Christmas is just a month a way and the baking has begun. Some of the contributors to the 1906 Berlin Cook Book might also have called this day Stir-up Sunday – the day for making the plum pudding/Christmas pudding. Why? Well, a passage used each year on this day in some Christian denominations says “Stir up ye … “. This afternoon I attended a special concert/service at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church — one of the churches some of the cook book contributors attended and while waiting for the concert to start I found the stir up passage in the Book of Common Prayer (used in the Anglican/Church of England/Episcopalian denomination.
I decided to make half the recipe since this will make a very large pudding. I pulled out my largest bowl and started weighing, measuring, grating, and chopping. I mixed the dry ingredients first — half pound (2 1/3 cups) suet, half pound (3 cups) bread crumbs, half pound (2 cups) currants, 1 pound (4 cups) raisins, half pound brown sugar, quarter pound almonds, one teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, salt, 1/4 pound (1 cup) mixed peel. I stirred everything well before adding the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl I mixed five eggs and half a wine glass brandy before stirring it into the rest of the ingredients.
I put the pudding batter in a greased pudding mold and then into a pot of water. It is important to check the water level in the pot occasionally to prevent it from boiling dry and to maintain a level of water that comes a few inches below the rim of the pudding mold. After three hours I removed the pudding from the water and left it to cool before tasting.
Although I found it time-consuming to make this pudding I still had it easier than the mysterious Mrs. B. P. Unfortunately, I don’t know the identity of Mrs. B. P. When preparing her plum pudding she had to clean and chop her suet. I bought mine already prepared in a bag in the frozen food section of my local grocery store. I used some commercially prepared bread crumbs but I also grated some stale bread just like Mrs. B. P. There were tools called bread rasps to help with this but I used the same grater I pull out for grating cheese and zesting lemons and oranges. I didn’t have to seed my raisins but I chopped them just like Mrs. B. P. Almonds and mixed peel are available ready prepared in 2012 too.
Christmas, like many holidays, is a time when past and present blend. While attending the concert I ran into one of my room mates from my first year of university and it got me thinking of fun times long ago. Making this pudding brought back memories of stir up Sunday pudding preparations at my former work place. Every year on this weekend I could be found in the historic kitchen mixing up some sort of Christmas pudding using a recipe from a period cook book and then spending hours keeping the wood stove going so that the pudding would boil the required amount of time. I always kept a little of the pudding batter aside so that people could try some of the customs surrounding this traditional English Christmas dessert. Even today I stirred from east to west and made a wish as I stirred the pudding mixture. Apparently it was customary for each member of the family to take a turn stirring and wishing on the family pudding before it went on to boil. Even the littlest would be helped to take a turn. Fact or fiction? Like any tradition there’s probably a bit of both.
The next question is usually why would a recipe like this be called “plum” pudding when there aren’t any plums in the list of ingredients. Plum Puddings (Christmas puddings) rarely have any plums. Apparently, the name is a hold over from the days when “plum” meant any sort of dried fruit. This sort of pudding usually contains several kinds of dried fruit.
Mrs. B. P’s Plum Pudding is a bit different from others I’ve made since it uses bread crumbs instead of flour. The end result is somewhat similar. The pudding tasted good but was a bit oily and the texture is coarser due to the bread crumbs. I have better pudding recipes than this one but it was interesting to see how it turned out.
Mrs. B. P.
1 pound chopped suet, 1 pound bread crumbs, 1 pound currants, 2 pounds raisins chopped fine, 1 pound brown sugar, 1/2 pound almonds blanched; 10 eggs, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon each cloves and allspice, a little salt, and a wineglass of brandy, 1/2 pound mixed peel. Boil 3 hours.