Christmas puddings are a must-have over the festive period and they're not as tricky as you might think. The best thing about Christmas pudding is you can make it in advance - so there is less to do on the big day. November's a good time to start as you can store the pudding for weeks.
If you're making a homemade Christmas pudding, these tips, tricks and recipes are sure to come in handy. We'll tell you how to get your pudding really flavoursome, the best ways of storing it and much more. Plus, we have the reasons behind all those Christmas pudding traditions. Start your Christmas baking here...
When is Stir Up Sunday 2016?Stir Up Sunday always falls on the last Sunday before advent. In 2016 this means it will be celebrated on Sunday the 20th of November.
What is Stir Up Sunday?
Stir Up Sunday started back in Victorian times, and was a tradition where families would come together to get their fruit puddings stirred up, steamed and stored ahead of Christmas. Each member of the family would take a turn to give all the ingredients a good mix around while making a wish for the coming year. It has thought that the name comes from the opening line of the Book of Common Prayer that was read at church on the Sunday before advent which said, 'stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord'.
Christmas puddings can be made weeks in advance, which is handy during the busy Christmas period and makes Stir Up Sunday a useful reminder to get this bit of prep down and out of the way early on.
Once you've made your pud store it in a cool place away from the light. Keep the pudding topped up with a splash of liquor every week to keep it moist and If you want to freeze the pudding (check the recipe to see if you can), take it out of the bowl, wrap well in cling film, then in foil, seal, label and freeze. Use within 6 months.
Christmas pudding traditions to try on Stir Up Sunday
The Christmas pudding recipe is hundreds of years old and over the years many traditions have been picked up including special ways of mixing and adding secret ingredients. Here's what they all mean...
Mixing: When making the cake it is traditional for every member of the family, especially children, to give the mixture a stir, and make a wish while doing so. You are also supposed to stir the mixture from East to West to honour the journey made by the Wise Men.
The ingredients: Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to symbolise Jesus and the 12 Apostles. The ingredients are: sultanas, raisins, demerara sugar, currants, glacé cherries, stout, breadcrumbs, sherry, suet, almonds, orange and lemon peel, cognac and mixed spices.
Coins: It is still common for people to include small silver coins (traditionally a sixpence) in the pudding mixture. Whoever gets the serving with the coin in the middle gets to keep it and it is believed to bring them wealth in the coming year. This same practice is done with a tiny wishbone (to bring good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), or an anchor (to symbolise safe harbour).
If you are putting any coins or trinkets into your pudding, make sure they are sterilised and that those eating are aware there may be something in their pudding. You can wrap them in small pieces of tin foil to make them more visible.
Where does Christmas pudding come from?
The dish known today as 'Christmas pudding' began its life as a Christmas porridge called Frumenty, made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities. Like so many British dishes, it has evolved over the centuries from a simple peasant's meal to a treasured celebration dish and has been adapted to become a sweet pudding rather than a rich meaty meal.
What will I need for Stir Up Sunday?To make a Christmas pudding the only equipment you need, aside from the ingredients above, is a mixing bowl and spoon, a pudding basin (Most recipes are to fill a 2 pint pudding basin - which will serve 6-8 people), some string, an elastic band, foil, baking parchment and a pan large enough to comfortably steam your pudding in.
Is there anything I should do before Stir Up Sunday?If you have the time, soak your fruits in the liquor overnight to absorb the flavour. Whisky, rum and cold tea work best. Some recipes have you include more ingredients at this point for extra absorption. Make sure the ingredients are covered in a cool, dry place.
If you want to avoid alcohol completely, use a light sugar syrup flavoured with orange zest.
Our best ever Christmas pudding recipe to make for Stir Up Sunday
Get the recipe: Christmas pudding
Our Christmas pudding uses all the traditional ingredients and takes just 20 minutes to prep before it's ready to steam so is perfect if you're short on time.
To steam follow all the steps in the recipe above, Spoon your mixture into a prepared basin and place your pudding bowl in a pan of water and steam for required time (normally about 8 hours). Put an upside down saucer in the bottom of the pan and sit the pudding on this. This way the pudding is kept away from the bottom of the pan and won't overheat. It's very important to make sure the water never runs dry so you will need to regularly top up the pan with fresh water.
Christmas pudding is traditionally served with a sprig of holly on top and with flaming brandy. Holly is very flammable so make sure you pour the brandy away from it, around the bottom of the pudding. Light the brandy at the table rather than carrying it in on fire. Traditionally Christmas pudding is served with either brandy butter, custard, sweet white sauce or whipped cream - it's really a personal preference.
To ensure the brandy ignites, warm it slightly before pouring it over the cake.