Tomorrow is ‘Stir Up Sunday’, five weeks before Christmas and the perfect time to make the Christmas pudding.
It harks back to Victorian times when families would gather together and take turns in stirring the pudding. The opening words of the Book of Common Prayer read “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord”.
Christmas pudding would traditionally comprise of 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and the 12 disciples. When a family stirred they did it in an east to west direction to remember the wise men who visited Jesus in the nativity story. Coins are added to bring luck especially if you found them in your share on Christmas Day.
The first published reference to this rich, fruity confection was in Anthony Trollope’s novel, Doctor Thorne, written in 1858. But the tradition goes back hundreds of years. In the middle ages a Christmas porridge called “Frumenty” was popular and a savoury precursor to the sweet, rich pudding we enjoy today.
The key to a good pudding is to soak the dried fruit in ale or cider overnight to plump it up. When you have all the ingredients together, get everyone to stir them, making a wish as they do so. In an age of technology and social media, there’s something comforting about honouring a family tradition that goes back for generations. It’s convivial and lovely that everyone has a role to play in a major part of the festivities. Nothing says Christmas like the scent of citrus, spice and dried fruit in the air.
My first recipe is for something the whole family can stir up – homemade mincemeat. Dried fruit, grated apple and butter, spices, citrus and alcohol are combined to a sticky confection. You could use this to make traditional mince pies but I’ve included a recipe for sweet buns rolled with the mincemeat, placed in a muffin tin and topped with a sprinkling of golden crumble. They make a soft and crunchy alternative to the pastry version.
My other recipe is another deviation from the norm in the form of a Caribbean inspired Christmas cake. It has dried fruit as you expect but I’ve used a different array and the whole thing is soaked in dark rum. Make the cake now and feed it for a few days with Port and brandy. How you ice it is up to you or you could make it easy and just enjoy the cake on it’s own.
Either way, turn off the phones and get together as a family to stir up tomorrow!