Day 14: Christmas Pudding

As you should all know by now, I’ve got a British mum. My British mum makes a fantastic Christmas dinner, but she always does this one thing after dinner that seems strange to me.

My mom is nothing like Mrs. Weasley.

She pulls out a store-bought Christmas pudding from the cupboard next to the fridge and eats some of it with a spoon while standing up.

That just doesn't look good.

I think that whole standing up part comes from how judgmental we are when she eats her Christmas pudding. She’d probably rather not eat it at the table while we eat whatever chocolaty dessert there is and stare at her blankly. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ve ever tried a Christmas pudding, but there’s this part of me that hates it instinctively. It looks like fruitcake, only round. Clearly, I am in the right.

Because everything I say is right.

At this moment in time, I can neither confirm nor deny that Christmas pudding is total ickiness. I’ll have the opportunity come Christmas Day dinner when my mom pulls out her pud to nibble on. Until then, I’ll content myself with telling you the extensive story of Christmas pudding.

Christmas pudding, also called plum pudding, is a steamed concoction of dried fruit, spices, sugar, butter, flour, eggs, and suet. There are no actual plums in it. But there used to be.

Beeton Christmas Plum Pudding, 1890s

Like so many other foods, the Crusaders introduced plums to Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Plums originated in Asia, were cultivated in Syria, and grafted by the Romans who preserved them by drying them in the sun. Prunes (dried plums) were imported to England in Elizabethan times and simply called dried plums. They were an ingredient in meat pies but were being added to meat pottages as well. Don’t worry about if you don’t know what a pottage is. I promise I’ll explain.

These are some plums.

Plums were the first dried fruits to be used in savory dishes. They were such a success that the use of other dried fruit in pottages became quite popular and people began adding all types of fruit and Eastern spices to their meat dishes. Any dish that had dried fruit in it was called “plum pottage” even if it didn’t have any prunes in it at all. The type of plums most notably cultivated were the Catherine, the Impériale, the Perdigon, the Goutte d’Or, and the Plum de Monsieur. They were most likely the variety of plums used to make plum pottages.

This lady is making a pottage.

Christmas pudding has its roots in a dish called pottage, which can be traced back to the 15th century. In Middle Age cookbooks, they are described as “stewed broths” and were actually a common, everyday food. Like mince pies, it was originally a hearty, meaty dish made with beef or mutton, onions, possibly other root vegetables, spices, and dried fruit, such as currants and raisins. The ingredients were stewed together for several hours, making it more like a soup than the pudding we know today, and was served at the beginning of the meal as a filling first course. Plums were not added until the 16th century, and it’s name changed to plum pottage. A common recipe included beef and veal boiled in sack (a wine from the Canary Isles) with old hock (a German wine), sherry, lemon, and orange juice. Then sugar, raisins, currants, prunes, cinnamon, and cloves were added. It was thickened with brown bread and was stiffer than the modern Christmas pudding.

In the early 1600s, plum pottages stopped being an every day food and were eaten on special occasions, such as All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The length of time it took to cook them (they had to be steamed for upwards of 9 hours) meant they couldn’t be made everyday anymore. The ingredients of the plum puddings were expensive and the ability to make a proper plum pudding meant one was wealthy enough to afford all those little luxuries.

In the 1644, the Puritans held most of the power in Britain. Long Parliament decreed that Christmas should be a fast day instead of a feast day. They thought there were too many celebrations in the year that lead people to drink and sing and overindulge and just be plain sinful. The Puritans especially disliked mince pies because of all it’s religious symbolism and plum pottage because its rich ingredients were not in accordance with God’s will.

"The Best Plum Pudding" 1912. I'm gonna do that thing I do where I throw completely unrelated pictures on here because they're cool.

In 1656, Puritans tried to ban Christmas altogether but the bill didn’t get any further than the first reading. It was dropped, and the feast/fast law lapsed at the Restoration of the Monarchy. However, the damage was done and pottages had changed. People altered their recipes to avoid the harassment of local Puritan leaders.

