Stir Up Sunday, Traditions and my
Traditional Victorian Christmas Pudding Recipe
Tomorrow is Stir-Up Sunday, as well as St Catherine’s Day, a double celebration; I usually make cattern cakes on St Catherine’s day as is it my Saint’s Day, being a Karen, which is a derivative of Catherine…….however, tomorrow it is all about Christmas puddings, and although I don’t need to make one this year, as I have a very fine Betty’s Christmas Plum Pudding, I am making my Traditional Victorian Christmas Pudding as per request from a friend. But, I would still like to share the traditions of St Catherine’s day with you all, as well as a recipe for cattern cakes, so please DO visit my post from last year here: St Catherine’s Day, Lace Makers and Cattern Cakes. These wee cakes are half biscuit (cookie) and half scone and are delectable morsels……a photo of the ones I made last year are below…….
I make no apologies for sharing my Traditional Victorian Christmas Pudding recipe again this year, as it is a VERY fine pudding indeed, as it’s a wonderfully rich and fruity pud, and is still light enough for those who dislike the heavy “canon ball” style puddings. The lack of flour in this makes a lighter crumb, and there is no bitter after taste that you get in some commercially prepared Christmas puddings. The recipe is based on a 100-year-old recipe I found written on a scrap of paper in an old cookery book..……..a real Dickensian style steamed pud. I changed some of the ingredients, to suit our personal taste, and cut the quantities back considerably – the original recipe made about 8 puddings, far too many for me, and probably you too.
Stir-up Sunday is the Sunday before Advent, a day that was even mentioned to the congregations at church. The term comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549:
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer of 1549)
The exhortation “Stir-up” was a timely reminder to the ladies of the congregation, to make haste to their kitchens and start their Christmas cooking; the Christmas pudding was especially important, as it would have time to mature before Christmas Day if made on this auspicious day. Another reason why it was important to take heed of the reminder, was the belief that the pudding would impart God’s blessings to all who ate it, but only if it had been made on this day. It is traditional for all the family to participate in stirring the pudding on Stir-up Sunday, whilst making a wish at the same time, and ONLY clockwise, stirring anticlockwise is believed to invoke the work of the devil! It is also believed that every member of the family should take a turn to stir the pudding with a wooden spoon from East to West, in honour of the three kings who travelled from the East.
The Christmas pudding, as we know it today, did not become popular Christmas fare until the 19th Century, mainly due to Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. (Although George 1 did serve a “plum pudding” on his Christmas Day menu beforehand.) However, it was Prince Albert’s love of the rich, heavy and fruited puddings from his German childhood, which reintroduced the pudding back to the British as a Christmas tradition. Prior to this “new” pudding, we were all more accustomed to the Mediaeval form of “Plum Porridge” or Plum Pottage”, which was semi-liquid and made from meat that was stewed together with dried fruits and prunes; the prunes (dried plums) gave the name to the pudding. Sugar, spices and sack – a once popular wine from the Canary Islands, were also added to the pottage and then the whole concoction was thickened with breadcrumbs, grains or sago. By the time Prince Albert had made his rich pudding popular, the meat had all but disappeared, although beef suet was still added, and the pudding had become more like our modern day Christmas pudding. It was also the Victorians that introduced the idea of boiling or steaming the pudding in a bowl or basin.
The idea of adding silver charms and silver coins, probably harks back to earlier traditions of adding a dried bean or pea to festive cakes and puddings. These were always added to Twelfth Night cakes and the person who found the bean was “crowned” the King or Queen of the Bean or Pea for the night, a dubious pleasure that nowadays involves you having to buy a round of drinks! In France, a bean or little porcelain figure is still added to their Twelfth Night or Epiphany cakes, and a paper crown is included so you may “crown” your Twelfth Night king or queen! I still add a sixpence to my pudding, and you can sometimes find packs of Pudding Charms for sale; the coin is supposed to bring you worldly fortune, a thimble brings you a life of God’s blessings and a ring means a marriage!
To end, here a few lovely lines from Eleanor Farjeon’s poem “Stirring the Pudding, just to get you in the “stirring” mood….and my recipe too of course, see you later and have a wonderful weekend, Karen
Stirring the Pudding
Stem the currants
Stone the raisins
Chop the peel as fine as fine
Beat the eggs and shred the suet
Grate the crumbs (no flour in mine)
Freely shake, to make it nice,
All the virtue of the spice.
Pour the brandy liberally.
Stir and wish, then, three times three.
If you would like to win a Betty’s Traditional Plum Pudding, I am offering a fabulous Giveaway here: