Thursday 5 December 2013

Christmas Pudding

For Christmas this year, I decided to try making my first Christmas pudding. I chose to make it on Stir up Sunday - on the 24th November this year, Sunday before last - and mature it until Christmas Day, as the tradition goes. I wanted to participate properly - as a cook, rather than a blogger trying to get something ready for the holidays - so I decided to wait until another year to give you a recipe.

I still wanted to share some pictures of the process so I thought I would write something about the background of the Christmas pudding. When it comes to history, I can do no better than to refer you to Ivan Day's three posts on Christmas puddings, so I thought we'd look at some literature instead.

The first literary mention of plum pudding at Christmas is in Anthony Trollope's Doctor Thorne, published in 1858: "Miss Oriel's visit had been entirely planned to enable her to give Mary a comfortable way of leaving Greshamsbury during the time that Frank should remain at home. Frank thought himself cruelly used. But what did Mr Oriel think when doomed to eat his Christmas pudding alone, because the young squire would be unreasonable in his love?"

I've read a bit of Doctor Thorne online and, essentially, Frank wishes to make an 'unreasonable' marriage to the girl he loves, Mary, instead of marrying for money. His family disagrees and Mary rebuffs his advances even though she feels the same way. When he returns home for Christmas, Mary has gone to London with her friend, Patience Oriel - leaving her brother sat alone at his festive table with a solitary spoon in the pudding dish.

Since Mr Oriel's lonely dinner, most mentions of Christmas puddings have revelled in the joy and chaos of the feast, with the cook's nerves and the guest's antics only adding to the warmth. These are my favourites:

"Harry had never in all his life had such a Christmas dinner. A hundred fat, roast turkeys, mountains of roast and boiled potatoes, platters of fat chipolatas, tureens of buttered peas, silver boats of thick, rich gravy and cranberry sauce - and stacks of wizard crackers every few feet along the table. {...} Flaming Christmas puddings followed the turkey. Percy nearly broke his teeth on a silver Sickle embedded in his slice. Harry watched Hagrid getting redder and redder in the face as he called for more wine, finally kissing Professor McGonagall on the cheek, who, to Harry's amazement, giggled and blushed, her top hat lopsided."

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J. K. Rowling, Chapter 12.

"For dinner we had turkey and blazing pudding, and after dinner the Uncles sat in front of the fire, loosened all buttons, put their large moist hands over their watch chains, groaned a little and slept. Mothers, aunts and sisters scuttled to and fro, bearing tureens. Auntie Bessie, who had already been frightened, twice, by a clock-work mouse, whimpered at the sideboard and had some elderberry wine. The dog was sick. Auntie Dosie had to have three aspirins, but Auntie Hannah, who liked port, stood in the middle of the snowbound back yard, singing like a big-bosomed thrush."

A Child's Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas.

"But Clongowes was far away: and the warm heavy smell of turkey and ham and celery rose from the plates and dishes and the great fire was banked high and red in the grate and the green ivy and red holly made you feel so happy and when dinner was ended the big plum pudding would be carried in, studded with peeled almonds and sprigs of holly, with bluish fire running around it and a little green flag flying from the top. "

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, Chapter 1.

"There never was such a Christmas dinner as they had that day. The fat turkey was a sight to behold, when Hannah sent him up, stuffed, browned, and decorated. So was the plum pudding, which melted in one's mouth, likewise the jellies, in which Amy revelled like a fly in a honeypot. Everything turned out well, which was a mercy, Hannah said, "For my mind was that flustered, Mum, that it's a merrycle I didn't roast the pudding, and stuff the turkey with raisins, let alone bilin' of it in a cloth."

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, Chapter 22.

"But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone - too nervous to bear witnesses - to take the pudding up, and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose: a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that! That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered: flushed, but smiling proudly: with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding!"

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Chapter 3.

Three of my favourite Christmas recipes:
Bûche de Noël
Father Christmas Gingerbread Cookies
Stollen Wreaths


  1. Gorgeous, my grandmother's christmas cake has become an annual tradition - not to mention delicious!

  2. Lia @ hallofoats.wordpress.com6 December 2013 at 05:30

    What I love about these extracts is that the indulgence of a Christmas feast is made all the more poignant by the fact that they've known hardship and scarcity. Although Christmas is so special it would never be as special because so many of us are use to having whatever we want at any time.
    Thanks Emma, love when you throw literary references in your posts! Harry Potter has to be my crux though, bacon sandwiches never sound so good as when Harry's eating them famished at the Weasley's ;-)

  3. Lovely quotes! I hope the pudding is a huge success :-) As you know I'm not a big Christmas pudding/cake/mince pie fan but if anyone could convert me to it, I think it would be you :-)

  4. Love all these quotes - so evocative. Christmas pudding is such a thing of tradition. I don't even like it hugely, but would I have Christmas without it? Never. Growing up, we would make them every year as a family. And then stir for luck. You've got to stir for luck!

  5. I have eaten plenty of Christmas pudding but I have never made it. Perhaps 2013 is the year!

  6. Τέτη Κωνσταντινίδου7 December 2013 at 14:59

    Dear Emma of Poires au Chocolat. It's my birthday on 5 December and I love both Christmas pudding and English literature so much that I take your post as an (unintentional) gift. Thank you very much. (I also look forward to the recipe.)

  7. Great recipe, I just doubled it and made it for friends. Thank you for sharing :)

  8. Such a lovely round up of quotations; I'm not a huge Christmas pudding fan either but knowing its literary history does make it a little more appealing! I look forward to hearing how yours turned out : )

  9. Nespresso Compatible Capsules11 December 2013 at 13:32

    Oh those looks simply irresistible!

  10. Emma, I look forward to hearing how the pudding turns out. Love all of your historical/literary references to Christmas Puddings!
    Wishing you and your mum wonderful holidays this year.
    Lots of love from California,

  11. I love those sort of traditions. I love Christmas cake too, though I've collected so many different must-make Christmas recipes over the past few years I'm not sure I'll fit a cake in this year.

  12. That's very true. Though I suppose most of us don't have the specific things we have at a Christmas feast all that often.

    I am a Harry Potter kid - how could I resist! I also wanted to have a friends-and-loved-ones quote rather than just family quotes.

  13. I hope so too! I forgot to give it to mum to drive back to Switzerland so I'm going to have to try and fly it over in my hand luggage. I have a feeling it might get confiscated or at least lead to them searching my bag (my favourite one was when they got all confused as to the contents of my bag on the screen and it turned out to be 2kg of soft brown sugar...).

  14. Traditions are wonderful. Sadly I was on my own when I made the pudding so only I stirred it - another year perhaps!

  15. I hope you give it a go! I enjoyed making mine.

  16. Happy birthday! I hope you had a lovely day.

  17. I look forward to seeing how it turned out too... Glad I (/they) could make it even a little bit more appealing!

  18. I hope you guys have a wonderful Christmas this year too! Lots of love xx

  19. Aw, I'm glad!

  20. Made twice, and very much enjoyed. Caramel does set a bit hard and the butter had to be thrashed into it, but it does mix eventually. Delicious, thanks.

  21. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it! I think as long as you get the caramel into the pan then the hardness will soften in the oven and any splitting won't matter as it'll all mingle into the cake as it cooks. Thanks for letting me know how it went.

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