“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded…”
(Book of Common Prayer)
Hello, my little chickadees! Are you ready for Stir-up Sunday? It’s coming up this weekend so you’ve still got a couple of days to round up your pudding basin and make a trip to the grocery store. I’ve even got a lucky sixpence to put in mine this year that I picked up at the Tower of London gift shop (you can get one from the Royal Mint here). They’ve certainly increased in value. Darned decimalisation! Anyway, on to Stir-up Sunday…
The last Sunday before Advent (it’s November 24th this year) is called “Stir-up Sunday” because of the collect for the day from the Book of Common Prayer (quoted at the top of the post). Fortuitously, the last Sunday before Advent is also a convenient time to stir up Christmas Pudding, because it needs about four weeks of storage and “feeding” with brandy before it’s ready to enjoy. Delia Smith recommends letting the pudding mature “under the bed in an unheated bedroom.” Those of us with central heating have a bit of a problem! It is important, though, to have a cold house, as in drafty, put-on-another-sweater cold, to best emulate the conditions maturing puddings need to thrive. Thankfully, I’m very stingy with the heat so the house isn’t too hot to store a Christmas pudding. I actually don’t know what’s “too hot,” but the “Nigella team” say that refrigerating a pudding is OK if you’re worried about it. I’ve never tried that but personally, I think refrigeration might take the fun out of it. What makes a Christmas pudding so amazing in our anally hyper-hygenic world is that is is left out for weeks. Love it.
Be sure to get everyone in your house involved in the pudding process, because stirring the Christmas pudding is supposed to bring good luck for the new year. That’s why I’m waiting until this weekend so Paul can have a stir. Plus, he’s so much better at covering the pudding basin than I am. Here’s my very delicious recipe, adapted from Delia Smith’s.
4 ounces (1/2 cup) grated frozen butter (or very high-quality rendered suet, if you can find it)
1 ounce (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour / plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 ounces (1 cup) homemade white bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (see below)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
7 ounces (1 cup, lightly packed) golden brown sugar / soft brown sugar
3 ounces (2/3 cup) golden raisins / sultanas
3 ounces (2/3 cup) raisins
7 ounces (1 1/2 cups) currants
2 ounces (1/3 cup) candied peel, finely chopped
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
6-ounce Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
4 teaspoons rum
4 fluid ounces (1/2 cup) brandy, divided
2 fluid ounces (1/4 cup) stout
2 eggs, beaten with a fork
Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter (or suet) with the flour, baking powder, salt, breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Then stir in the dried fruit, candied peel, almonds, apples and zests, mixing until combined. Next, add the liquor (only half the brandy for now) and eggs and sir thoroughly. (This is the “stir up” part. Everyone in the household should get a chance to stir the pudding and make a wish.) The batter will be very liquid as far as cake batters go. Cover it and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, grease a 1-quart (1-litre) pudding basin, and pile in the batter (it will have firmed up significantly), smoothing out the top. Fill a steamer pot with water almost up to the steamer basket and bring the water up to a boil. Meanwhile, you’ll need to cover the pudding basin. Watch this video to learn how. Don’t forget the pleat and ignore the part about the water coming up the side of the basin. When the water is up to the boil, add the pudding basin to the steamer basket and put the lid on. You might want to turn the heat down to medium-high. The pudding will steam for 6 hours. Keep an eye on the water level of the steamer and add boiling water (use the tea kettle) as needed. The steamer will boil off water more quickly than you expect!
After six hours, remove the pudding and take off the foil and parchment cover. Let the pudding cool (this will take a while) then recover and move to your larder (or unheated bedroom). Every week until Christmas, feed the pudding one more tablespoon of brandy and replace its cover.
When Christmastime arrives, re-steam the pudding (for 1 1/2 hours), set it aflame and serve it with the hard sauce of your choice (more on that in an upcoming post).
Serves 6 to 8
To make 1/4 cup combine the following spices (all ground):
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon coriander
This post was adapted from a post I originally wrote in 2009 for The Past on a Plate.