Stir Up Sunday

Stir Up Sunday

Posted on 19/11/2016 in Autumn

 The Sunday before Advent is "Stir-up-Sunday" and this year it's 25th November – this Sunday! This is the day on which Christmas puddings traditionally should be made and when the Sunday Anglican Church services inadvertently include a prayer that begins with "Stir up we beseech thee". The prayer, from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, is, of course, about Advent and the coming of Christ and not the culinary tradition of making puddings. But as part of the planning and looking forward to the 25th December the two have become interlinked.

The pudding's origins can be dated back to the 1420's. Originally there seems to have been two versions, one called a "Hakin", which was like a mince pie full of chicken or game. The other was called "Frumenty" and more like a soup or porridge. Neither was specifically associated with Christmas.

By the reign of Elizabeth 1 the dish had developed into Plum Pottage, made with beef or mutton, onions, root vegetables, dried fruit, thickened with breadcrumbs and flavoured with wine, herbs and spices. This rich soup-like dish was eaten on feast days, not just at Christmas. But by the 1670 it was particularly associated with Christmas, and known as Christmas Pottage.

There is a wonderful rich history to our traditional Christmas pudding, and one that is tied up in folklore: for example, one should only ever make the puddings with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his Disciples, you should stir with a wooden spoon from east to west, and everyone in the family should take a turn in stirring to honour the three kings and of course include silver charms and sixpences to bring good luck.

I make my great grandmother's Christmas pudding recipe - not being at all biased or modest - it's the best! Other than using melted butter rather than suet it is the same recipe she and my Grandmother made. My mother used to make all the family a Christmas pudding and I now have taken over the mantle. If you walk through my door on stir up Sunday, the kitchen is a Christmas pudding factory but you will always be invited to have a stir and make a wish!

My Great Grandmother’s Christmas Pudding

This quantity will make 3 good size puddings or several small ones.


225g (½ lb) Currants

225g (½ lb) Sultanas

225g (½ lb) Raisins

115g (¼ lb) glace cherries rinsed and quartered

115g (¼ lb) Chopped dates

115g (¼ lb) Shelled almonds roughly chopped

85g (3 oz) Grated carrot

175g (6 0z) Plain flour

225g (½ lb) White bread crumbs

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon Baking Powder

225g (½ lb) Melted butter and a little extra for greasing the bowls

225g (½ lb) Demerara sugar

2 Peeled and finely chopped cooking apples

A good Desert spoon of black treacle

The juice and zest of 1 orange

The juice and zest of 2 lemons

A good glass of rum or brandy

6 Beaten eggs                                      

In a large bowl mix all the dried fruit together with the almonds and grated carrot.            

In another bowl mix the flour, breadcrumbs, spices and baking powder and then add them to the dried fruit mix, followed by the fruit rind, sugar and apple and thoroughly combine.

Beat the eggs and pour into the mixture, with the juice, the black treacle, the rum and the melted butter and stir well. 

Make a wish and stir.

Grease the pudding basins and three quarters fill them with pudding mixture and cover, either with a lid or greaseproof paper and a cloth.

To steam, put the pudding in the top of a steamer filled with simmering water, cover with a lid and steam for a good 6 hours, topping up with water when necessary. Or on a trivet in a large saucepan with simmering water which comes half way up the side of the pudding.  Until the pudding is a wonderful deep brown colour.

Remove the pudding from the pan and cool completely then store in a cool dry place.

On Christmas day gently steam or boil the pudding for about an hour to reheat.

Turn onto a plate and flame with a little rum or brandy. Have a Happy Christmas.