Stir-up Sunday: Preparing the Christmas Pudding

Before the last Sunday of the Church Year became known as Christ the King, it was known in Anglican churches as Stir Up Sunday, from the opening words of the Collect for the day: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”. This was a timely signal to start making the Christmas Pudding. Christmas puddings date back to at least 15th century England, when they often contained meat as well as fruit. Also known as Plum Puddings (“plum” actually means raisins), purists make it from thirteen ingredients, symbolising Jesus and the Twelve Apostles. It should be aged for at least a month. Many families follow the tradition of gathering in the kitchen to all stir the pudding. Traditionally the mixture is stirred from East to West in honour of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus.

Our family follows the tradition of gathering together in the kitchen on Stir-up Sunday with everyone taking a turn to stir the pudding. Traditionally the mixture is stirred from East to West in honour of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus. It’s hard work, especially at the start, so we go oldest to youngest. The final stir is done with everyone holding the mixing spoon together. As we stir, we recite the collect aloud – according to
preference the traditional on (left) or a more modern version (right).

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

Stir up within your people O God the will to bring about Your Kingdom in earth, Through prayer, compassion, love and peace may Your Holy Spirit guide us in all we do. For the sake of Jesus Christ, our Advocate, Model and Redeemer. Amen

Another tradition was to incorporate one or more silver coins in the mixture. Getting one in your portion allegedly guaranteed you wealth and happiness in the year ahead, or possibly a broken tooth. Failing a true silver coin, silver charms are sometimes used, but for health and safety reasons we now use a whole almond.
The highlight of the Christmas meal is when the lights are turned out and the pudding is brought to the table, flaming with brandy. Here’s the family recipe we use each year – it dates from the 19th century.

CHRISTMAS PUDDING

155g butter or margarine
125g soft white breadcrumbs
250g raisins
125g currants
60g almonds
60g glace cherries
2 eggs
2 tablespoon brandy, sherry or orange juice
good pinch salt
1⁄2 level teaspoon each of mixed spice and ground nutmeg
125g plain flour
125g sultanas
125g mixed peel
60g dates
125g light brown sugar
150ml milk

  1. Blanch and chop almonds.
  2. Chop cherries and dates.
  3. Sift flour with salt and spices.
  4. Rub in butter and add bread-crumbs, then sugar, fruit and nuts.
  5. Beat eggs and mix with milk and brandy.
  6. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  7. Leave to stand for about 1/2 hour before placing in a 1.5 litre (or l8cm diameter) basin of china, aluminium or enamel with lid.
  8. Grease basin well – for a shiny surface on pudding, sprinkle greased bowl lightly with sugar. Cover with greaseproof or alfoil.
  9. Place into a saucepan of boiling water (1/2 way up).
  10. Cover tightly with lid.
  11. Replace boiling water with more boiling water.
  12. Cook 4 hours on day of making.
  13. Remove and store in bowl in refrigerator.
  14. On day of eating replace foil with fresh foil and boil 1-2 hours.
  15. Turn out and serve with warm brandy custard.

Margaret & Ward Saylor

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