Happy Christmas Eve and Merry Christmas, everyone! I leave you with this post about Plum Pudding as I celebrate the occasion with my favorite people in all the world – my family. May this season be a truly special one for you. And thank you for visiting Jane Austen’s World.
In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered — flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top. – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Stir-Up Day is the name traditionally given to the day on which Christmas puddings are made in England.
Banned by the Puritans in the 1660s for its rich ingredients, the [plum] pudding and its customs came back into popularity during the reign of George I. Known sometimes as the Pudding King, George I requested that plum pudding be served as part of his royal feast when he celebrated his first Christmas in England after arriving from Hanover to take the throne in 1714. By 1740, a recipe for ‘plum porridge’ appeared in Christmas Entertainments. In the Victorian era, Christmas annuals, magazines, and cookbooks celebrated the sanctity of family as much as the sanctity of Jesus’ birth, and the tradition of all family members stirring the pudding was often referenced…Poorer families made the riches version of plum pudding that they could afford…Even workhouse inmates anticipated a plum pudding on Christmas Day.” - Food and Cooking in Victorian England: A History, Andrea Broomfield [Praeger:Westport CT] 2007 (p. 150-151)
Stir-Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent, is considered the final day on which one can make the Christmas fruit cakes and puddings that require time to be aged before being served.
The Christmas pudding is traditionally “stirred up” on Stir-Up day day. All family members must take a hand in the stirring, and a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ’s crib) is used. The stirring must be in a clockwise direction, with eyes shut, while making a secret wish. Source: The Customs and Ceremonies of Britain by Charles Knightly. London:Thames and Hudson, 1986, p. 211.”
—The Folklore of World Holidays, Robert H. Griffen and Ann H. Shurgin editors, Second Edition [Gale:Detroit] 1998 (p. 679)
In past times the words “stir up”…reminded people to begin preparing their Christmas puddings…Children chanted a rhymed verse on that day that mixed the words of the collect with requests for special Christmas fare…Thus, the preparation of the Christmas pudding eventually became associated with this day. Folk beliefs advised each member to take a turn stirring the pudding, and ace that was believed to confer good luck. Another custom encouraged stirrers to move the spoon in clockwise motion, close their eyes, and make a wish.” – Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations, Tanya Gulevich, 2nd edition [Omnigraphics:Detroit] 2003 (p. 741)
Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding!- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
A boiled Plum Pudding – Hannah Glasse (18th century recipe)
TAKE a pound of suet cut in little pieces not too fine a pound of currants and a pound of raifins storied eight eggs half the whites half a nutmeg grated and a tea spoonful of beaten ginger a pound of flour a pint of milk beat the eggs first then half the milk beat them together and by degrees stir in the flour then the suet spice and fruit and as much milk as will mix it well together very thick Boil it five hours – Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery made plain and easy, p. 137
Rich Plum Pudding Recipe, Lady Godey’s Book, December 1860
Stone carefully one pound of the best raisins, wash and pick one pound of currants, chop very small one pound of fresh beef suet, blanch and chop small or pound two ounces of sweet almonds and one ounce of bitter ones; mix the whole well together, with one pound of sifted flour, and the same weight of crumb of bread soaked in milk, then squeezed dry and stirred with a spoon until reduced to a mash, before it is mixed with the flour.
Cut in small pieces two ounces each of preserved citron, orange, and lemon-peel, and add a quarter of an ounce of mixed spice; quarter of a pound of moist sugar should be put into a basin, with eight eggs, and well beaten together with a three-pronged fork; stir this with the pudding, and make it of a proper consistence with milk. Remember that it must not be made too thin, or the fruit will sink to the bottom, but be made to the consistence of good thick batter.
Two wineglassfuls of brandy should be poured over the fruit and spice, mixed together in a basin, and allowed to stand three or four hours before the pudding is made, stirring them occasionally. It must be tied in a cloth, and will take five hours of constant boiling.
When done, turn it out on a dish, sift loaf-sugar over the top, and serve it with wine-sauce in a boat, and some poured round the pudding. The pudding will be of considerable size, but half the quantity of materials, used in the same proportion, will be equally good.
The following articles about plum pudding were published in 19th century periodicals and in a more recent blog:
Colonel Hazard’s Plum Pudding (In which the Colonel proves that plum pudding has impressive staying power.)
Colonel Rowland R. Hazard of electric railroad fame tells a story which gives the plum pudding a new dignity. Several years ago, the colonel suddenly decided to run over to England to make a holiday call on relatives there. It was a few days before Christmas, and just as the colonel was starting for the steamer, a Christmas package arrived for him. He had no time to examine it then, and left orders to have it kept for him. He did not return to New York for two year.s When he did get back, the package was brought down from the garret. It proved to contain a plum pudding that his English friends had sent him. It was as hard as a rock, but Colonel Hazard ordered it to be cooked, and he declares he never tasted a more perfect plum pudding in his life. He is inclined to think that good plum pudding, like the wheat found in the old Egyptian mummy cases, would keep all right for a thousand years. – New York Commercial Advertiser – Good Housekeeping, Vol 5, Hearst Corp, 1887
The secret of making plum pudding light and digestible lies in properly preparing the suet, mincing the currants, and boiling a sufficient time. Puddings made with breadcrumbs are lighter than those made wholly of flour; and a mixture of the two makes the best pudding. Plum puddings may be made some time before Christmas, and, having been boiled, the cloth must be opened out, but not taken off the pudding, and dried. Wrapped in paper, and stored in a dry place, puddings will keep good for several months, and only require to be boiled for an hour at the time of serving. - Household Words, A weekly journal, vol 2, 1882. Charles Dickens
This pictorial article in eons explains the various steps in making a Christmas pudding.
Surprises Inside Plum Pudding
Plum pudding is well known for the silver coins and small objects hidden within the pudding to be found by the eater. Common objects were the silver coin for wealth, a tiny wishbone for good luck, a silver thimble for thrift, a ring for marriage or an anchor for safe harbor. These items have migrated from plum pudding to bridal shower cakes, oddly enough…- Gram’s Recipe Box, Plum Pudding
Sources for this post: