Friday, 23 November 2012

Christmas post the first: Stir up Sunday



The last Sunday before Advent is Stir up Sunday. The traditional day to make your Christmas Pudding. This year (for the first time ever, possibly) I was ahead of the game and on Tuesday, instead of Guides found myself once again at Leith's with some friends, stirring up a pudding.

There are lots of traditions around Stir up Sunday - my favourite is that each member of the family should give the pudding a stir and make a wish for the year ahead as they do so.  On telling this to our group at Leith's we made sure everyone made their wish!

Other traditions include:


  • Stirring the pudding from East to West, to remember the journey of the three Wise men on their way to visit the baby Jesus. I'm a bad Guider - I would so need a compass to be able to do that!
  • A pudding should be made with 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his 12 disciples
  • Traditionally there should be a thimble (for luck) a ring (for marriage) and a coin (for good fortune) hidden in the pudding. What turns up in your portion is your fortune for the year to come. Heaven only knows what Food Hygiene would make of that!
  • Early Christmas puddings did contain meat (as did early mincemeat) The puddings we recognise today was introduced by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria.

A Christmas pudding is made as it were, in three stages:

  1. Making the pudding mixture and putting it in the pudding basin
  2. Steaming the pudding
  3. Storing it - for up to 2 years to mature in flavour

We had a taste test of three puddings at Leith's, one was a newly made and steamed pudding, another 6 months old and the third 18 months old. Many of us liked the newer pudding, I wasn't too keen on the 6 months old pudding, but the one that was 18 months old tasted as if it had been steeped in a beautiful bourbon (Knob creek is my bottle of choice. Are you reading this Louise?)

Anyway, so... onto the recipe - the one we used is the one that Asda have used for their Extra Special puddings 
  • Makes one pudding for a two pint pudding basin
85g raisins
55 currants
100g sultanas
40g chopped mixed peel (I would usually leave this out and substitute glace cherries)
110g mixed dried apricots and figs, chopped
145ml brown ale
1 tablespoon run
Grated zest & juice of half an orange
Grated zest & juice of half a lemon
55g prunes - soaked overnight in cold tea, then drained and chopped 
1/2 dessert apple - grated

Soak all the fruit (except the prunes) overnight in the beer, rum, orange juice and lemon juice. In the morning add the drained, chopped prunes
Grate the apple into this mixture

110g softened butter
170g soft, dark brown sugar
1 tblsp treacle (dip your spoon in boiling water to make adding this easier)
1.5 eggs (nope, me neither)
55g self raising flour, sifted
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice (I normally call this cake spice I think)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch salt
110g breadcrumbs
30g toasted hazelnuts, toasted (again, I would usually substitute more glace cherries for this)

Beat together the butter and sugar, when light add the orange and lemon zest and the treacle
Whisk the eggs together and gradually add them to the mixture, beating well after each addition. It's a fairly stable mixture so I didn't add flour with each bit of egg
Fold in the flour, spices, salt and breadcrumbs
Stir in the nuts and dried fruit mixture, plus any of the soaking liquor
Spoon the mixture into a greased 2 pint pudding basin
Cover with two layers of pleated greaseproof paper, and one piece of pleated kitchen foil
Tie up with string (no knots required. Yes, I was sad)
When ready to cook, steam for 10-12 hours. Put a large saucepan (I would need to use my stockpot) on to boil and put an upside down saucer on the bottom. Using the string handle, lower the pudding into the boiling water. The water needs to come at least half the way up the basin. 
Cover the pan, and leave, topping up the water as necessary (use water from the kettle to top up)


Leave the pudding to cool, and re-cover it. You can now store it for up to 2 years, in a cool dark place.

When you're ready to serve, steam for 2-3 hours and serve with custard. Other toppings are available, but I'm afraid they're wrong. 

And there you have it - Christmas pudding, a la Leith's and Asda. We had such fun - and there's another two posts to come - one of which is an activity plan! I'm giving in to Christmas - let the festivities commence! 

A huge thank you to Asda and Leith's for hosting our event this week, I had so much fun, and really enjoyed not just making the puddings, but also meeting some new people, catching up with friends and having my first mug (or two) of mulled wine. 

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