Christmas is fast approaching, and in the lead up to the most wonderful time of the year we're looking at ways to get together with our family or friends for a fun festive activity.
Enter: Stir-up Sunday, which falls on Sunday the 20th of November this year and is a really great way to slow down, grab a cup of tea (or a warm mug of mulled wine), and make your own Christmas pudding or Christmas cake.
Prepare to impress your guests and receive all the compliments on the big day.
What is Stir-up Sunday?
It is a tradition that dates back to the Victorian era, when families would gather around and 'stir' their homemade Christmas pudding five weeks before Christmas, the last Sunday before advent begins.
Did you know that the traditional recipe actually used to contain meat and would be served at the beginning of the meal, alongside the meat course. Hence the term mincemeat!
The meat was eventually removed (as meat preservation techniques improved) and now keen cooks are embracing the sweet pud in full force and also use Stir-Up Sunday as an opportunity to make other festive dishes like Christmas cakes and mincemeat for mince pies too.
The Stir-up traditions:
Christmas pudding would traditionally contain 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples.
It is traditionally stirred (while making a wish) by each member of the family from East to West, to resemble the Wise Men that visited Jesus in the Nativity Story.
The customary garnish of holly represented the crown of thorns. Be warned: the holly berry is very toxic, so instead adorn your Christmas pud with fake foliage!
Adding coins, originally charms, to your Christmas pudding was said to bring luck if you found them in your portion 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. Biting down on any of these could cause a trip to the dentist with a cracked tooth, so we wouldn't recommend this.
Where does Christmas pudding come from?
In the Middle Ages, a Christmas porridge called Frumenty was popular and may be a savoury ancestor of the Christmas pudding. The recipe evolved over the years into plum pudding, containing dried fruits, eggs, breadcrumbs, and beers or spirits to increase its shelf life. In the 19th century, Prince Albert declared his love for the Christmas pudding and made it fashionable – it was at this time that it became a Christmas staple.
Do I have make a Christmas pudding in advance?
Don't worry if you can't participate in Stir-up Sunday. Some will swear that a matured pudding tastes better for having the time to mellow and develop depth of flavours.
However, having made countless Christmas puddings and tasted them straight after cooking, to see if their flavour is up to scratch before we commit to triple-testing them (all part of our recipe development process at Good Housekeeping), we can truthfully say that you can definitely make it closer to the time, or even on Christmas Day if you have time!
We've got all the best classic recipes, but if you feel like mixing it up this year, some of our favourites include this cherry and pecan topped pud, a chai spiced version, or these adorable mini cakes. If you’re really short on time our microwave recipe can get you out of a tight spot quickly, or have a look at our best tried & tested store-bought puddings.
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