Thursday, November 23, 2006

Stir- up Sunday

This Sunday is Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent in the Christian calendar. It is traditionally the day on which Christmas puddings are made, everyone giving the pudding a stir and making a wish.

The Christmas puds I remember from my childhood looked positively lacquered and sliced into sinister wedges of tarmac. The fruit was slickly dark; raisins, sultanas and dreadful little currants. There was a hot slap of flavourless alcohol mellowed with a good dollop of custard and the exhilarating danger of breaking a tooth on a sixpence. Thank god we only had it once a year.

Being a very modern family, at some point, in the Sixties I think, we decided that Christmas pud was for squares and it was superseded by something altogether lighter. Raspberry Pavlova was a favourite for a number of years.

Sometime in the seventies a vegetarian friend made a vegetarian pud, and it was delicious and memorable. And after that there were famous puddings from Fortnum & Mason’s, during our Designer Label years, and from M&S, during our Classic Supermarket years.

This year I realised, with some shame, that I had never actually made my own Christmas Pudding. Reading the recipes from the previous four decades I notice how currants have now gone completely out of favour (hurrah) and in their stead have come figs and dates and cranberries. The amount of stodge – flour, breadcrumbs, suet – has steadily reduced and vegetarian suet has made an appearance. Lighter, fruitier flavours have replaced the liquorice water taste of the past. Reading the new recipes I found myself salivating at the thought of a slice, maybe just a small slice, of homemade Christmas pud. Maybe some real brandy butter to go with it, maybe some clotted cream, just a little…

Most of what goes into a Christmas pudding is actually sitting around at the back of the cupboard – I had to purchase very little in the end. I think the experimentation is endless, various fruits, some suet, some flour, some alcohol.

These quantities are enough for one big pudding in a 3 pint basin, or two medium puddings in 1½ pint basins.

175g (6oz) sultanas
175g (6oz) raisins
100g (3½oz) ready-to-eat prunes, chopped
100g (3½oz) dates, chopped
75g (3oz) candied peel, chopped
4 pieces preserved ginger in syrup, chopped
150ml (5fl oz) amontillado sherry
125g (4½ oz) self-raising flour
125g (4½ oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
150g (5oz) shredded suet
150g (5oz) light brown muscovado sugar
1 x 100g pack blanched almonds, chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp each ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg
Finely grated zest and juice of one orange
3 large eggs, well beaten
Little extra sherry or milk
Little soft butter, for greasing.
Pudding basins, baking parchment, kitchen foil, string

Put sultanas, raisins, prunes, dates, peel and ginger into a large bowl, add sherry, mix all together gently with your hands and leave overnight.

Next day, add remaining ingredients down to and including orange zest but not juice.
Mix, add juice and eggs and stir well, adding more sherry or milk to make an easy dropping consistency.
Stir pudding and make a wish.
Butter the basins and line base of each with a circle of parchment.
Spoon in mixture almost to top.

Cover with another big circle of parchment, then with kitchen foil pleated in the middle to allow for expansion.

Tie string securely round top of basin and make a handle for ease of lifting.

Steam in saucepan of just boiling water covered with foil for 4 hrs (5 hrs if one big pudding). Water should come half way up sides of basins. Add more boiling water from kettle if necessary. Do not let puddings boil dry.

Cool. Redo coverings with clean parchment and foil. Store in cool dark place.

To reheat, steam as before for another 3 – 3 ½ hours.

To serve, turn out on to warmed, heatproof plate. Flame with 2-3 tbsp warmed brandy per pudding.

This recipe is adapted from one in Sainsbury's Magazine November 2006


ChrisB said...

June you are making me feel very guilty I always used to make my own christmas puddings and then a friend started making christmas fare and I always bought from her. When she moved to Wales I started buying organic (past 2 or 3 yrs). Maybe its time to start making again. Beccy has been making mincemeat for the first time today so I hope she will post about it.

Beccy said...

I was going to comment on my homemade mincemeat Mum and you beat me to it.

I agree June we get spoilt by the wonderful puddings and pies available to us, so for the first time ever I decided to make my own mincemeat. I'm not going to post until I've tasted it-16 days and counting!

June said...

Well done Beccy! I look forward to hearing how it turns out.

lindy said...

Last year I made my own christmas puddings for the first time without my mother in charge. I have one left in the freezer, which I am thinking I will resteam and serve this year.

I wonder if it will be odd, and if I should defrost it first, or steam it from frozen-for longer, as if from scratch. I know people used to make a pudding a year ahead, without benefit of freezer, trusting the alcohol content to preserve it as it ripened. I didn't have the nerve, as I was picturing evil micro-organisms festering and plotting to make us all ill.

Mine certainly had plenty of alcohol, but...

What do you think? Will it be horrible?

June said...

Hi Lindy - hope you had a lovely time in NY.

I think, if it was me, I would defrost the pudding thoroughly and then steam. I know I can end up rather cavalier on Christmas Day...

Waitrose - classy Brit supermarket - says freezing is ok(here)'m sure it will be absolutely fine.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I just found you as I looked up the date of stir-up Sunday and I'm so glad I did! Great site. I'm a Welshwoman who now lives in Sicily, where the food is wonderful and really seasonal, so I think we have a lot in common. I'll be back!

Jasmine said...

Hi June

I made my first Christmas pudding the other day with my mum (we'd always done storebought). It was quite the experience (two *similarly tempered* people working together in a kitchen). Just blogged about it.

Like Welshcakes Limoncello, I too found you in a search for Stir Up Sunday. Glad I did--you've got a good blog. I've just added you to my Blogroll.


June said...

Hi WL and Jasmine

Welcome to both of you, and I am enjoying reading your blogs. Look forward to chatting more in the future.

Susan in Italy said...

Well, the Christmas fruitcake is something that I've actually never tasted since it has a rather bad reputation. In fact there's a theory that you, June have just dashed singlehandedly and that is that there's really only one fruitcake in existence and it keeps getting gifted and re-gifted all around the world since nobody has the mettle to try eating it. LOL!

Ok. in all seriousness, the homemade recipe you explain here looks like a more solid version of a dried fruit compote, which sounds delicious! Not bad at all! With the sherry and the spices and the raisins and the...

June said...

Hi Susan
I like the idea of the eternal Christmas Cake! This is a pussing, rather than a cake, but the ingredients are similar. The pudding has suet in it and the cake doesn't; and the pudding is served hot, with brandy butter, or cream, and it is set alight before being served; and the cake has marzipan and icing all over it - otherwise they are pretty much the same! The problem with cake is that it can be heavy and it can be dry - the way to solve this problem is to soak the thing liberally in brandy, which makes it not dry, and then nobody cares if it's heavy! You only eat about a centimetre of it anyway. And it keeps until Easter!

June said...

I don't know what a pussing is, but it's definitely not a pudding!

June said...

I don't know what a pussing is, but it's definitely not a pudding!

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