A centuries-old custom that harks back to Victorian times, Stir-up Sunday is the day when families traditionally gather together to ‘stir-up’ the mixture for their Christmas pudding.
It falls on the last Sunday before Advent, giving the pudding time to mature before Christmas Day.
In many households, certain recipes are passed down through the generations. If you’re lucky, this heirloom survives on a scrap of grease-stained paper, written by a familiar hand.
The Christmas pudding is often one such recipe.
For many, it comes with the advice and alterations of a well-meaning relative. The traditional dish has a history that is as rich and divisive as the pudding itself.
Traditionally, Christmas pudding is made on Stir-up Sunday – the last Sunday of the month before Advent. This tradition has its roots in the Anglican church. The term comes from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer: ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good words, may of thee be plenteously rewarded.’ As most recipes called for the pudding to mature over several weeks, it is said that the prayer served as a reminder to church-goers to hurry home, and start preparations for Christmas.
British Standard x Falcon Enamelware ‘Stir-up Sunday’ Christmas Pudding Recipe
Preparation time – 30-45 minutes, plus overnight soaking
Cooking time – 4 hours steaming plus an additional 2-3 hours on Christmas Day
50g dried figs, chopped
25g mixed citrus peel
20g glacé cherries, quartered
10g stem ginger in syrup, chopped
80ml Pedro Ximenez sherry, or similar sweet wine such as marsala dolce
60g light muscovado sugar
35g self-raising flour
35g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp mixed spice
Pinch of fine sea salt
75g of suet (or grated butter)
15g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 medium egg
Juice of ½ orange
Butter for greasing
1. Start the night before you want to mix the pudding. Combine the dried fruit in a bowl, and pour over the sherry. Give it a good stir to coat the fruit, then cover and leave overnight to soak. This allows the fruit to get fat, soft and boozy.
2. Add the light muscovado sugar to a mixing bowl, breaking up and large lumps between your fingertips. Next add the flour, breadcrumbs, mixed spice and a pinch of salt and mix to combine. Lastly, gently stir through the suet and chopped nuts.
3. Crack the egg into the dry mix, and break up the yolk with a wooden spoon. Give it a quick mix and then pour in the orange juice and stout. Mix again before adding the soaked fruit and any sherry left in the bottom of the bowl. Give the whole thing a really good stir until evenly combined. Thoroughly grease the 14cm Falcon bowl with butter and then spoon the pudding mix into the bowl, covering the top of the mix with a disk of baking parchment.
4. Cut a double layer of baking parchment and foil to cover the top of the pudding bowl, making a pleat in the middle to allow the pudding to rise slightly. Scrunch up the paper and foil roughly around the top of the bowl, then secure tightly with string, looping the excess length over the top of the bowl to make a handle.
5. Place the pudding bowl in a large pan, sitting on a small upturned plate, and then fill the pan with enough water to reach halfway up the bowl. Cover with a lid and steam slow and low for 4 hours, in gently simmering water. Keep an eye on the water level, and top it up with boiling water from the kettle if needs be. The pudding is cooked through when the internal temperature is at least 72C.
6. Once steamed and cooled, remove the paper and foil and replace with a fresh version, then store the pudding in a cool, dry place until Christmas day. You can feed the pudding weekly with a glug of brandy or more sherry for an extra boozy kick.
7. On Christmas Day, steam the pudding as before for 2-3 hours. Turn out on to a plate and serve with brandy butter.
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British Standard, britishstandardcupboards.co.uk