Illustration from "Christmas Comes But Once A Year." Dec 21st, 1850

One fun thing I found out was that Oliver Cromwell wasn’t actually involved in the attempt to ban Christmas. At the time, Cromwell was dealing with the British Civil War and didn’t play any part in the legislation. He did, however, close down inns and playhouses, ban sports, and decided that people caught swearing would be fined, women working on the Sabbath would be put in the stocks, and stores weren’t allowed to close on Christmas Day.

Seriously, not cool.

Great guy.

In 1714, George I returned to take the throne. He was sometimes known as the Pudding King because he requested that “Christmas porridge” be served at his first royal Christmas feast. The Quakers objected to it, but George was like “my feast, my pud, my way.”

He did it his way. Like Frank. Quick, someone high five me before every realizes that was a super lame joke.

So by the early 1700’s, stewed broths were known as Christmas or plum porridge. “Porridge” referred to the thick texture of the soup, due to an oatmeal mixture with similar ingredients to plum pottage. One of the grains with which it was served was called sago, delivered to England via the East India Trading Company. Sago was made from the pith of specific types of palm trees.

"The Christmas Pudding"

In the 17th and 18th centuries, meat was gradually omitted from plum porridge and the plums were replaced with raisins, currants, sultanas (golden raisins), and other dried fruits. Alcohol was being added in copious amounts as well and the only remnant of meat that remained was suet. A Mrs. Margaret Dodds of Ireland wrote one of the last recipes for meaty plum porridge. Meaty plum porridge held out longer in Ireland than in Britain where, by the mid-18th century, meatless plum pudding was being made. That’s also around the time it first became associated with Christmas, thanks to George I.

George I, c. 1714. by Sir Godfrey Kneller

I did run across one legend behind the beginning of Christmas porridge. There is a medieval English folk tale of a king (George I perhaps?) who got lost in the forest on Christmas Eve. He had little supplies or food, and was forced to seek food and shelter from a poor woodman’s cottage. The man did not have much food either, so the king’s servant was asked to mix together a meal from the combined ingredients of the king and the woodsman. The servant put chopped suet, flour, eggs, apples, dried plums, ale, sugar, and brandy in a cloth, boiled it, and the mixture became a delicious pudding for everyone to share.

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1880)

The puddings were made several weeks in advance to allow it to mature. The longer the pudding sat, the more time the cake had to soak up the flavors from the alcohol and dried fruit, so they were sometimes left to mature for months. Puddings were most often prepared on “Stir Up Sunday,” the last Sunday before the Advent and the fifth Sunday before Christmas. In fact, prior to the 1660s, the Roman Catholic Church decreed that all puddings should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity and include 13 ingredients for Christ and his 12 apostles. So the church was literally like “make your pudding on this day with this many ingredients or be damned.” That was before the Puritans went all psycho about Christmas.

This guy was not a Puritan. "The Christmas Plum Pudding" by Howard Pyle

The name “Stir Up Sunday” came from a prayer that was offered in church that day, which was intended to “stir up” the faithful during Advent.

“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.”

-Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Day, 1549 (used in Anglican Churches)

Stir Up Sunday Christmas postcard, Victorian

Choirboys, as choirboys are apt to do, changed the prayer to suit their own purposes: “Stir up we beseech thee the pudding in the pot. And when we get home, we’ll eat it up all hot.”

Traditionally, Stir Up Sunday was the last day that puddings and cakes could be started before December 25th so it had that time to mature. Families would arrive home from church, prepare the pudding, and let it cook. At some point in the day, each family member was required to stir the pudding. There are several traditions that have been mentioned when it comes to stirring the pudding. Some say that the pudding had to be stirred east to west, to represent the journey of the Magi to see Jesus. Some people insisted that the eyes had to be closed and a silent wish made while stirring with a big wooden spoon.

Joseph Kenny Meadows, "Making the Christmas Pudding," 1848

Once each person in the family had stirred the pudding, charms were added. There are no written instructions for how the charms were added. They were most likely dropped in the pot and stirred in. There is disagreement about when the tradition began. Some sources say it began in Victorian times while others say it can be traced back to the Stuart period. The idea of adding charms to the pudding probably stemmed from the Twelfth Night Cake.

