In this Christmas special, Gregg Wallace, Cherry Healey and Ruth Goodman explore the fascinating factory processes and surprising history behind our favourite festive treats.
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As a nation, we spend £42 billion on Christmas.
And it wouldn't be possible without the 2.5 million people working in
hundreds of factories up and down the country.
'We've been given access to Britain's busiest festive factories
'in the run-up to Christmas.'
Big, hot, steaming vats of Christmas.
'I'm Gregg Wallace.'
And I'm in the biggest mince pie factory in the world.
And over the next 24 hours, I'm going to help make 12,000 of them.
'And I'm Cherry Healey...'
I'll be finding out how one Welsh factory
makes enough tinsel to stretch from here to Hawaii.
'And I'll be making one of 30,000 Christmas jumpers,
'15,000 metres of wrapping paper,
'and learning top tips for picking an award-winning Christmas tree.'
I had no idea there was so much to a Christmas tree.
Ruth Goodman will be solving the historic puzzle
of who put the bang in our Christmas cracker, and why.
We've got it all wrapped up.
From stocking fillers to festive feasts.
Welcome to Inside The Christmas Factory.
In this one factory alone,
they can produce 6 million cakes and pies a day.
And I've come to see how they make their festive favourite -
the great, British mince pie.
And, right now, they're making over 2,000 a minute.
The Premier Foods factory in South Yorkshire makes Mr Kipling's cakes,
and it covers 51 acres, the size of Wembley Arena.
I love Christmas baking,
but, here, I'll be doing it on an unimaginable scale.
I'll be making a batch of 12,000 mince pies,
just a fraction of the 3 million they'll produce today.
I'll be using nearly half a tonne of pastry
and enough mincemeat to fill up nine bathtubs.
First, I need a mountain of ingredients.
And head of delivery and mixing, Wayne Tallon,
should be able to help.
-Pleased to meet you.
Well, actually, I could tell cos it's written on your jacket.
-So, what's on here?
-This has just been delivered this morning.
-Can we have a look?
-Yeah, sure, pull the curtain back.
-Let me do it, then, otherwise I'll look weak and puny.
-Can you give me a hand?
There you go.
Wow. All right, well, that says what that is.
How many ingredients goes into a mince pie?
Each mince pie has ingredients from all over the world,
travelling a total of more than 62,000 miles to get here,
including spices from Asia, Africa and Russia,
orange oil from Brazil,
dried fruit from America, Turkey and Greece,
fruit from Italy,
and flour, sugar, treacle, apple and butter from here in the UK.
-How many on one of these?
-There's 24 tonne on this trailer.
So, I reckon each one of these is over a tonne.
-They are one tonne.
-A tonne of tunnel sultanas?
Mate, you should make 'em the way I do -
what goes inside them just comes out of one jar.
And what have we got coming in at the moment?
We've got flour and sugar.
The factory gets through around two full lorry-loads
of UK flour and sugar every day.
Constantly lorries turning up with stuff from all over the world
-to make mince pies.
So, let's say you didn't get any deliveries in from now...
..how long could you keep making mince pies for?
Probably 24, 36 hours.
-Is that it?
-And then we'd be stood.
So, one hold-up, no mince pies at Christmas.
That's right, yeah.
'I've got 12,000 to make today,
'so now the 24-hour countdown from ingredients to mince pies begins.
'I'm starting in the pastry department.
'I'll need almost 700 times more dough
'than I make for my usual 12 mince pies.
'Here, the mixing bowls are so big they're on wheels.
'Pastry supervisor is Andy Minett.'
-All right, mate?
-This is Andy,
-he'll show you how to do it.
-Nice to meet you, Gregg.
-Just put this in here.
-Would we make it here the same way as I'd make
it at home? The same sort of... Actually, I suppose you don't make pastry at home, do you?
-Not at all.
-Not at all.
-There's a certain irony here, isn't there?
Right, OK, look, show me how to make it industrial.
'For my pastry, I need fat, sugar, water and flour.'
-Press the middle button.
Yeah, and that will just start the process.
-Have I done it?
'I've triggered the release of my flour from outside its storage silo
'175 metres away, and it's being blown along a pipe into my bowl.'
Yeah, yeah, I can see it dropping in.
Ah, it's weighing it out. Right, OK.
The scale is just phenomenal.
'They're making an astonishing 500 batches of dough a day -
'that's the weight of 19 elephants in pastry.'
-This is a bit bigger than at home, isn't it?
I mean, my little brother Biffo can get through a few mince pies,
but nothing on this level.
Right, come on, then, is it ready?
-How do I get it out?
-Grab under here.
-Oh, I see.
Yep. You have to keep it moving.
-Like a Wurlitzer.
'That dough mixing hook is ten times bigger than mine at home.'
-Look at that!
-First of all, you need to put in one of the blocks of butter.
It's a bit heavy.
Whoa! What is that, about 20k?
Just rest it on here.
Crying out loud. Oh, my word.
I wouldn't want to see the slice of toast you'd have to spread that on.
That is brilliant!
Now, basically, put one finger on here.
-What does this do?
-Lift it all the way to the top.
It'll take just 44 seconds to turn into dough.
There we are. When you press start, that acts like a whisk.
That's the quickest pastry mix in the world.
That actually looks miraculously like a home mix.
Mate, that's a really good bit of pastry, that.
