Stir up Sunday is always on the last Sunday before advent and this year falls on 24th November – i.e. this coming Sunday.
The term was originally taken from the collect for the day in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer
“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.”
It is also the day when, traditionally, the good housewives of the parish go home and make their Christmas puddings, ensuring that every member of the family gives it a good stir for luck.
However, I have a confession to make. I have never made a Christmas pudding before. I know, it sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? I love Christmas and everything about it, I love the shopping and the cooking and especially the eating and I particularly love Christmas pudding. But here’s the thing – my mum usually makes it. Well, ok, I have also been known to buy one… (shock horror).
This year I decided to make one so my first port of call was to my mum’s house for the recipe. She has always made one using the recipe from her Good Housekeeping Cook Book. This book was ancient and very well used so my mum had recently replaced it with a new edition. We were both disappointed to find that they have changed the original recipe and the new one was full of ingredients we didn’t feel were properly traditional. Clearly, I was on my on with this.
I started looking through recipes. Oh my goodness chefs do like to put their own mark on a traditional recipe don’t they? Chocolate? Ginger and pears? Not for me – I just wanted a deep, rich, dark, traditional pud. So I eliminated some of the risk and settled on that most conservative and trustworthy of cooks; Delia.
I liked the fact that her recipe packed in lots of fruit, added treacle for extra dark richness and used more alcohol than most of the others.
Delia says that this recipe will make one large (2 pint) pudding, two smaller (1 pint) puddings or 8 individual puds. Steam the one pint puds for the same length of time as the 2 pint but the individual puds will only need three hours to start off and then a further hour on the big day.
I have replicated the recipe exactly as Delia had it but you don’t have to put holly on top of the pudding. I probably won’t but, if I do, I don’t think I’ll leave it there when I flame the brandy.
Now, here’s the thing, I don’t yet know what this pudding will be like. I took the photos after the first steaming and it looked and smelled heavenly so I am hopeful but I can’t really recommend it yet. However, you could take a risk and try it with me. Just one more surprise on Christmas day?
110g / 4 oz Shredded Suet (Beef or Vegetarian)
50g / 2 oz Self Raising Flour
110g / 4oz White Breadcrumbs
1 tsp Ground Mixed Spice
¼ tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
A good pinch of Ground Cinnamon
225g / 8oz Soft Dark Brown Sugar
110g / 4 oz Sultanas
110g / 4 oz Raisins
275g / 10 oz Currants
25g / 1 oz Mixed Candied Peel (it’s best to buy whole peel and chop it yourself)
25g / 1 oz Almonds (peeled and chopped)
1 small Cooking Apple
Grated Zest of Half a Lemon
Grated Zest of Half an Orange
2 tbsp Rum
75 ml / 2 ½ fl oz Barley Wine
75 ml / 2 ½ fl oz of Stout
2 large Eggs
Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet, sifted flour and breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together, then gradually mix in all the dried fruit, mixed peel and nuts followed by the apple and the grated orange and lemon zests.
Don’t forget to tick everything off so as not to leave anything out.
Now in a smaller basin measure out the rum, barley wine and stout, then add the eggs and beat these thoroughly together. Next pour this over all the other ingredients, and begin to mix very thoroughly.
It’s now traditional to gather all the family round, especially the children, and invite everyone to have a really good stir and make a wish!
The mixture should have a fairly sloppy consistency – that is, it should fall instantly from the spoon when this is tapped on the side of the bowl. If you think it needs a bit more liquid add a spot more stout.
Cover the bowl and leave overnight.
Next day pack the mixture into the lightly greased basin, cover it with a double sheet of silicone paper (baking parchment) and a sheet of foil and tie it securely with string (you really need to borrow someone’s finger for this!). It’s also a good idea to tie a piece of string across the top to make a handle. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 8 hours.
Do make sure you keep a regular eye on the water underneath and top it up with boiling water from the kettle from time to time.
When the pudding is steamed let it get quite cold, then remove the steam papers and foil and replace them with some fresh ones, again making a string handle for easier manoeuvring. Now your Christmas pudding is all ready for Christmas Day. Keep it in a cool place away from the light. Under the bed in an unheated bedroom is an ideal place.
To cook, fill a saucepan quite full with boiling water, put it on the heat and, when it comes back to the boil, place a steamer on top of the pan and turn it down to a gentle simmer. Put the Christmas pudding in the steamer, cover and leave to steam away for 2¼ hours.
You’ll need to check the water from time to time and maybe top it up a bit.
To serve, remove the pudding from the steamer and take off the wrapping. Slide a palette knife all round the pudding, then turn it out on to a warmed plate. Place a suitably sized sprig of holly on top.
Now warm a ladleful of brandy over direct heat, and as soon as the brandy is hot ask someone to set light to it. Place the ladle, now gently flaming, on top of the pudding – but don’t pour it over until you reach the table.
When you do, pour it slowly over the pudding, sides and all, and watch it flame to the cheers of the assembled company!
When both flames and cheers have died down, serve the pudding with rum sauce, or rum or brandy butter.
If you want to make individual Christmas puddings for gifts, this quantity makes eight 6 oz (175 g) small metal pudding basins. Steam them for 3 hours, then re-steam for 1 hour. They look pretty wrapped in silicone paper and muslin and tied with attractive bows and tags.