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What is the Stir Up Sunday tradition in November?

Photo: Katherine Davies
Photo: Katherine Davies

‘Stir Up Sunday’ is always the last Sunday before Advent (November 26 this year) and originates from the Book of Common Prayer, ‘Stir-up, we beseech thee O Lord the wills of thy faithful people’. Over time the term ‘stir up’ was taken literally as families delighted in making Christmas puddings together where every member of the household stirred the pudding mixture with their eyes closed and made a wish. When my children were very small, they could hardly push the mixture but luckily the mixture should be stirred from East to West to commemorate the journey of the Wise Men, so their efforts were fine! Anyone else in the house at the time also had to have a stir including visitors and to this day, I continue the tradition of stirring the pudding mixture with my grandchildren.

In the past, Christmas puddings would contain 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples. Over the years the recipe has been developed to include a few more ingredients such as mixed spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. The customary garnish of holly represents the crown of thorns but please bear in mind that the holly berry is highly toxic, so I’d recommend decorating your Christmas pud with alternative foliage. Originally charms were added to the pudding and were said to bring luck if you found them in your portion of pudding on Christmas Day. The traditional lucky charms were a silver coin for wealth, a wishbone for luck, a thimble for thrift, a ring for marriage, and an anchor for safe harbour. It’s always a good idea to warn your fellow diners that there are hidden charms or coins in the pudding to avoid a trip to the dentist! In days gone by, the charms or coins were added to the pudding just before serving and sixpence pieces and charms can be bought online if you wish to begin this family tradition. I always add a silver sixpence to the pudding and whoever finds it gets to exchange it for a £2 coin, that’s inflation for you! If you choose to add coins or tokens to the pudding, I’d recommend doing this just before serving (and be sure to wrap them in greaseproof paper first).

There is great pleasure in keeping up these Christmas traditions as doing so is making family memories for the future and my children now pass this on to their children. Part of the pleasure is in the making, the stirring in of love and letting family and friends make a wish. I use my husband’s grandma’s recipe developing it to be my own rich dark pudding that is so loved by family and when I steam the puddings the kitchen always smells of Christmas. Enjoy making this traditional recipe for Christmas this year, there are other festive recipes on my website, bakerval.com or alternatively flick through my book, The Cake Whisperer, for other sweet treats!

 

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

A large mixing bowl,

Greaseproof paper,

String or large rubber bands.

3 x 2 lb pudding basins

2 steamers would be ideal (but if you only one then steam one pudding one day, and one the next. I have 4 sets of steamers – Top Tip - they can often be found in charity shops.)

Ingredients

Wherever you can try and source local Somerset ingredients (I use Sheppy’s cider)

8oz plain flour, can be gluten free

8oz fresh breadcrumbs, can be gluten free.

8oz soft brown sugar

8oz currants

8oz sultanas

8 oz suet, can be vegetarian.

4oz chopped peel (optional)

1 large carrot, grated.

1 large cooking apple, grated.

3 medium free-range eggs

1 large orange, zest and juice

1 large lemon, zest and juice

1/4 nutmeg freshly grated.

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

Sufficient cider or milk for the mixture to reach a dropping consistency (this is when a spoonful of mixture drops easily from the spoon.)

Method

Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until fully combined.

Stir in the cider or milk until a dropping consistency is reached.

Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, place in a cool place, and stir regularly during the day. Let this stand overnight for 2 nights to allow the dried fruits to ‘plump-up’.

To steam the puddings

Weigh the pudding mixture into the pudding bowls

Cover each bowl with a large circular double layer of greaseproof paper, sufficient to allow it to be tied securely with string or a large rubber band.

Write the weight of each pudding in pencil on each pudding (A 1 lb pudding will need 6 hours steaming time, a 1 1/2 lb pudding will need 7 hours, a 2 lb pudding will need 8 hours, you can steam them for 1 hour less if you prefer your pudding to be slightly less dark)

Place a quarter of a lemon in with the water in the steamer pans, as this will stop the pan discolouring. The pans should be 2/3 full.

Set a timer for every 30 minutes to remind you to top up the steamers with water from a boiled kettle to prevent the water in the steamers from going off the rolling simmer.

When the puddings been steamed for the appropriate length of time, remove them from the steamer and allow to cool fully.

Remove the steamed greaseproof paper and cover with a fresh double piece.

Store in a cool place until needed.

To heat the puddings on Christmas Day steam for an hour to warm through completely.

Wishing you all health, happiness and prosperity for the coming year!



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