-Really light, really pliable, not too wet.
'My pie lids are made the same way, but with a slightly softer dough.
'Now the pastry for my 12,000 bases is ready for the next stage.'
Hang on a minute. What's down there?
That's the production line down there.
There are people down there, are there?
There's people down there waiting for this.
Come on, then, let's have it down.
'The dough drops straight into a holder, ready to be shaped.'
There's six of mine gone down there now.
There's me auntie's, there's me brother's, there's me mum's.
In just 15 minutes, we've made a quarter tonne of rich pastry,
and, in less than 90 minutes,
mince pies are going to be heading to your supermarket.
Meanwhile, in South Wales,
Cherry is learning how to make another Christmas favourite -
Inside this factory, they make 2,500 metres of tinsel an hour.
That's 300,000 metres of the sparkly stuff every week.
This is their busiest time of the year
and I want to see just how they do it.
Here at Festive in Cwmbran,
they make more tinsel than anyone else in Britain,
and there are over 400 different styles.
This one has hearts poking out.
This one's kind of iridescent, it's a real disco tinsel.
And this one has little stockings.
'The factory was founded in 1983
'by the grandfather of designer Cassie Hedlund,
'and she's going to help me make some tinsel.'
Cassie, what are we making today?
We'll be making a three-colour mix.
OK, and how many colours do I have to choose from?
I think I have to have red.
-And green for Christmas.
And then maybe...
-A blue, nice, I like that.
-Yeah, that's stunning.
So, what do you call this?
It's metallised PVC.
Gosh, it's a lot heavier than it looks.
Yeah, about 4kg.
'The PVC has a thin coating of aluminium to give it its shine.
'Jason Polsom oversees the tinsel-making machines.'
-There we go.
-Thank you very much.
I'm surprised that something that heavy is going to become
-beautiful, fluffy tinsel.
-The magic of Christmas.
Is this the magic machine?
It's one of 35 magic machines.
So, we've got our red, green and blue.
-They're all ready to go.
-Three, two, one...
..there he goes.
Round and round.
'My rolls of PVC are travelling through cutters,
'which slice the sides into strips, keeping the centre intact.
'At the same time, a wire thread is being fed into the machine.
'As the PVC and the wire reaches the drum -
'which is spinning at 1,000 revolutions a minute -
'the centrifugal force twists the PVC around the wire.'
Wow, it's so fast.
It's like a Catherine wheel on fireworks night.
How many metres will you make on this first run?
On this particular run, there'll be 24 metres.
And we're done.
That is a beautiful thing and sparkly and soft.
It's surprising, a bit of metallised PVC
can turn into something so beautiful.
It is extraordinary, isn't it?
-It turns into...
Over the next 90 minutes, I'll make 400 metres of tinsel.
But, once it's made, it has to be carefully packaged
to make sure it's not squashed in transit.
Hello, I'm stuck!
Can you help me?
'Colette Welch is one of 55 Christmas elves at the factory.'
How do we get this ready to go out into the big, wide world?
Take this in half, just push it through, and into the display unit.
'So, if you want top tinsel at Christmas,
'you could store it hanging up,
'rather than squashing it into a box.'
What do you think Christmas would be without tinsel?
Do you consider yourself to be one of Santa's little helpers?
Does that make me an honorary elf?
That is one of life's ambitions achieved right there.
Just today, this factory has made 60,000 metres of tinsel.
'And, this year, they've made over 12 million metres,
'80% of it for the UK.'
It looks so beautiful and ready to hit the shops.
Ready to decorate Britain this Christmas.
Back at the Yorkshire cake factory my pastry's done,
so I'm ready to make my mincemeat filling.
I thought we'd be starting with the dried fruit, but Mark Bailey,
who handles the ingredients, has other ideas.
Mark, what's the next stage?
Press the restart there, Gregg.
-So, what happens when I press the button?
Yeah, it'll start adding the ingredients,
so if you just press that there.
The sugar's going in.
It's a nice, sugary smell, but it makes you cough, doesn't it?
So this is all of the ingredients for my mince being added.
If you look, you can see it actually going in.
You've got your jam, apricot jam, and you've got your apple pulp.
We're making a big, spicy, fruity jam here, really.
Yeah, mincemeat filling.
'We're also adding malt, treacle and a vinegar flavour
'for a touch of sharpness.'
That's proper hubble, bubble, toil and trouble, that is, isn't it?
Look at that.
Fantastic. How many of these do you make in a day?
With a full day, it'll be about 96 mixes.
The size of it is quite staggering, actually.
'Mark's making nearly 15,900 gallons of mixture a day.
'That's like filling nearly 200 bathtubs with the stuff.'
This has done its job
and we add everything else that we need to do by hand.
We've still got all the fruit to add to the mix
and, in the flavour dispensary,
technician Gemma Cox has my concentrated orange oil ready.
We need to put this on.
How dangerous is orange flavour?!
Not that dangerous, but you don't want to get it in your eyes.
-Is it that strong?
-It would burn your eyes?
-It could do.
-I suppose anyone who's ever put lemon juice in their eye
-We'd never have anything like this at home.
-No, no, no.
Right, I'll just... Right, OK, weigh out some orange flavour.
-How much of this?
-We'll put in 60g.
A very small amount.
It's a very strong flavour.
Do you know what? Cos I had the visor on I was slightly scared,
but it smells like a basket of oranges.
