The Christmas Pudding Tradition
“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”
This short prayer, commonly cited on the last Sunday before advent by many households and still in traditional churches would mark a very special time leading up to Christmas. This Sunday became known as “Stir-up Sunday” because this is when the first Christmas puddings of the year were made. All of the children in the house would take turns at stirring the pudding mixture, and make a wish while doing so.
So here at Knockderry House Hotel we like to honour the tradition and start our pudding making on “Stir-up Sunday,” we gather up all the staff to give the mix a stir and make their own wish. Another tradition was to include small silver coins, which would be kept by whose serving they ended up in, although we like to keep that part out for hygiene reasons.
Many households have their own recipe for Christmas pudding, some handed down through families for generations, with ours coming from our sous-chef’s grandmothers mother.
Christmas pudding is essentially a rich steamed pudding, laden with dried fruit and nuts, and traditionally made with suet. It’s dark, almost black appearance is the result of dark sugars and black treacle coupled with its long cooking time. The mixture tends to become dry, a problem remedied by moistening with the juice of citrus fruits, brandy and other alcohol. We use a mixture of brandy, rum and brown ale to moisten our cakes and give them that famous taste.
In the nineteenth century, Christmas puddings were boiled in a pudding cloth which gave them a spherical appearance. However, at least since the beginning of the twentieth century they have usually been prepared in basins. At Knockderry House Hotel we prepare our Christmas puddings in basins and steam them.
85g Chopped mixed peel
225g Mixed dried apricots and figs, chopped
290ml Brown ale
2 tbl Rum
2 tbl Brandy
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 Dessert apple
225g Butter, softened
340g Soft dark brown sugar
2 tbl Treacle
110g Self raising flour
1 tsp Ground mixed spice
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch Ground ginger
225g Fresh white breadcrumbs
55g Chopped Hazelnuts
1. Mix all dried fruit and prunes with the liquids and marinate overnight.
2. Grate the unpeeled apple and mix in.
3. Beat the butter with the sugar until light. Add the fruit zests and treacle.
4. Whisk the eggs together and gradually add them to the mix, now put the two mixes together.
5. Fold in the flour, spices, salt and breadcrumbs and stir in the nuts.
6. Divide into pudding basins, wrap tightly with cling film, then again with tinfoil, steam for 8 – 10 hours.