1881 Harper's Weekly, "Stirring the Christmas Pudding."

The charm that everyone knows about is the silver coin. It’s even used in puddings now (sometimes anyway). Originally, a silver farthing was plopped in, then a penny, then after WWI it was a threepenny bit (or Joey). Once the threepenny bit went out of circulation it was replaced with sixpence, and now the most commonly used coin is 5 pence. The person who got the slice with the coin would get good luck and wealth. Other trinkets baked into the pud were a ring to symbolize marriage, a small wishbone or horseshoe for luck, an anchor for safety, and a thimble meaning either thrift or, if an unmarried woman got it, spinsterhood. Another source said the thimble meant a life of blessedness, which is slightly different from spinsterhood.

Christmas Pudding Charms circa 1950

Plum puddings were most often spiced with mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. They were made using pudding cloths or bags rather than the original animal stomachs of intestines, which was a great advancement in pudding making technology. The bags, invented in the 18th century, were simply a large square of woven linen or cotton cloth large enough to hold the pudding in its boiling water bath while it steamed. The trick was to get the floured cloth into the boiling water quickly so the grainy particles of the pudding absorbed the moisture right away. The cloth plus this technique were what gave the Christmas pudding its characteristic cannonball shape.

“Let the Cloth be perfectly clean and free from any Taste of the Soop, for that is full as bad as Dirt. Before the Pudding is put into it let it be dipped in hot Water and floured. As to the tying, the Nature of the Pudding makes a difference; if it be a Batter Pudding it must be tied close, but if it be a Bread Pudding it is to be tied loose. See that the Water perfectly boils before the Pudding is put into the Pot, and let it be stirred about from Time to Time, to prevent its sticking to the Bottom.”

-Martha Bradley, mid-18th century cookbook author whose recipes were used both in England and the colonies.

Cooking the Christmas Pudding, 1848

There is no real record of how the puddings were stored in any of the 16th-19th century cookbooks. It can be assumed that they were baked, boiled, or steamed and wrapped in an alcohol soaked cloth, possibly cheesecloth. They were probably stored in earthenware or crockery and placed somewhere cool until the time when they were to be eaten. During this time, more alcohol, probably claret or sack, was added to keep the pudding from going bad. It may have also been sealed with suet or wax to prevent bacteria from forming.

"Father Christmas," 1870. Apparently he's terrifying.

In Victorian times, the pudding cloth had been abandoned and pudding basins were being used. These were ceramic bowls with thickened rims that allowed cloth or parchment paper to be tied around the rim. The basins were lowered into boiling water and steamed, just like when they were made with pudding cloths. It didn’t create the same cannonball shape, but the top was still rounded so it was slightly reminiscent of the giant ball. A pudding basin wasn’t necessary though as it was possible to use any deep rounded bowl. Once the pudding came out of the mold it was decorated with a sprig of holly and served to guests flambé style, meaning they set the whole thing on fire by drenching it in alcohol.

IT'S ON FIRE!!!

Cookbooks, Christmas annuals, and magazines from the Victorian period praised the sanctity of family as much as that of Jesus. Stirring the pudding brought the family together, so the tradition was often mentioned in these sources and the tradition of Stir Up Sunday continued. The wealthy often cooked their puddings in fancy molds in the shape of towers or castles. Poor families made do with what they had and made the richest plum pudding they could afford. Even workhouse inmates got plum pudding on Christmas Day.

Harper's Weekly "The Goddess of Our Kitchen" 1884

Visitors to England were either bored or impressed by plum pudding. Pehr Kalm, a Swedish visitor to England in 1748, said, “the art of cooking as practised by the Englishmen does not extend much beyond roast beef and plum pudding.” At the other end of the spectrum, a French chef named Antoine Beauvilliers introduced the English “delicacy” to France in 1814. He called it plomb-poutingue in his book L’art de cuisinier. 

Christmas Postcard, 1909

The largest recorded plum pudding of the time was made in the village of Paignton in Devon in 1819. It weighed 900 pounds. Not to belittle that, but the largest modern pudding was made in Aughton, Lancashire on July 11, 1992. That one weighed 7,231 pounds.