-Are we done?
-Yes, we're done.
That seems like such a small amount, doesn't it,
-for such a big...
-For the amount of mix.
-Yeah, ridiculous amount.
'As well as orange flavour,
'my mincemeat mix has nearly a kilo of exotic spices.
'Exactly what they are is a closely guarded secret.
It's a sizeable chunk, isn't it?
That looks nothing like mine at home.
-Yeah, two boxes of mixed peel.
'That's the sugar-coated rind of 11 kilos of oranges and lemons.'
That's lovely, look - candied peel.
Here we go.
-Are we done?
'Our mince pie filling will disappear through a door
'in the bottom of our cauldron,
'but there's something essential we still need to add -
'Turkish sultanas, American raisins and Greek currants.'
-That's the fun part for dried fruit, right?
Wow, all right, this might be the most fun I've had so far.
We have five bags.
Sultanas, five raisins and six currants.
-That a lot.
-12.5 kilo bags, over 60 kilos in there.
We just put it on, squash it up, and down it goes.
'27 minutes in and the fruit is sent down
'to join the rest of my filling in the cooking pot below,
'while Mark starts his next batch.'
-Welcome, no problem.
800 people work here all year round and then they hire in another 350
just to get them over the Christmas rush.
'As well as stepping up mince pie-making to 24 hours a day,
'the factory switches more than half its production
'over to Yuletide treats like white French fancies and yule logs.'
The scale of production here is incredible,
but, as Ruth Goodman is discovering
it's the same for another festive classic - the Christmas card.
Every year in Britain, we buy around 900 million of them,
more than 14 for every one of us.
So, how did this tradition take off?
I've come to the St Bride Printing Library in London
just off Fleet Street
to see how the very first commercial Christmas card was produced.
There's a big handle there, which you turn anticlockwise.
Slowly, gently. Impression handle, pull it towards you.
-Oh, it's easy, isn't it?
-Then you let it go back.
We've made a reproduction here
of the world's first printed Christmas card,
designed way back in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole,
and he hired the best-quality painting talent
to hand-colour them,
all of which meant that these first Christmas cards
were very expensive.
'Sir Henry commissioned these luxury cards to promote
'the all-new penny postal service, which he helped establish,
'but he only sold 2,000 of them.'
Oh, my, these look amazing.
'But by the 1870s, steam-powered, colour printing presses
'meant the craze for Christmas cards could really take off.'
This is early Christmas cards, then. What have we got?
Yeah, so Victorian Christmas cards.
'These are just some of collector Malcolm Warrington's 10,000 cards.'
By the late 1870s, publishers and printers were buying
steam-powered presses, which could turn out more of this
colour print at a good price.
You know, it would make it more available to the masses.
'And they were cheaper to send, too.'
There was the introduction of the halfpenny postage.
-So, that's half of what it had been before?
-Yes, that's right.
-OK, that makes a difference.
'By 1880, the public were exchanging
'an astonishing 11 million cards a year.'
It sort of creates a perfect storm, really, when it just goes kaboom.
'Christmas was also a time when Victorians liked to indulge
'in a rather macabre sense of humour.'
This is what you would call a tasteless Christmas card.
It's got a dead cat being served up for Christmas dinner by mice.
-We've got a dead blue tit.
-How Christmassy is that?(!)
It's a sort of sense of mortality to bring back at Christmas time.
They can't enjoy it thoroughly without thinking about death.
So, was the novelty and the colour a large part of why they were popular?
Definitely. People were crying out for more colour
and it was able to satisfy their desire.
'And it wasn't just card sales that were booming.
'In this same period, the industrial production
'of affordable crackers, decorations and Christmas stockings
'really took off.
'In fact, if it wasn't for factories,
'we wouldn't have many of the Christmas traditions
'we take for granted today.'
1843, the year that a modern, factory-made Christmas began.
Back in the Barnsley bakery, my pastry's done and my mince filling
is cooking, so I'm checking out another seasonal favourite -
They produce a million a year.
-That's correct, yes.
-Hi, Gregg, how are you?
I understand you're making chocolate yule logs.
That's correct. We've got a couple of jobs for you to do.
Righto. What's the first one?
I want you to shovel this cream into here, please, and fill it up.
-That's hard work, Linda.
-It is very hard work, yes, I agree,
so that's why I would like you to try and have a go.
Linda, what's your full name?
Your name's Linda McCrumb?
-You make cakes and your name's McCrumb?
McCrumb, that's correct.
Hi, I'm Gregg Icing Sugar.
Right... Crying out loud, Linda!
Yes, that's it, keep going.
Can't we tip this up with a forklift?
No, I'm sorry, you've got to use the shovel.
That is heavy work! Oh!
I may never look at chocolate icing the same way again.
This cake filling is mainly butter, sugar and cocoa powder.
How much of this did you nibble when you first came here?
Quite a bit. But not now.
I'm tempted to just stick my head in there.
I don't think you would.
I bet I would.
The Yule logs are made from a never-ending conveyor of sponge,
baked for five minutes.
A machine covers it with heated-up chocolate cream...
..then it's sliced up, ready for rolling
which, incredibly, is done entirely by hand.
Why don't you get a machine to do it?
We've tried a machine, we've tried it a few times,
but it doesn't give the roll a perfect roll,
so it doesn't come out the same now.
