What is Stir-up Sunday?
Stir-up Sunday falls on the last Sunday before advent. The opening words to be read from the Book of Common Prayer on this particular Sunday start, ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O lord’ and this apparently reminded families from Victorian times onwards that they had to head home and make the Christmas pudding.
Traditionally the pudding contained 13 ingredients, one for Jesus and each aspostle, and was stirred by every member of the family from East to West while they made a wish. The holly on top is supposed to represent the crown of thorns, but these days it’s often made from plastic (holly berries are toxic so shouldn’t be anywhere near a pudding).
How to make Christmas pudding
- Buy some new spices. That jar which has been languishing at the back of the cupboard since last Christmas won’t have as much flavour this year. Spices lose their potency once they’re ground.
- Choose good quality dried fruit, and again don’t be tempted to use the scrag end of a bag from last year. You want fat, squashy dried fruit, not shrivelled up little bullets.
- Recipes vary in their use of beef suet, veggie suet or grated butter. You can use whichever you like despite what the recipe says. Make sure you use the same amount as is specified, though.
- Make sure your pudding basin is the right size and choose a shape you like. If you look into the bowl you’ll be able to see whether your pudding will end up with a rounded top or flat top. If you want a round ball you’ll have to buy a mould like this.
Plastic pudding basins with fitted lids work very well if you’re steaming your pudding on the stove or in a pressure cooker – plus it means you won’t have to faff around with foil and baking paper. Stick to ceramic or metal if you’re oven steaming.
- Soak your fruit overnight to plump it up, either in tea, orange juice or alcohol.
- Choose the fruit you like the most, provided you end up with the same weight as the recipe. If you prefer dried pineapple to glacé cherries, go ahead! It’s your pudding.
- You can make a darker, richer pudding, if everyone will prefer it.
- If you’re not ready to make a pudding yet then make a batch of mincemeat instead; you can easily turn it into a pudding nearer Christmas.
- Don’t overheat your pudding. If you reheat it in a microwave, the fruit will caramelise when it gets too hot and you won’t improve the flavour.
- Finally, if you plan to flambé your pudding, do it safely. Heat only the amount of alcohol you need in a pan to just below boiling (keep a lid nearby in case you need to put out a flame), pour the alcohol onto the pudding and light it straight away with a long match. Don’t lean over the pudding until the flame has died out and don’t carry it around.
Christmas pudding recipe