IT would not be Christmas without a mouth-watering mince pie and those crumbly few bites of festive goodness remains a popular seasonal treat for many of us.

But 40,000 mince pies?

Well, that’s how many family bakery Oddie’s prepare in December as East Lancashire folk gobble up their tasty Xmas treats.

“Everybody loves a mince pie at this time of year and in the fortnight before Christmas we’ll easily bake 20,000 for our 16 shops, and they remain a much loved product,” said Oddie’s Bakery manager Andy Howes.

Minced pie ingredients can be traced back to the middle ages, when returning crusaders brought with them recipes containing cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

Other names for the mince pies include Mutton pie, Shrid pie and Christmas pie - and in the north of England goose was used in the pie’s filling in the 17th century.

Indeed, one of Britain’s greatest authors Charles Dickens was a great lover of the mince pie, featuring in arguably his finest literary works, Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol.

“The ingredients in Oddie’s mince pies include Irish Bramley apples, sultanas, currants, mixed peel, raisins and vegetable suet, but the spices we add are top secret – and that is what gives it the distinct flavour,” said Andy.

“We bake 10,000 mince pies at a time over four production runs and sometimes customers order them frozen to bake themselves at home for a special occasion.

“We do 40,000 in December and last year they’d all gone by the start of January.

“I think our record year was 80,000 mince pies.”

Although there is no meat in mince pies, they have always been called mince or minced pies and the tradition of sampling one are some of the most prized moments of the entire Christmas season.

So what is the best time to eat a mince pie?

Andy added: “About three hours after they have come out of the oven – it will melt in your mouth. Lovely.”

Mince pies are available at all Oddies shops until the end of the month.