So that's why we carry on hand rolling.
-Can I have a go?
Right, step back. Let me show you how it's done!
So, get it...
-Right, push it back.
-Push it back.
-And then pull it tight, yeah.
Oh, no, you've lost it now.
What you're doing, you're squashing on your roll.
-Don't squash your roll?
Yule log maestro! Get in!
Hang on a minute, the fella over there's doing two at once.
Right, we do one a bit, he does one a bit, and then two together.
One a bit,
one a bit, and then two together.
How many hours do you spend here, rolling the log?
Well, normally, we do change every 15 minutes.
So you don't carry on doing the same job over and over again?
-No, no, because you can't stand here...
-In case you go crazy.
How many of these are you doing?
We're doing about 4,000 per hour.
-What, between the four of you?
-Between us, yes.
Have you learnt it? Do you enjoy doing it?
I like making a Christmas log. I don't know about 1,000 an hour!
Can I just go and do the icing?
Yes, certainly, that's just round this side.
They use 4,500 pints of chocolate cream a day, just on Yule logs...
..along with a kilo of icing sugar.
# Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow... #
Once these chocolaty rolls are packed up,
they could be on supermarket shelves in just seven hours.
But Cherry is in South Wales, choosing a Christmas essential
that takes ten years to reach the shops.
I've come to Swansea to choose a Christmas tree,
but not just any Christmas tree.
This is the British Christmas Tree of the Year competition.
I've been told that it's the Crufts of the Christmas tree world.
The winner will have the honour
of supplying the tree for Number Ten Downing Street.
There is definitely an air of excitement here.
-There is a real buzz.
The competition's friendly but, of course,
obviously everyone's got their eye on the prize.
Stuart Kirkup is one of more than 100 growers.
He's brought his tree up from his farm on Dartmoor
along with his wife and four kids.
Wow, it smells incredible!
-It's a lovely smell.
Is it straight?
Are you guys happy with that?
So, why did you choose this one?
This one's a Fraser fir, so this will go in the Fir Other category.
It's got the nice shape there.
It's full all the way up to the top.
How old is this tree?
It's probably 11 or 12 years old.
So, you've nurtured it, pruned it, cared for it?
Everybody here is putting a lot of work into their trees.
The competition is taking place on Rob Morgan's land.
He's one Britain's full-time Christmas tree growers,
with a plantation of over 300,000 trees.
Now he has to choose just one of them to enter the contest
and he's chosen a Korean fir.
Yeah, here we are.
Oh, Rob, it is a thing of beauty!
Now, why this one over, say, that one or that one?
It's probably good tips for buying a tree, really.
As you can see,
it's full from the bottom, more or less, all the way to the top.
It's got a lovely, fresh, green colour.
Don't manhandle it! This has got to compete later.
But if you smell, there's a lovely smell to this.
-Woohoo! Grab the end.
-This is your hope for the winning prize.
-This is it.
I know, exactly, we'll see today now.
Back at the contest, Rob has another tip
for checking your Christmas tree is a good 'un.
If you lift this tree, it's very heavy.
If you lift a tree up at Christmas when you're choosing trees and it's
light, you know, it's dried out already, it's been kept too long,
-But this has got a lot of water in it.
That'll stay like that until Christmas Day.
I had no idea there was so much to a Christmas tree.
It's like choosing a wine.
Exactly, I think you've slowly turned into a tree nerd today
like all of us who you can see around.
I've been studying the difference between the three main types
of trees - spruce, fir and pine.
So we've got spruces - spiky.
Firs - chunkier needles, low needle drop.
And then a pine which has long needles.
-I think I understand.
Everyone here can vote, including me.
The main qualities to look out for are a full shape,
fresh, colourful needles, and a sweet smell.
This is a Nordmann fir,
and this is the most popular Christmas tree
in the UK at the moment, and I can see why. It gets my vote.
The votes are carefully counted.
Stuart, Rob and all the other Christmas tree growers nervously
await the award for the champion tree,
which I get the honour of announcing.
The Best in Show is...
What does it mean to you to win this prize?
I'm so pleased. So, so pleased.
Is it all worth it, all of the work?
He's got runner-up, I think, three times,
and he's always just never quite got the winner,
so I'm so chuffed for him.
Do you want to get the whole family up?
So, it's the Kirkup's tree that'll be taking pride of place
outside Downing Street this Christmas.
At the factory, the cooking area is below
where my ingredients were mixed.
My mince filling was dropped straight into a big pot
and it's been stewing for nearly 20 minutes.
Keeping an eye on it for me is technician Gemma Cox.
So, is this it, is this my cooking pot?
-Yeah, that's it.
-Can I just have a look inside?
There it is!
Big, hot, steaming vat of mince pie.
That is huge!
You can smell the sweetness.
You can also smell the spice.
It smells fantastic.
It's just cooking it up to 80 degrees.
If we boil it, we'll end up burning round the edge of it.
So, what are you doing? Are you just melting the ingredients
-and amalgamating them?
-Yeah, bringing everything together,
dissolving some of the sugar.
I'm guessing that's constantly stirring, is it?
Yeah, there's a big stirrer inside.
-We've had 20 minutes.
-Now what happens to it?
-Yeah, so we're going across here now.
My steaming mixture needs to be cooled down
so it can go straight on to the next stage.
On the way, it's pumped through a ladder of chilled pipes.
