The traditional Christmas pudding is as essential to the British Christmas as it ever was!
But what exactly is a traditional Christmas Pudding?
The early Christmas puddings contained meat, usually mutton or beef, as well as onions, wine, spices and dried fruit.
As techniques for meat preserving improved through the 17th and 18th centuries, the savoury element of both the mince pie and the plum pottage diminished as the sweet content increased.
The mince pie kept its name, though the pottage was increasingly referred to as plum pudding. The pudding was effectively ‘established’ in 1714 by King George I, sometimes known as the Pudding King! He requested that Plum Pudding, with meat eliminated from the recipe, be served as part of his royal feast in his first Christmas in England.
But be that as it may! My own personal view of Christmas and its celebration is that of the Victorians : it is a time of Charles Dickens, snow covered fir trees, thick smoky candles, soaring choral music, a good dose of wassail and more food than you could throw a stick at! (Although to be fair, Plum Pudding as a celebratory dish was originally eaten at the Harvest Festival, not Christmas)
It was not until the 1830’s that the cannon-ball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly, made a definite appearance, becoming more and more associated with Christmas.
The type of Christmas pudding most people would recognise on their dinner tables today came from Germany with Prince Albert when he married Queen Victoria in the 19th century.
And according to those same traditions the last Sunday in November, the last Sunday before the christian festival of Advent, is the day when everything kicks off. Known as stir-up Sunday it is the day when the family gathers en-masse around the kitchen table to start making the season’s Christmas pudding and would have seen excited children cramming into the kitchen to help prepare the pudding mix.
Silver 3d and 6d Coins were also occasionally added, the finding of them on Christmas day purportedly bringing wealth, health, happiness, and ensuring everyone at least eats some in an effort to find one! An early form of the lottery mayhap?
There are countless recipes for Christmas pudding, some dark and rich others lighter. Some use beef suet and others vegetarian suet for a lighter pudding.
The perfect pudding should be dense, moist and oozing decadence of rich fruits and brandy. Making one does take time with at least 13 ingredients (to represent Christ and his disciples) to weigh, time to marinate and steaming which takes at least 7 hours. But, once made, put away in a cool, dry place, needs only a further hour steaming on the day itself.
Flaming the pudding is another tradition, believed to represent the passion of Christ, and again is an essential part of the theatre of Christmas day. But, in a fit of pique obviously, Oliver Cromwell banned the eating of Christmas pudding in the 17th century because he believed the ritual of flaming the pudding harked back to pagan celebrations of the winter solstice!
The flaming of the pudding requires a steady hand!
Half-fill a metal ladle, or similar, with brandy and heat over a gas flame or lit candle.
When the flame is hot enough, the brandy will light.
Pour the flaming brandy over the pudding.
Once the flames have subsided, serve with a brandy butter, brandy sauce, cream or home-made custard.
The Christmas Pudding has even been found to have health benefits! It is mostly made up of mixed dried fruit such as raisins, currants and sultanas which are all good sources of antitoxins that neutralise toxins in the body.
Fantastic article and very useful, thank you! Shame there’s no recipe to go with it but even so it’s a wealth of knowledge. Thanks!
Thank you for your interest in my blog. There are several recipes for Christmas Pudding on the site but you missed one of the best on the page you actually visited. It is entitled ‘The Best Plum Pudding’ and dates back to 1912! Click on the image of the man with a pudding-head to enlarge the article it and you will find the recipe on the right hand side. It comes from a women’s magazine entitled ‘Home Chat’ which is rather tatty but you can still read the recipe! Why not give it a try?