There are nice, hearty chunks of nut throughout and a satisfying, crunchy texture, but the seasoning is overwhelmingly herby — and completely ruined by the sweet, sticky glaze that comes with it. 2/5

Tesco

Finest pork, wild mushroom & roast chestnut in a ceramic dish, 650g, £10

The appearance is impressive, but the flavour doesn’t live up to it. The taste of chestnuts is nice, but the flavour of the mushrooms overpowers everything else — including the sausage meat. 3/5

Waitrose

6 pork, onion & thyme stuffing balls, 300g, £3.99

These have a lovely crunch to them from the seed crumb. They look and taste home-made with a gooey centre and a good balance of fruit and herbs. (Available from December 20) 5/5

Sainsbury’s

Taste the Difference 6 venison & cherry stuffing portions, 300g, £3

These are delicious. The flavours of fresh rosemary and sour cherry really cut through the rich, gamey venison. Could pass for home-made. 5/5

SMOKED SALMON

Waitrose

Waitrose treacle-cured smoked salmon with molasses glaze, 100g, £4.99

Far, far too sweet with a slippery texture. The fish has a nice, impressive appearance but there is no flavour at all of the fish; only the sickly metallic taste of the molasses. 0/5

Tesco

Finest Scottish smoked salmon trio 180g, £6

The only flavour of any quality is the beetroot — which has a subtle smokiness. The chestnut is far too salty and the lemon and pepper has large, gritty, overpowering chunks. (Available from December 14) 2/5

Marks & Spencer

Mild & Delicate smoked salmon, 100g, £5.50

They’re not wrong — it is mild and delicate, and also a bit slimy straight out of the packet. It won’t offend anyone, but nor will it excite them. 3/5

Morrisons

The Best whisky-smoked salmon with gold lustre, 120g, £3.50

This one might have achieved another star for flavour, but the gold looks tacky. The taste is sweet, with a nice gentle smokiness and a hint of whisky that isn’t overpowering. 3/5

Sainsbury’s

Taste the Difference birch and alder smoked salmon, 120g, £4.50

The texture is nice and firm, if a little chewy in parts. It has a nice mild flavour with depth and smoky tones. 4/5

Aldi

Specially Selected exquisite rope-hung smoked Scottish salmon, 650g (a side of salmon), £19.99

A real show-stopper and great quality fish to boot. Nice balance of salt and smoke, which allows the sweetness of the salmon to shine. Very good. (Available from December 19)

5/5

TOP THREE BREAD SAUCES

Aldi

Specially Selected bread sauce, 300g, £1.49

Pleasant taste of onion, and some background flavour from the cloves. A bit puréed for our liking, but perfectly decent. (Available from December 19) 3/5

Waitrose

Heston from Waitrose celeriac & bread sauce, 200g, £2.49

It has a nice consistency with flecks of herbs, though it has a strong taste of celeriac and is very rich. It’s nice, but isn’t really bread sauce — just puréed celeriac. 3/5

Marks & Spencer

Bread sauce, 400g, £3

At last, a bread sauce where you can really taste good bread. There are nice chunks of onion too. A bit more spice and it would be perfect. 4/5

 

CRANBERRY SAUCE

Morrisons

The Best cranberry sauce, 300g, £1.50

It looks like raspberry jam and tastes like it too. Too sweet and sugary, with no other taste or flavouring from spices. 1/5

Sainsbury’s

Taste the Difference wild cranberry sauce, 220g, £1.80

This sauce from a jar could also be mistaken for blackberry jam. 1/5

Waitrose

Heston from Waitrose cranberry & pomegranate sauce, 200g, £2.49

You can’t taste the pomegranate at all and the texture is unpleasant — large, hard pips and pith. 2/5

Tesco

Finest fresh cranberry sauce, 300g, £1.50

The texture is too loose with a cinnamon taste. (Available from December 14) 2/5

Marks & Spencer

Cranberry sauce, 400g, £3

Lots of whole, if somewhat bitter, cranberries, but swimming in syrup. 3/5

Aldi

Specially Selected cranberry sauce, 300g, £1.49

A pleasing sharpness here, the cranberries have kept some bite, and you can taste the port. As good as home-made. (Available from December 19) 5/5