Starting at the bottom, it zig-zags all the way up to the top.
Doesn't it start to go really thick?
Yeah, it can thicken up, yeah, as it sits.
So, you've got to hold it at exactly the right temperature?
-So it travels every tube.
-And then out through the top, along here,
and then out through the tubes here
into the plastic mincemeat containers.
Is that my batch?
-Can I have a look?
-Will I see in there?
Just, I think.
That is a nice, big, thick, sweet mincemeat.
Funnily enough, it smells like Christmas.
Mincemeat wasn't always so sweet.
For 300 years, mince pies were filled with meat
until the Victorians swapped to fruit
but kept the original name.
Can we put it inside some mince pies now?
-Oh, come on, what now? Seriously.
-We've got to mature it now.
52 minutes after I started,
and the mincemeat from my 12,000 pies is joining a whole legion
of identical pots to develop its flavour.
Oh, my word!
Vat upon vat upon vat of mince pie mix!
It's like you've got a colony of them.
How many have you got here?
About 260 in total.
260? How long would that last you?
-About two or three days.
-Is that it?
All of this, two or three days' worth of mince pies?
Mate, it's a crazy world!
There's going to be a lot of mince pies eaten this Christmas.
I'm leaving my mixture to infuse for 48 hours
and I want to know what difference that will make.
So Gemma's got a couple of samples to show me.
OK. All right. Well, I'm guessing that this is the young one,
-just because this is syrupy and that's much thicker.
-This is the matured one.
-Did you want me to taste the young one?
It's very, very sweet.
And the spice is almost raw on the back of my throat,
as if you made a hot curry without cooking the spices out.
Wow! That's quite extraordinary.
-Right. And this has been matured for two days?
All right. Fair enough.
Nowhere near as sweet.
The spices are more mellow. The whole flavour's more rounded.
The spice creeps up bit by bit
rather than attacks you by the back of the throat.
What is happening in those two days?
The raisins and sultanas are soaking up the liquor and the flavours.
The raisins are like sponges?
-They're soaking up all the liquid?
Clever old raisins!
-I did, yes.
My mincemeat mixture is busy getting richer.
And down the road in Leicester, Cherry is busy knitting,
finding out exactly how these things are made.
Jack Masters is one of the last jumper factories in the UK.
The Patel family have run it since 1987.
Five years ago, the recession in manufacturing hit them hard.
But they spotted a lifeline - a trend for bad Christmas jumpers.
When directors and brothers Bhavik and Snahal
saw the fashion growing in America,
they jumped in with their own designs.
What's the secret to a good bad Christmas jumper?
I think it's about being loud.
When it comes to Christmas, more is more?
-This is one of our ugliest ones.
-Look at that!
An Australian one?
That's so fun.
In 2012, Save The Children launched Christmas Jumper Day,
and the craze took off.
Bad Christmas jumpers now make up a third of the factory's output.
The family firm now has around 30,000 orders a year.
Even companies like Disney choose them for their fast turnaround
and British design.
You'll be trendy one day.
And today, I've got a very special job.
I can't believe I get to make an Inside The Factory Christmas jumper!
I would love mince pies, crackers.
'Designer Cheryl Madley's going to help me conjure up a wacky jumper.'
-You want crackers?
-So you put crackers there,
and then presents.
I like the black and white present.
Ooh, I love that one. Do we need Santa?
We have to have a Santa.
-Have you got mince pies?
-I've got mince pies.
Oh, look, they're beautiful!
So, would you like to sign your sweater?
Yes! You have a great job.
-It's a fun job.
-It's fun, isn't it?
Now I need to collect the cotton and acrylic yarn
in my Christmassy colours.
My knitting machine can take up to five reels.
And last but not least, emerald green,
for the tree.
There are 32 hi-tech machines and Snahal's going to help me
thread the one that's going to make my jumper.
-Hi, how you doing?
So, I've something very special for you.
Here is the box of yarn.
Oh, nice. So if you put the green onto that bobbin
-and just tie this to that top.
-Oh, you broke it.
-It's so delicate.
-It's a soft single ply.
It comes up here, through the hooks,
along here and then into the machine.
These are called feeders and each feeder is a colour.
Knitting needles are these things here.
-How many are there?
-In one machine, you have over 1,000 needles.
Is it knitting now?
It's knitting, yeah. You can see it knitting there.
The carriage runs back and forth,
picking up the coloured threads for my pattern
and lifting the needles to make the stitches.
Here it comes! Yay! It's fresh from the oven.
It takes 30 minutes for the machine to knit the front of my jumper.
Just got one more Santa.
He's only got half a face at the moment.
But it would take up to 20 times longer to knit it by hand.
We've got our mince pies.
And you've got your Yule logs.
My Yule logs.
Here we go. Woohoo!
Oh! Look at that.
One front done.
These are incredible.
Oh, they are. They're very smart machines.
Other machines have knitted my back and my sleeves.
Then a team of experienced sewers stitch my jumper together.
The collar is attached,
it's given a steam,
and it's ready to wear.
The official Inside The Factory Christmas jumper!
It's just pure Christmas.
Made in England.
I feel properly Christmassy now.
At our mega bakery,
the mince pie assembly line is a 180-metre conveyor belt,
which will take my pies all the way through the ovens,
through cooling and to packaging.
The mincemeat I made is developing its flavour
so, for my pies, I'm using a batch they made earlier.