I can’t figure out the logistics of either of those.

"The Plum Pudding in Danger" James Gillray, 18th century

The Christmas pudding we know today was invented in the 19th century, possibly because of Prince Albert. Albert wanted to bring his own German Christmas traditions to the British court, but was also very fond of the rich puddings he got to eat in England. Queen Victoria, who was so fond of Albert, figured out a way to make it happen. She set a Christmas table with German cookie-cutter cookies, special gingerbreads, and roast goose alongside British boar’s head, mince pie, and wassail. The pudding was prepared especially for him and was given a place of honor on the table. Once it was reported the royal family was eating such a pudding, it became all the rage. English families all over the country began adapting the recipe to work for them. It became so popular that Charles Dickens wrote about it extensively in A Christmas Carol.

“Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper [boiler]. A smell like 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! 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.”

“Oh, a wonderful pudding!” Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage…”

-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843

"With the Pudding," Arthur Rackham, 1915

The pudding became an icon of Victorian Christmas and Eliza Acton published the first recipe for “Christmas pudding” in 1830. The recipe has remained more or less the same ever since.

The royal family still, of course, eats Christmas pudding at their Christmas dinner. Prince Charles produces his own organic Christmas puddings through his natural food company Duchy Originals. Let’s take a moment and appreciate that Charles has a natural foods company.

Wow.

The Queen hands out Christmas puddings from Fortnum & Masons to all the staff. The pudding the royal family eats after their dinner is made using a secret recipe from the 1800s. An author named Dorothy Hartley published a book in 1954 called Food in England in which she claims to reveal that secret recipe, although there is no concrete proof of it. While the rest of the recipes and information in the book is well cited, the Royal Family Christmas Pudding is not.

Fortnum and Mason Christmas Pudding

Plum pudding was brought to America by English settlers, but New Englanders, specifically Puritans, would not allow Christmas to be celebrated because they wanted to reintroduce religious fundamentals into the holiday. The puddings were saved for secular occasions and no food with the word “Christmas” in it existed. When Christmas was turned into a commercial holiday (people wanted to make money off of cards, gifts, ornaments, etc.), Christmas pudding was revived. It was listed in American cookbooks as “English Christmas pudding” or “English plum pudding.” It was an immensely important part of Christmas dinner because it made it different from Thanksgiving, which had a nearly identical spread. There was a recipe for it in almost every cookbook between the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"This 1910 embossed postcard has an unusual take on Thanksgiving. It shows Uncle Sam about to partake of a traditional turkey. Pilgrims in the background carry a wild fowl, a reminder of the reason for the holiday. It emphasizes that Thanksgiving as it's celebrated here is a uniquely American celebration, although the plum pudding on the lower left is a reminder of the colonists' English origin."

During that period in America, the pudding bag was no longer needed. Stoves now had supplanted hearths and companies were making tin molds with tight lids that the puddings could be placed in, lowered into large, deep kettles of boiling water, and steamed. Specially designed kettles were made that had racks, which could hold multiple small pudding molds at a time. The tins were made in many different sizes and one of the lead manufacturers was Dover Stamping Company in 1858. Eventually, pre-made, miniature puddings in a can were available in stores.

These are not actual store-bought Christmas puddings, but someone actually made real life mini ones.

The original plum pudding never had any real religious connotations (when the Puritans tried to ban it, it was just because it was too rich and sinful), but in Victorian times people started tacking some meaning on. People said the pudding’s fire represented Christ’s passion, strength, and love. The holly garnish was supposed to be his Crown of Thorns. On the other hand, holly was thought to bring good luck and have special healing powers in the Middle Ages. Others suggest that the sprig of holly simply represents the lucky green boughs that are used as decoration and the fire on the cake reflects the Yule Log.

Recipes for Christmas pudding are usually handed down through generations from mother to daughter. The ingredients tend to be similar, beef or vegetarian suet, currants, sultanas, raisins, citrus peel or candied citron, bread crumbs, brandy, eggs, spices, treacle or golden syrup, butter, sugar, nuts, and brandy or rum. The pudding is steamed for 8 or 9 hours or can be cooked in a pressure cooker, then stored for several weeks. On the day of serving it should be steamed for another 2 hours and served with brandy butter, rum butter, double cream, or homemade custard.

