How to Make a Traditional Christmas Pudding

All about the traditional, humble, Christmas Pud

It is thought that the humble plum pudding’s association with Christmas goes back to medieval England. It seems that the pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity and that it be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honour the wise men and their journey in that direction. 

A colourful array of fruits and spices to make A traditional, British Christmas pudding
All the ingredients needed to make a tradional, British, Christmas pudding

The Church and the Pud

However, recipes for plum pudding mostly start to appear in the 17th century. It had a very strong connection with the church. 

The ‘collect’ for the Sunday before Advent in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer begins with the words ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works.’

This led to the custom of preparing Christmas puddings on that day which became known as ‘Stir Up Sunday’. Stir Up Sunday for 2018 would be 25 November.  I am ahead of the game this year.

Fruits from all corners of the world

There was a variety of ingredients and methods of making plum puddings.  Many pudding recipes often contained meat, as well as the sweet ingredients.  Before being steamed in a cloth the ingredients were sometimes stuffed into the stomach of an animal – similar to that of the Scottish haggis or sausages. 

I like to think that the fruits and spices represent all the corners of the world and symbolise the harvest and survival food for winter.  A pudding fit for a king!

A favourite recipe

It’s really quite easy to make Christmas pud.  Especially if you have a tried and trusted recipe – like Delia’s.   It’s always a winner and it always turns out just right.  Thank you Delia… although over the last 30 years,  I have made it my own.  It makes 3 – 4 puddings dependent on the size of your bowls.

The equipment you will need

A bowl, wooden spoon, sharp knife, grater all needed to make Christmas pudding
The utensils needed to make Christmas pudding

Ingredients (a few more than 13!)

  • 225g shredded suet
  • A heaped teaspoon teaspoon mixed spice
  • A heaped half a teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • A heaped half a teaspoon cinnamon
  • 110g self raising flour
  • 450g dark soft brown sugar
  • 225g breadcrumbs made from stale bread
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g raisins
  • 560g currants
  • 50g chopped nuts
  • 50g chopped mixed peel
  • Grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 1 Apple peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 150 ml barley wine
  • 150 ml stout
  • 60 ml rum

Ten easy steps

Get help with the stirring of the pudding
Stirring the pudding. Don’t forget… east to west – and make a wish!
  1. Mix the suet, flour, bread crumbs and spices in a bowl.
  2. Carefully add the dried fruit, peel and nuts to the flour.
  3. Add the chopped apple, and grated orange and lemon peel
  4. Beat the eggs in a roomy jug, add the alcohol to the jug – pour over all the other ingredients
  5. Stir (you may need help) and make a wish – don’t forget to stir from east to west – and make a wish!
  6. Line 3/4 pudding bowls with greaseproof paper – no precision required.
  7. Microwave on high for 5, 6 or 7 minutes – dependent on the size of the bowl (a half litre bowl 5 mins) and the power of the microwave
  8. Allow to cool
  9. Wrap each pudding well in greasproof paper and either store in an airtight container or freeze
  10. Then, when needed, steam the pud for as long as possible – all morning if you can, just keep checking the water level.  My mum told me that the longer you steam your pudding the darker it will become.
Bowls ready for the pudding mixture
The prepared pudding bowls

When it is time to serve the pudding, unwrap, turn upside down on a large plate – flambé and serve with brandy sauce.  Amazing and quite a finale to Christmas dinner.

So, now you have time to get everything you need – just in time for ‘Stir Up Sunday’!