CHRISTMAS PUDDING

Waitrose

Heston from Waitrose spiced Persian pudding, 800g, £14

The dry outer layer, covered in gold, leaves a stale aftertaste and the rose water-flavoured syrup centre is very unpleasant and overpowering. The sponge is stodgy and doesn’t really taste of anything at all. 1/5

Tesco

Finest Christmas pudding, 907g, £10

Nice big chunks of nuts but there’s too much booze in it — it’s overpowering and the flavours are unbalanced. 2/5

Marks & Spencer

8 Month Mature vintage Christmas pudding, 800g, £12

Very moist, with lots of rich-tasting fruit, and the flavour is good — especially if you like a boozy pud — but it could do with more variety in its texture. 3/5

Aldi

Specially Selected exquisite vintage pudding, 907g, £9.99

A traditional-looking pudding with rich, dark fruit and a lovely sheen. It could have done with more nuts to provide texture, but it won’t let anyone down. 4/5

Morrisons

The Best port & orange Christmas pudding, 800g, £7

A solid, firm sponge with a hidden centre of orange-flavoured syrup. It’s not too sweet despite this and has a very nice flavour: rich and boozy. It would be better without the gold exterior. 4/5

Sainsbury’s

Taste the Difference 18-month matured Christmas pudding laced with cognac, 900g, £8

A great-tasting classic pudding packed with whole nuts and fruit peel. Very boozy flavour and moist without being too claggy. Rich and dark, with a firm texture. 5/5

 

BRANDY BUTTER

Aldi

Specially Selected brandy butter, 200g, £1.25

It tastes oily and primarily of cheap brandy and cognac. There’s a greasiness to it that lingers in your mouth. 1/5

Tesco

Finest brandy butter, 150g, £2.30

The taste is very artificial — too sugary, without enough booze. 2/5

Morrisons

The Best brandy butter, 200g, £2.50

Too sweet — it has a nice, buttery texture but there’s too much sugar in it. 3/5

Sainsbury’s

Taste the Difference brandy butter, 200g, £2.50

The texture is quite chalky, with a strong flavour of alcohol. It tastes like good-quality butter but is a little astringent overall. 4/5

Waitrose

Waitrose Christmas brandy butter, 200g, £1.99

The balance of alcohol is good, with a subtle taste of brandy. It might be a tiny bit too sweet, but the appearance is very nice — a buttery yellow that could pass for home-made.

5/5

Marks & Spencer

Collections brandy butter, 200g, £3

It has good flavour — a nice mixture of brandy, rich butter and caramel. The colour could be a little more appealing. 5/5

MINCE PIES

Aldi

Specially Selected exquisite mince pies (pack of 6), £2.99

The frangipane topping is a good idea in theory, but the overpowering flavour of almond essence bullies all the other ingredients. 1/5

Marks & Spencer

Star mince pies (pack of 6), £2.50

These look home-made, but the pastry is bland and crumbly, and the filling tastes of sugar and raisins and nothing else. 2/5

Iceland

Luxury mince pies (pack of 6), £1.50

Nice crisp pastry. The filling is a bit pithy and the whack of alcohol dominates the flavour, but perfectly pleasant. 3/5

Waitrose

Heston from Waitrose spiced shortcrust mince pies (pack of 4), £3

Decent mincemeat and lemon curd with a crumble topping and highly spiced biscuit base. Good if you really love cinnamon. 3/5

Sainsbury’s

Taste the Difference all butter mince pies (pack of 6), £2

Generously filled with well-flavoured mincemeat but it’s a bit gummy and over-reduced and the pastry is rather bland. 4/5

Waitrose

Waitrose Christmas all butter mince pies (pack of 6), £2.50

An unadorned pie with nicely golden, buttery pastry. The filling is very citrusy with big chunks of orange, lemon and nuts. Very good. 5/5

If you try any of these for yourself let us know what you think. My favourite will always be Waitrose! (Guilty!) Though Aldi is definitely a great place to grab yourself a bargain and it’s full of some hidden gems.

 

– Carl