Prep time for the pudding is even longer. To make a really lovely pudding, it’s a good idea to soak the fruit in the brandy, rum, cider, or alcohol of your choosing for several weeks to bring out the flavors. This is also an optional step. One of the jokes about Christmas pudding is how long you can keep it. Like fruitcake, it can be kept for several months because the alcohol and dried fruit act as preservatives. And as I mentioned earlier, it even tastes better after time because the cake has had time to take on the flavors of the brandy, rum, and dried fruits.

Oh look, here's a store-bought pudding.

Homemade puddings are tastiest, and they’re even better if you use excellent ingredients. It’s best to actually use suet (many older recipes call for it) instead of Crisco, margarine, butter, or oil. If you decide to experiment and make your pudding in a bag rather than a bowl, then good on you.

“And incidentally, should you opt for the pudding bag, set your bag into a large bowl so the top drapes over the sides, pour in the batter, and then tie it up at the neck so no water can get in. Allow extra string for hanging, secure it onto a wooden spoon large enough to rest across the top of a large kettle. You may also wish to use some flour and water “paste” to seal off the top so no water can get in.”

-Alice Ross

One of the most exciting things about Christmas pudding is lighting it on fire. Of course, that can also be quite dangerous so it’s not something you do without knowing how. It’s always a good idea to have some way to extinguish it nearby. Here are some directions:

“Christmas Pudding

After the turkey, the Christmas pudding; maturing away in its bowl since Stir Up Sunday. The Christmas pudding should be brought in aflame, and this is how to do it. Avoid four-star Cognac; One-star, or motor-mower, brandy is the stuff; or, if you can make it burn, inexpensive brandy mixed fifty-fifty with cheap sherry. Check supplies before the shops shut down on Christmas Eve. One year there was none to hand and the author, so as not to upset his children, who loved to see their terror-stricken father trying to put the flames out with a waste-paper basket, was forced to bore holes in a two pound box of liqueur chocolates. The brandy must be warm – very important – otherwise the cold fluid soaks into the pudding, making it unsuitable for children and aged grannies. Heat a ladle or large spoon over the gas. Switch off gas. Pour brandy into ladle. Watch it hiss. Pour warm bandy over pud. Be careful how much you pour on: too much and the whole thing becomes a fireball scorching the paintwork on the ceiling. The flaming brandy is for display purposes only; most of it has been burnt away by the time you come to eat it, leaving the outside of the pudding slightly charred. There is often a peculiar bitter taste. That is what burnt holly tastes like.”

-Frank Muir, Christmas Customs & Traditions, 1975, p. 56

Omg bunnies and Christmas pudding.

And here’s an educational video demonstrating the correct way to turn your cake into a burning ball of flame:

Today, Christmas puddings aren’t necessarily made on Stir Up Sunday because the tradition is dying out. About 2/3 of British children have never taken part in the activity and at least 30% of the population doesn’t even like Christmas pudding. In 2007, Jamie Oliver and Raymond Blanc started a campaign to try and save the making of Christmas pudding and its traditions, also ensuring that no family recipes that have been handed down through generations are lost. The campaign was organized by the government funded Year of Food and Farming and run by the charity Faming and Countryside Education. The goal was to help kids get interested in cooking their own food, what’s in it, and where it comes from. Because that’s what Jamie Oliver does.

Jamie Oliver, ladies and gentlemen.

Most modern cookbooks and recipes say you probably shouldn’t put charms or coins in your Christmas pudding, primarily for health and safety reasons. No one wants to drive little Timmy to the hospital on Christmas Day because he’s choking on a coin and then wait for it to come out his other end. But, if you’re intent on putting something in your pudding, make sure the items have been thoroughly boiled to sterilize them, dried, and wrapped in grease proof or parchment paper so that they are easy to locate and less likely to get swallowed. It also helps if you alert your guests that there are items in their dessert.

