Stirring times for old traditions
Tradition, and taste buds, demand that “stirring Sunday” is the 25th Sunday after Trinity, which usually comes in late September, or the...
Tradition, and taste buds, demand that “stirring Sunday” is the 25th Sunday after Trinity, which usually comes in late September, or the beginning of October.
That’s the day when lovers of the succulent Christmas specialty, still known as plum pudding, gather and mix the multiple ingredients for the heavyweight post-turkey dessert.
Plum pudding became Christmas pudding in Victorian times when Anthony Trollope used the term in a novel, and is a standard offering at every true Anglo-Saxon Christmas feast.
The basic ingredients are raisins, sultanas, currants, andcandied peel (gourmonds marinate the fruit in brandy) to which is added breadcrumbs, apple, grated carrot.eggs but almost no flour. The mixing fluid isbrandy or rum and Guinness.
The mixture is steamed for up to 8 hours, depending on size, and on Christmas Day re-steamed for 2-4 hours. Some heretics have advocated using a microwave, but there goes the stimulating aroma that fills the kitchen during the protracted steaming, and Dickens would not have approved.
The masterpiece is served flambed with brandy and lathered with brandy butter.
The stirring is a tradition in itself.
Everyone in the family takes a turn at stirring the fruity mixture , and inhaling the liquid additives, while making a wish.
True traditionalists stir from east to west in honor of the Three Kings. In the past small silver coins or silver charms were added, and rich folks added a silver crown coin, equivalent to a week’s pay for family servants
Those finding a coin or charm in their helping of pudding would have good luck for the year, and their secret wish would come true.
Some families with a clutch of unmarried daughters added gold rings. The recipient would be married within the year. A good idea for Panama where women massively outnumber men.
The first recipes for the pudding surfaced in the Middle Ages, when it was called Mince Pie (not to be confused with today’s mince pies which contain mincemeat, but no meat).
The ingredients were chopped poultry, pheasant, partridge and rabbit, standard fare for the rich at one end of the social strata, and for poachers at the other end.
The first step towards the modern version came with the additions of sugar, apples and raisins. Later came, prunes, wine and mixed spices.
In the closing years of the 16th century breadcrumbs were added, and it was called plum pudding, but had no plums.
In 1664 the Puritans banned the pudding and other Christmas delights as unfit for those who followed the ways of God. The Founding Fathers extended the ban in the Americas.
As a counter to the Puritans, the flaming brandy was said to represent Christ’s passion, and the sprig of holly used to decorate the pudding on the way to the table, was a remembrance of the crown of thorns.
Oh those early spin merchants.
King George I re-introduced the pudding and in the 19th Century it was brought to the Royal dining table by Queen Victoria’s consort, the German-born Prince Albert, who also introduced the Christmas tree.
What was good for the Queen was good for the masses, and the eating of Christmas pudding became a tradition.
Still wondering where the name “plum”came from? There’s no definitive answer but the great Dr Johnston who created the dictionary, defined plum as: grape dried in the sun.
Call it what you will, it’s a tradition that lives on and my puddings are in the fridge.