At the start of pie assembly line is front-line leader Scott Bates.
It all happens straight down this one line here.
Really? So I start up here, and are you saying,
by the time I've finished down the end of this machine,
I will have a mince pie?
You will have a mince pie in your hand, fully ready.
At last! Where do I start?
The first job is actually the only manual job we do on here,
and that is putting the foils into the foiler.
If you want to get up the steps, you can have a quick go at doing this.
So the bags are open at one end.
-There we are. There we are.
-You've got to keep them all flat cos, if they go in wrong,
they won't deposit the foil underneath.
-How about that?
-That's bang on.
All right! All right! This is easy.
Thought you said it was easy?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
The foil comes from the land of cherries, tinsel and Christmas trees
- South Wales.
-Not too bad a job, if I say so myself.
Foil's in. You're missing something.
I want a pie in me foil!
The pie is on its way.
So this is the dough that you made earlier on,
and now it is being deposited...
into the foil.
So my pastry's coming down
and something in there is cutting them into biscuit shapes?
Correct. And it's two blades that are cutting.
So you've got rollers taking your dough down and the guillotine then
is cutting the pellet to what size you require.
That looks odd to me.
That's not a mince pie. That's a shortbread biscuit.
We have the dies and that makes what is the base of a mince pie.
This, I'm guessing, comes down like this and squashes it?
Correct. That comes down and squashes it.
-Pushes it into a nice shape like that?
So, as you can see here, the dies are going up and down.
Got it. At about 15 a second.
I've now got a mince pie base.
-What happens now?
-We deliver the mince.
My 12,000 pies will be filled in just 17 minutes,
and they're just a teeny portion
of the 180 million mince pies they'll make this year.
There you go.
We have our mincemeat in our pie.
Can we put a lid on now?
Certainly can. That's the next stage.
And we come down here with a flat piece of dough.
All right. That looks more like a mince pie pastry.
As you can see, these lids are then transferred onto the pies.
As the base for the mincemeat comes along,
the lids will go down a slope
and it drops every one on a row of 15 perfectly.
So that is what you've got.
With just over an hour gone, my pies are filled and the lids are on,
but there's a pastry mystery I want to solve with Scott.
The lid, it's a different pastry to the base?
-Which is stupid.
It's how it performs for the motif.
The lid dough has a little more fat so it's soft enough to be moulded.
-Show me, show me.
-The dies we use...
This is a lid die.
Ah, that's making the holly leaf motif on the top?
-It's all a bit nuts.
Do you think this is what Santa had in mind?
-I hope so.
-Well, he's got to eat them.
I leave one out for him every year.
It comes out as such.
That's looking better, isn't it, mate?
Now all my pies need is a sprinkle of water and a dust of sugar.
Basically, this row of machines has done everything?
-Do you actually need any people here?
Oh, yes. Cos when it goes wrong, it can go very wrong,
so you've got to keep monitoring it.
And when you transfer them into the oven,
you can get pile-ups and you need people here.
So, right now, over 700 mince pies a minute
-are heading to the oven?
This 45 metre oven is the length of three double-decker buses.
This is the oven.
The oven's got seven zones.
Is it all the same temperature just doing the same thing?
No, we have different temperatures in different zones
to bake our mince pies.
The first three zones cook the base of the pie
at a super hot 285 degrees,
whilst the last ones brown the top, like a grill.
The oven is always on and so the conveyor belt must never stop
to avoid any risk of burning.
And how long does it take?
-Nine minutes to bake the mince pies.
-Not bad, mate.
Not bad. We're almost there.
My pies were in a hot oven, almost as hot as Ruth,
who's getting toasty by a roaring fire discovering what first made
Christmas go with a bang.
# Snow is falling
# All around me
# Children playing... #
300 million of them will be pulled this Christmas in Britain.
That's five each.
But who came up with the idea of mini explosions
around the Christmas dinner table?
In the 1840s, a young cake maker from East London
took a trip to Paris and
there he fell in love with bonbons -
small, sugary sweets wrapped in tissue paper.
Tom Smith brought this idea back to his bakery,
where his sugared almonds in twisted tissue paper became a surprise
To drum up even more trade the following Christmas,
he added a little love note.
The final inspiration is said to have come to Tom
in a flash when he threw a log on the fire.
It spat and went crack.
And he decided to add just such a sound to his crackers.
But how did Tom manage to make his crackers go crack?
To find out, I've come to a lab at the University of Westminster
to meet scientist and cracker snap investigator Wendy Sadler.
Could you tell me how exactly Tom Smith invented the cracker?
So, we're pretty sure he invented the cracker,
but we're not entirely sure that he invented the bang.
Let me show you this book.
This comes from 1816.
So, quite a long time before the crackers came out.
And, inside this book, this is The Art of Making Fireworks,
we've got the description of how to create something
called a Waterloo Cracker.
The Waterloo Cracker was a type of indoor firework
popular when Tom Smith was just a boy.
And we are going to try and make one.
"take a slip of cartridge paper
"about three quarters of an inch wide."
-So, cut into two equal lengths.
-OK, will that do?
Now "G" in here stands for glass.
So, they used to use powdered glass as the friction.
So we're going to substitute that for some sandpaper.
"Then put about a grain of the silver."
Is that actually the metal silver?
It is kind of, but it's a special mix of silver.