Fancy plum pudding.

Christmas pudding is eaten mainly in the UK, sometimes in America (like when my mom noshes on hers after Christmas dinner), but also in Australia. Australians, who have to celebrate Christmas during summer in 100+ degree weather, have their Christmas dinner as more of a picnic outside. While eating a warm Christmas pudding probably doesn’t feel so great, it is tradition and some people keep it up.

OH MY GOSH KITTIES AND PLUM PUDDING.

In early November of 2011, quite possibly the oldest Christmas pudding in the world was discovered in the cabinet of a woman living in Poole, Dorset. The pudding was given to the National Museum of the Royal Navy and had belonged to her husband who had died several years before. It had been in his family for years; 112 years, in fact. One of his ancestors received it while serving in the British Navy during the Boer War.

Front

The front of the tin says “Peek, Frean & Co’s Teetotal Plum Pudding – London, High Class Ingredients Only.” On the back there is a picture of children holding out their plates for more pudding with the cooking instructions, “This pudding is ready for use but may be boiled for an hour if required hot.” Peek Frean was a cookies and confectionary company founded in 1857. They began exporting their Christmas puddings to Australia and India so they had to begin producing them in sealed tins for shipping purposes. This specific pudding was sent to South Africa and had been tinned in 1899. FYI, “teetotal” means to practice abstinence. And yes, there’s a reason why these poor sailors had to endure completely alcohol free puddings.

Back

There is another note on the front of the package, besides the one declaring Peek Frean made it. It says, “For the Naval Brigade, In the Front, With Miss Weston’s Best Christmas & New Year, 1900, Wishes.” The Miss Weston in question was one Agnes Weston, nicknamed Aggie and known as Mother of the Navy. Aggie was a philanthropic woman who went on many hospital visits and did parish work. She met plenty of Navy men during her work and began to correspond with them when they were shipped off. She founded the Royal Naval Sailors’ Rests at Devonport and Portsmouth, which were dry establishments meant to provide a clean bed, hot meal, and wholesome activities for sailors. She vehemently opposed drinking and preached complete abstinence from all alcoholic beverages. Hence the name “Mother of the Navy.”

NO BEER FOR YOU

In 1899, she and a friend thought it would be nice to send a little bit of home to the Naval Brigade fighting in the Boer War. She wrote about it in her books, My Life Among the Bluejackets.

“As Christmas drew near it occurred to one of us that a Christmas pudding for each man of the Naval Brigade would be a nice little present. Messrs. Peak, Frean & Co. carried out the order, and the puddings went off, each in its tin, “With Miss Weston’s good wishes,” in time to reach the front. They were passed on and were not hung up anywhere. A bronzed bluejacket on his return said to me:

‘Directly Ladysmith was relieved you were outside the gates, and those puddings they were just splendid after living so long on mealies and mule flesh. We said, “Mother is here, and knows just what we want.” They made the same remark as tobacco and other gifts were served out.’”

She eventually became a Dame and was buried with full naval honors.

There is one more thing I’d like to address before I make some closing remarks. It’s figgy pudding. I have read in some places that figgy pudding is not Christmas pudding, but then in other places that it is. It most certainly is a plum pudding because figgy pudding was originally a dish of dried figs stewed in wine and often served during Lent with the fish course. It also originated in the Middle Ages and a 14th century cookbook, Diuersa Seruicia, says to make it like this:

“Take figs and boil them in wine, and pound them in a mortar with bread. Mix it up with good wine; boil it. Add good spices and whole raisins. Dress it; decorate it with pomegranate seeds on top.”

Now here is where I am at a loss. Remember that song “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”? Well, the focus of this 16th century ditty just happens to be figgy pudding.

In case you couldn’t quite make it out, here are the lyrics:

“We wish you a Merry Christmas;

We wish you a Merry Christmas;

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;

Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer

We won’t go until we get some;

We won’t go until we get some;

We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here

We wish you a Merry Christmas;

We wish you a Merry Christmas;

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

So you can see the dilemma. Figgy pudding, while a plum pudding, is historically not a Christmas pudding. However, it would appear that in the 16th century it was served as a Christmas dish. This could have stemmed from plum pottages becoming a festive food rather than an everyday food before they were called Christmas pudding.

