Making a stir of tradition

Sue and Rayana stir the Christmas pud

Sue and Rayana stir the Christmas pud

It’s Stir Up Sunday on November 21 which should result in a flaming Christmas Pudding on December 25th. And if you make it yourself it will be far superior to shop-bought versions.

It does require a bit of pre-planning so check below and make sure you have all the ingredients. Bear in mind the mix needs to be left overnight then you have to be on hand to steam it the following day. Here’s how we got on a couple of years ago . . .

For the past few years my wife and I have been celebrating Stir Up Sunday with gusto. You get all the ingredients together and mix them up in a bowl, left overnight for the flavours to develop and infuse before steaming. It can take a good eight hours.

Then it goes into a tin and is stored under the bed (or in the cellar) until Christmas Day and several more hours steaming on the hob.

I’d like to say we were simply following in our own parents’ tradition but we’re not. They just bought one from the grocer. We are following the sainted Delia (Delia Smith, Britain’s answer to America’s Martha Stewart, for overseas readers) as it’s her recipe which we use. It is home made for a reason.

Make sure all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly

Make sure all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly

My wife loves Christmas Pudding but I hated the commercial sickliness of each pudding we bought so we decided to make our own. And you know what? It works. It tastes good and I can eat more than the token spoonful.

We’re also helping to revive an old tradition. All this stirring is a family occasion, held on the last Sunday before Advent, so dates change from year to year. We are not sticklers for the exact date. As the spoon is passed from person to person they make a wish. In the bad old days before health and safety Mum surreptitiously slipped in a silver sixpence which finished up in one of the portions.

I’ve read that the pudding is stirred from east to west in honour of the Three Wise Men but we’d have to find a compass first. It is also claimed Prince Albert brought the tradition with him but, in fact, George I brought it over from Germany at the beginning of the Eighteenth Century.

You can find the recipe on page 37 of her book, Delia Smith’s Christmas, which is the one we use, which serves 8-10 people. A smaller pudding with just slightly less of the same ingredients, which serves six, is listed below.

You will need a 11/2 pint pudding basin, lightly greased.
3oz (75g) shredded suet
11/2oz (40g) self-raising flour
3oz (75g) fresh white breadcrumbs
3/4 level teaspoon mixed spice
good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
good pinch ground cinnamon
6oz (175g) soft dark brown sugar
3oz (75g) sultanas
3oz (75g) raisins
7oz (200g) currants
3/4oz (20g) mixed chopped peel
3/4oz (20g) blanched almonds, finely chopped
1 small Bramley cooking apple (5oz/150g)
grated zest of 1/2 medium orange
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
11/2 tablespoons rum or brandy
2fl oz (55ml) barley wine*
2fl oz (55ml) stout
2 medium eggs

*This is not that easy to find these days so just add a little bit more booze of your choice. I did find it at Waitrose, four cans of Banks’s Barley Gold for £5.25. They don’t sell single cans. Which is rather a lot to pay if you’re not planning to get blotto with this high strength beer. “Everybody just wants one,” said an assistant. Can’t be any demand for it then, can there?

*This year we have bought a bottle of Guinness West Indies Porter. We’ll let you know how well it worked next year! **It worked very well.

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