It's a thing called silver fulminate.
Silver, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen,
in a very special mix that's quite unstable
and makes it very explosive.
So, the thing that we normally play with every day is SO explosive?
-I like the sound of that!
-It is good, isn't it?
'Even a small amount of silver fulminate can make a large impact.
'So don't try this at home!'
Right, so, we have a little bit of silver fulminate here.
We're going to ignite it using heat, rather than friction.
Just so you can get an idea of the noise.
SHARP SNAP, RUTH LAUGHS
And the sound, of course, comes from the detonation
which happens so fast. It's faster than the speed of sound.
So, you're actually getting a supersonic detonation.
And that in a cracker that you might have in your home?
-That we hand to small children!
What a great Christmas!
'Now we can put the volatile chemical
'inside my Waterloo Cracker Snap.'
Tiny little bit.
OK, so we've got our silver fulminate on.
OK, so I'm going to put the second part basically over the top of here.
"Take hold of the two ends and pull them sharply from each other,
"and it will produce a loud report."
Well, if that isn't a cracker!
-Could we try it?
-Here we go.
-OK. Do I have to make a wish or something?
SHARP SNAP Yay!
So there's no doubt, then, is there,
that Tom Smith did not invent the bang.
No, I think that's been proven here.
But he did still add something extra, really.
He put it all together into a product that people wanted.
Tom Smith launched his cracker in 1860.
He wrapped up the snap inside a brightly coloured tube
and they became a sensation.
Shall we try it?
Yeah, why not? OK.
-Here we go.
-Here we go.
-Our very own Tom Smith cracker.
I think I won! I think I won.
I got a hat.
He might not have invented any of the constituent parts,
but Tom Smith was a bit of a genius, wasn't he?
I mean, how can you possibly turn your nose up
at a small explosion at the dinner table?
Back on the assembly line
and my 12,000 mince pies have reached packaging.
They've been cooling at room temperature.
Then through a chiller.
And they're now in their plastic holders.
The unrelenting march of mince pies
means any hold-up can cause major pile-up problems.
Sheila Highman is in charge of coping with any crisis.
How long have you been here?
-Before I was born.
And how many mince pies do you reckon you look at a week?
What are these people behind us doing?
If the machine stops, it won't pack anything.
We can't stop the oven or the cooler,
so these people have to take the pies off.
-So, the oven never stops?
So, if there's a problem up the line,
you can't stop these pies coming through.
No, so, somebody has to take them off.
That's my sort of job, that is.
-Would you like to have a go?
Think pies, think Gregg Wallace.
'We're going to practise
'how Sheila's team prevents a pie pile-up.'
-What do I do?
-So we take these pies off.
Put them that way.
No! The easiest way...
-Hang on, hang on.
-..is like that.
-Behind you, behind you.
-Don't hold them back.
Easy! One, two, three, four.
-How did I do?
-You can't do it.
-I can eat them.
You can probably bake them, but you can't pack them.
The pies I haven't messed up go straight into packing
and are sealed neatly into cardboard cartons of six.
Quality controller Mandy Gibson has got a job
I think might suit me better than the last one.
-What's your job?
-My job is to check the pies every half an hour.
Can you show me the procedure?
Yes. These was taken off at 2:57.
So, I write the time down.
OK, so, make sure there's no raw spots.
Raw spots, like white bits?
-No boil outs.
What's a boil out? They start seeping out?
Yeah. Your mince filling coming out.
-Would you like to try that one?
Try it? Do you have to try it?
-Yes, I have to try it.
-Every half an hour you eat a mince pie?
Not a whole mince pie.
-A bit of a mince pie?
-And you still have your lunch?
Unmistakable flavour of Christmas.
Have my mince pies passed the test?
Did they taste good?
Yeah. They can go out now, can't they, to the shops?
-Thank you very much.
After an hour and a half,
my cartons of mince pies are being boxed up
and made ready for dispatch.
But, before my pies hit the road, Cherry has one final mission.
She's yet again in South Wales finding out how one factory
makes enough wrapping paper to wrap around the Earth at least ten times.
The largest producer of gift wrap in Europe is this mega-factory
right here in Wales.
They make over 400 million metres of gift wrap every year,
and, right now, it's Christmas wrapping paper
that's flying off the production line
to make it into the shops.
So, how do they produce wrapping paper
here in Ystrad Mynach on such a gigantic scale?
Well, first they have to design over 6,000 new patterns every year
and that's done right here at the factory.
This is the Christmas wrapping paper
that we're going to see printed later on.
But when there's so many different Christmas themes,
how did this one come about?
Julia Williams is one of the 41 creatives who work here.
How did you decide that this is what you're going to make this Christmas?
We've got a bit of help with last year's wrapping paper.
That was a success, so we want to strive
to get that successful line again, but modernise it.
So, we take things like this year's trend.
'Trends on the mood board
'have been sourced from magazines and the latest fashions.'
This year was a lot about artistic brushes and textures.
It's very crafty.
Vibrant and fun.
And very hand drawn and handmade.
So we would start by hand sketching.
So, we started with a hat.
Then we thought, actually, he had a hat last year.
-Shall we do a top hat? Top hat's quite fun.
-Oh, you jazzed him.
Jazzed him up, yeah. So we kind of evolve him a little bit.
When did you decide on this particular design?
So, a year and a bit ago.