That’s really all I can think of. And I’ll tell you what; I had a lot of trouble figuring that one out.

Oh, also, Christmas cake is not Christmas pudding. It’s a type of fruitcake covered with hard, white royal icing and decorated with special Christmas scenes and figures. But I am totally not doing that right now.

I would like to share with you one final thing before I go. It’s an e-mail that I received from my distinguished grandfather this morning on the subject of Christmas pudding. I will be pulling a 19th century novel trick and removing the name of my grandparent’s home.

“I have consulted the Head (and only proper) Cook in H— C—— who referred me to my Mother’s cookbook – Warne’s Every-day Cookery -undated but reads from around 1900. This lists separate recipes for Christmas Plum Pudding, Christmas Pudding, Cottage Plum Pudding, Plain Plum Pudding, etcera.

Gran says that raisins used to be made from dried plums and not as now from grapes – this may explain the interchange of Plum and Christmas in the names.

The ingredients of Christmas Pud (from Warne’s) are:- 1lb raisins, 1lb currants, 1/4lb sultanas, 1lb suet, 1/2lb bread crumbs, 1pt milk, ten eggs, 3/4lb flour, 3/4lb mixed peel, 1glass brandy.

The ingredients of Plum pud are:- 6oz raisins, 6oz currants, 6oz bread crumbs, 6oz suet, a little lemon peel, 5 eggs, 1/2glass brandy.

There is a recipe for Fig Pudding in which the only fruit is figs (no raisins, currants or sultanas). Am not sure if this is the same as figgy pud.

Christmas Cake is a rich fruit cake – Gran made ours last month (also her Christmas puds) but that uses flour. They are quite different – the pud being lighter than the cake and eaten hot.”

Here's another Christmas cake. This one has penguins. Penguins are cute.

And with that, I leave you. Thanks for reading this whole thing. You should know it’s 12 pages long as a Word document. You deserve a slice of Christmas pudding.

Keep eating and asking, my friends.

Esther

Bibliography (now in alphabetical order!):

-Ayto, John. “Christmas pudding; Figgey.” An A to Z of Food and Drink. New ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. 76; 123. Print.

-Bowler, G. Q.. “Stir Up Sunday.” The World Encyclopedia of Christmas. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2000. 217. Print.

-Cleland, Gary. “Home-made Christmas puddings die out.” Telegraph.co.uk – Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph – Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited, 24 Nov. 2007. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1570379/Home-made-Christmas-puddings-die-out.html>.

-Cooper, James. “Christmas Pudding — Christmas Customs and Traditions — whychristmas?com.” Christmas Traditions, Christmas Customs & History, Christmas Around the World, The Christmas Story and Christmas Fun! – whychristmas?com. James Cooper, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/pudding.shtml>.

-Crump, William D.. “Great Britain.” The Christmas Encyclopedia. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001. 140-141. Print.

-Greenspan, Dorie. “Now, You Can Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding : NPR.” NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. NPR, 18 Dec. 2007. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17356371>.

-Lane, Sarah. “The Christmas Pudding.” Welcome to ClassBrain.com. -ClassBrain.com, 17 Nov. 2008. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <http://www.classbrain.com/artholiday/publish/article_256.shtml>.

-Miles, Clement A.. “Chapter XII.” Christmas Customs and Traditions, Their History and Significance. New York: Dover Publications, 1976. 285-286. Print.

-Muir, Frank. “Christmas Pudding.” Christmas Customs & Traditions. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co., 1975. 56-58. Print.

-Olver, Lynne. “The  Food Timeline–Christmas food history.” Food Timeline: food history & vintage recipes . Lynne Olver, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <http://www.foodtimeline.org/christmasfood.html#plumpudding>.

-Reporter, Culture24. “Could National Museum of the Royal Navy have found the world’s oldest Christmas pudding? | Culture24.” Home | Culture24. Culture24, 3 Nov. 2011. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <http://www.culture24.org.uk/history%20%26%20heritage/transport/maritime%20history/art367323>.

