Friday, November 20, 2020

Stir Up Sunday


Good Afternoon M’dearies,

Now that November is upon us and we are looking towards the festive season I thought I would share a recipe with you for a very nice Christmas Pudding. The Christmas Pudding was once called the Plum Pudding, probably because raisins were referred to as plums and there are raisins aplenty in this receipt. Many years ago this pudding was a savoury affair which included meat but over the years it became more and more of a sweet treat to finish off the Christmas feast.

I remember many a Stir Up Sunday with my granny counting the ingredients and mixing them in a bowl that was almost as big as I was, but oh, the result is worth all the effort and when it is brought to table alight tis a sight to behold.

Now you may think Stir up Sunday refers to the stirring up of the cake, but no, Granny taught me the true meanings of the receipt and it is connected to the Collect in the Book of Common Prayer which is the Sunday before Advent begins and happens to be the day all good cooks prepare their Christmas Pudding so that it has time to mature for the holiday. The Collect for that day reads: "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."

The recipe itself has changed through the years, things added and taken away according to tastes, but should retain 13 ingredients. “Why?” I’d always ask Granny. “My Dearest, she’d reply tenderly, these 13 ingredients are very important because they represent Jesus and his 12 disciples. I adored my Granny and thought she knew everything. I was in awe of her kitchen knowledge and hung on her every word. She would tell me histories of many of the things we took to table at her house. I was always eager for more and as we counted our ingredients into the large bowl, she’d tell me it was time to stir, and to stir a long while until all things were mixed together, BUT, she’d say, you must stir from East to West. She saw me pipe up ready to ask Why? and continued by telling me that East to West is the direction the Magi travelled that wondrous night so we stir East to West to honour them.

Baking was always an educational event at Granny’s house. She’d tell me the whys and wherefores of everything we made and I loved knowing the histories of all our receipts. My daughter Fiona and I still prepare our Christmas Pudding in just the same way Granny and I did for so many years. The smell of the spices brings those days back to me in an instant, happy days of auld lang syne as Robbie Byrnes says in his poem.

Once the stirring was finished the steaming began, so many hours, but that time was important to the taste and texture of the pudding. The kitchen filled with steam and it was sometimes too hot to stay there but the water must be watched so that it doesn’t boil dry. After the steaming was complete, we would store them so they were ready to be steamed again for Christmas dessert.

On Christmas we’d hold our breath as we turned the pudding on to the plate, hoping it would keep its shape, and it always did. Granny was the best baker I have ever known. We’d arrange the pudding on a pretty plate to take to table, the final touch being a sprig of holly “As a reminder of Jesus’ crown of thorns.” Once that was placed on top, she’d pour a measure of brandy over the pudding and set it alight before we carried it to the dining table. The blue light of the flame mesmerized me and I’d follow her wide eyed staring at the pudding trying to hold tight to the brandy butter we’d serve it with.

Now there are many folk who put coins and trinkets into their pudding but Granny never did that. She said the pudding was beautiful as it was and needed no trinkets and I have served it as Granny did all these years. Those days are still etched in my heart and every year on Stir up Sunday my memories of Granny in her kitchen are vivid with every step of the receipt we follow. I hope you are inspired make a lovely dessert to finish off your Christmas feast. I have written out Granny’s receipt for Christmas pudding below; it is a bit of hard work but worth all the effort you put into it.

Christmas Pudding


½ lb. Fresh breadcrumbs 

 1 pint stout

½ lb. Brown sugar

 3 eggs beaten

½ lb Flour

 The rind and juice of a lemon

The rind and juice of an orange

1 lb Chopped Suet

½ lb mixed peel (candied)

 1 grated nutmeg

1 lb raisins

 4 oz. Chopped almonds

1 lb. Currants and sultanas


Stir the dry ingredients until thoroughly blended. Add eggs, fruit juice and stout and mix very well. Cover with a cloth and let stand overnight. Stir again in the morning making sure all the liquid has been absorbed. Wrap in a piece of muslin and tie tightly. Steam for eight hours, topping up the water in the bottom pan to ensure it does not boil dry. Let cool and store in a bowl covered tightly. To serve, steam the pudding for one hour, unwrap and place on a platter, drizzle brandy over the top and set it alight. Once the brandy has burnt off, the pudding is ready to cut and serve with a nice dollop of brandy butter.

To make the Brandy butter, to ¼ lb of very soft butter add ¼ lb pounded sugar and 3 or 4 tablespoons of brandy. Mix until creamy and spoon onto warm pudding.

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