So, when the sun was out and everyone with eating ice cream...
-..you were deciding on Christmas paper for this year?
We were all designing Christmas, yes.
So, is it Christmas for you 365 days a year?
# Well, I wish it could be Christmas every day... #
Once the design is complete, it's ready for printing.
But on an epic scale.
The minimum print run here is 30,000 metres.
A lot of responsibility for print manager, Adam Welcher.
The first thing we do is select our colour.
So, we're choosing purple rain.
We select our weight, 15kg.
-And load our bucket.
-This is mixing the colour?
Yeah, it mixes a combination of the reds and blues required
to make the colour.
It's a bit like when you're in a DIY store and you get your paint
mixed up, but on a gigantic scale.
'Our snowman needs five different coloured inks.'
So, what is this area?
This is the pumps that supply our machine with their colours.
These £10 million printers use some clever engineering
to reproduce the image.
The snowman is engraved onto a printing plate.
It's a hardened rubber.
-Oh, there he is.
It's like a huge rubber stamp.
-How many of these are there in this machine?
'Each of the five rollers
'adds a different layer of colour to gradually build up the image.
'They print on rolls of high-quality paper,
'coated with an ultra-thin layer of aluminium to add sparkle.
'The ink is primed and the rollers are set.
'So, now we can get this giant printer started.'
Wow, Starship Enterprise.
This is our design.
'Incredibly, we're not yet running at top speed.
'And I get to crank production up to 600 metres a minute.'
-Is it not going to explode?
-No, it'll be fine.
'At this speed,
'we're printing 100,000 snowmen every single minute.'
Wow, look at the snowman!
The snowman's at a rave.
'A strobe light helps Adam check the print quality,
'making the fast-moving paper appear still.'
The snowman's gone completely bonkers.
'This printer runs 24 hours a day.
'And, in the last 25 minutes alone,
'we've made 15,000 metres of wrapping paper.'
Can I go in and touch it?
-Yes, you can.
Fresh out of the oven.
It is. Literally.
Because most people would struggle to get this home from the shops,
this has now got to go and be converted into smaller rolls.
'19 machines chop wrapping paper up into rolls
'of anything from 1.5 to 49 metres...
'..supplying most of the national retailers.'
So, there he is.
Still hot off the press.
'This will be just one of 60 million rolls made here at the factory.'
My 12,000 mince pies have reached distribution.
And they are ready to be wrapped.
I'm with dispatch leader Armando.
Where are you taking these now?
-To be wrapped.
-How long do they stay in the warehouse?
These will all be gone by end of production today.
Some of them are wrapped and sent straight away.
All right, mate, let's get it wrapped up.
OK, no problem. Right, Gregg. If you grab this and tuck it under, yeah.
That's it. And just let go.
Yeah! I don't know why I find that so joyous.
And then we put it in line for the loader to load it.
How long will my mince pies stay here?
The mince pies that you have just taken through, Gregg,
are being loaded now directly to the customer,
and a trailer will be leaving in an hour and a half.
We have to keep moving because the floor, here in dispatch,
only holds four hours worth of stock.
Pies and cakes are coming out of there at such a rate that after four
hours this floor will fill up? I love the idea of that.
Where do you send off to?
Where in the world might my mince pies end up?
It might end up for export for Australia and New Zealand.
I've seen them in Dubai.
No matter where people are in the world, if you're British,
-Christmas time, you want a mince pie, right?
As well as Dubai, they send their mince pies all the way to Africa,
Barbados, Bermuda, Canada and the USA, as well as Europe.
But it's the British who eat more pies than anyone.
And Londoners scoff most of all,
with an average of 7.5 each in the run-up to Christmas.
How would the mince pies get to Australia?
They're put on a container ship and shipped all the way to Australia.
-They're not flown?
It would be very, very expensive to fly mince pies to Australia.
Mate, if Santa can do it at Christmas, you can.
You'd need a big sledge.
We send approximately 1,000 pallets over to Australia and New Zealand.
Yeah, the reindeers would probably eat them, wouldn't they?
-Yeah, I haven't thought this out, really.
-That's it, ready to go.
-That's the door closing on my mince pies.
I suppose, actually, the journey's just beginning,
-Sure is, sure is.
Within eight hours of starting my pastry,
my 12,000 mince pies could be on a supermarket shelf near you.
Last year, we bought over 340 million of them.
I knew that everybody liked to nibble mince pies at Christmas.
I just didn't realise how many.
We'll be back next year with more behind the scenes secrets from our
-Merry Christmas, everyone!
# So here it is, Merry Christmas
# Everybody's having fun
# Look to the future now
# It's only just begun
# So here it is, Merry Christmas
# Everybody's having fun! #
In this Christmas special, Gregg Wallace, Cherry Healey and Ruth Goodman explore the fascinating factory processes and surprising history behind favourite festive treats. Gregg follows 24 hours of production at the world's largest mince pie factory. As he helps to mix pastry and stew mince, Gregg discovers the challenges of producing 2,000 perfect pies every minute. He also attempts to roll the sponge on the Yule log conveyor belt - with disastrous results.
Cherry travels to south Wales to meet the workers who make enough tinsel in a year to reach Hawaii, and she is given special access to a high-tech factory that produces over 400 million metres of best-selling wrapping paper.
Meanwhile, Ruth Goodman discovers the explosive history of Christmas crackers.