-Larousse Gastronomique: The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2009. 803-804. Print.

-Ross, Alice. “Christmas Pudding, Hearth to Hearth Article, January 2002.” The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles. The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <http://www.journalofantiques.com/Jan02/hearthjan.htm>.

-Rowe, Steven. “Christmas Puddings – History.” Christmas Puddings. christmaspuddings.org, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <http://www.christmaspuddings.org/history/>.

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Photos, in order of appearance:

-http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Molly_Weasley

-http://www.igourmet.com/christmas-pudding.asp

-http://www.christmashelp.org/christmas-dinner/quick-microwave-british-christmas-pudding.html

-http://historicalfoods.com/christmas-pudding-recipe

-http://www.theoldfoodie.com/2009_11_01_archive.html

-http://cookit.e2bn.org/historycookbook/32-338-tudors-Food-facts.html

-http://thejetpacker.com/what-has-airport-security-confiscated-from-you/

-http://articles.sfgate.com/2004-01-07/food/17410088_1_dried-apricots-fresh-fruit

-https://kayjayaitch.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/the-origin-of-the-plum-pudding/

-http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20251/20251-h/20251-h.htm

-http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/12300/12397/stocks_12397.htm

-http://www.last.fm/music/Frank+Sinatra

-http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22042/22042-h/22042-h.htm

-http://theten0clockscholar.blogspot.com/2009/11/christ-king-sunday-and-stir-up-sunday.html

-http://museumvictoria.com.au/about/mv-blog/?tag=pigs

-http://www.artble.com/artists/william_hogarth

-http://fayelbooth.blogspot.com/2009_12_01_archive.html

-http://www.flickr.com/photos/ethomsen/4229009292/

-http://www.food.com/bb/viewtopic.zsp?t=332407

-http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/theroyalfamily/4579819/Prince-of-Waless-food-company-Duchy-Originals-hit-by-organic-slow-down.html

-http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/favourites-of-vogue/2011/11/christmas-food/gallery/image/12?adTag=&source=

-http://www.antiquetrader.com/articles/postcards/thanksgiving_vintage_postcards

-http://www.redbubble.com/people/pvillani/journal/4347598-annas-mini-christmas-puddings-and-a-little-christmas-cheer-from-me-d

-http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2010/12/18/art-literature/artists-illustrators/illustrator-norman-rockwell/soldiers-christmas.html

-http://www.newgourmetrecipes.com/desserts/christmas-pudding/

-http://www.virginmedia.com/homefamily/christmas/christmas-pudding-comparison.php?ssid=6

-http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Christmas_pudding

-http://www.novareinna.com/festive/pudding.html

-http://ipezone.blogspot.com/2011/03/meet-britains-tiger-dad-celeb-chef.html

-http://graphicsfairy.blogspot.com/2011/12/instant-art-printable-fancy-desserts.html

-http://missmary.com/2009/11/28/plum-pudding-and-other-receipts-for-christmas/

-http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/13418

-http://openlibrary.org/books/OL7092655M/My_life_among_the_bluejackets

-http://www.bastionandlark.com/2010/12/now-bring-us-some-figgy-puding.html

-http://www.vintageimagecraft.com/The_VIC_Pictorial-the-vic-issue-71.html

-http://www.freejesuschristwallpapers.com/2010/06/beautiful-decorated-white-christmas.html

-http://girlfromthehills.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/custom-cakes-cake-my-day/

4 thoughts on “Day 14: Christmas Pudding

  1. Only wanted to know HOW LONG a homemade christmas pudding could possibly last in fridge. Have one in mine. Just sitting at back of fridge in it’s cloth. Think its been there 3 yrs at least!. Very large,,. made boiled in cloth as I have done for 50 yrs!. Plan to get it out this Easter. It will be either marvellous or total disaster!!!!!…….J .

    • Well, now you know the entire history! Christmas puddings last a while because of the preservatives in the alcohol and fruit, so you might just be ok. I would give it a sniff first though…just in case.

      Thanks for reading!
      Esther

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