Stir-up Sunday

In the English (but not the Episcopalian) Church the collect for the sunday before Advent begins “Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord…” Traditionally this has been taken as a commandment to begin cooking, stirring, the Christmas Pudding.

The puddings need to be started early because they spend the next month being fed brandy — a little bit every day, until, when the day arrives, they can be flambéed.

Being an atheist, I have a somewhat more secular approach, and start my puddings when I choose, and for whatever feast I wish.

Today I stirred up 4 puddings, the first event being the end of pottery class, and the next being Thanksgiving.

As is my wont, I sat down with a dictionary one year. The word “plum” actually means “raisin” (which, of course, means “grape”), while the word “pudding” means “sausage” (As in blood pudding). So a plum pudding is a sausage made of grapes — a wine?

A pudding for the festival of sun-return

2lb dried fruit (figs, apricots, prunes, cherries, raisons, dates, etc — my favorite is a mixture of figs and tart dried cherries)
Chop the fruit into large chunks (not too small or the tastes all merge together)

½ lb butter (2 sticks) — a traditionalist would insist on suet. I often use half butter half oil.
1 cup brown sugar
cream together
3 egg yolks
1 cup buttermilk
4+∞Tblspns brandy (or rum)
zest of one orange
1 grated nutmeg

Add to butter/sugar and stir together
1 ½cups flour
Stir in
Stir in the fruit

3 egg whites
fold into the butter/fruit mixture

Pour into a buttered sugared mould, cover with parchment and steam for 2 hours.

Feed it some brandy from time to time, and steam again before serving

How does one steam a pudding? I realize this is no longer common knowledge. I put my pudding mixture into a bowl, or a specially designed pudding crock (I sometimes make these) and cover it with a sheet of cooking parchment. My mother always used aluminum foil, but I found that if the foil touched the mixture it would eventually dissolve and that seemed bad. The mixture must be covered or condensed drops of water will fall into it and turn it to mush.

If you have a double boiler or vegetable steamer that will hold your pudding pot, great, use that. If not I find that taking a dutch oven or large covered saucepan, filling it with an inch or less of water, and then placing the pudding pot in the water will work almost as well. If you can build a structure that keeps the bottom of the pot from touching the bottom of the saucepan, so much the better.

Hard sauce

1 stick butter
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbls Honey
2 Tbls Rum
¼ Teaspn cinnamon
¼ Teaspn nutmeg

cream everything together

add a dollop to each serving of pudding


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One Response to “Stir-up Sunday”

  1. Adger Says:

    My receipt calls for Baking Powder, an exercise in self-delusion if ever there was one.
    I thought “plum” meant any dried fruit.
    Will you have ruminations on “mincemeat” next week?
    I like a ginger brandy, not that I have ever detected the taste, but I like the idea. The children are fond of chanting “too much ginger” at me, so perhaps there’s a bit of overdedication on my part here.

    The “Stir up” collect does occur somewhere in the new Episcopal lectionary (somewhere), and whenever I hear it, I think how out of place it is. It’s a couple of weeks off, but I can’t remember which way.

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