Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Countdown ...25 : Pudding

It's that time of the year - Christmas countdown - a kind of blog Advent calendar.  This year, my December blog posts will be about Christmas foods which will hopefully give you a glimpse of the history and traditions of many of the Christmas foods we love. Today, the first of December - it's Christmas pudding which is my favourite of all the rich delicious food of Christmas.

Every family with English origins has a traditional recipe, and  in our family my  sister -in-law always brings the pudding to the Simmons family gathering - it is always fantastic, with brandy cream of course. A newer tradition in our immediate family is that my daughter -in-law makes the pudding in the traditional way of boiling in cloth for hours. I found this amazing recipe for Christmas pudding, no doubt published in most Australian newspapers of the time, but this copy comes from "The West Australian, 25 October 1927

The King's chef,- Mr. Cedard, with the consent of King George and Queen Mary, has supplied a recipe for an Empire Christmas pudding to the Empire Marketing Board, which has its headquarters in London. The use of the quantities advocated would result in a pudding far too large for the average Australian family. But it is interesting to note that Australia leads with raisins and sultanas in the matter of ingredients from any particular part of the Empire. India, with only one teaspoonful of spice, will be but meagrely represented in the many national plum puddings that will, no doubt, be made throughout the British Empire from this recipe in hotels, boarding houses, restaurants, institutions,  and private homes where large family gatherings assemble for the celebration of Christmas festivities. The recipe is planned as follows:
5lb. of currants, Australia;
5lb. of sultanas, Australia;
5lb.of stoned raisins. South Africa;
1 lb. of minced apple, Canada;
5lb. of breadcrumbs, United Kingdom;
5lb. of beef suet, New Zealand;
2lb. of cut candied peel, South Africa;
2 1/2lb. of flour. United Kingdom ;
2 ½ lb of Demerara sugar, West Indies;
20 eggs, Irish Free State;
 2oz ground cinnamon, Ceylon;
1 ½ oz ground cloves, Zanzibar;
1 ½ oz ground nutmeg, Straits Settlements;
1 teaspoonful pudding spice, India;
1 gill brandy, Cyrpus;
2 gills rum, Jamaica;
2 quarts old beer, England. 
Image: From 1925, Australian fruit growers persuaded the Mayor of London to parade this enormous pudding through the streets as a marketing campaign for Empire food. (Courtesy Ivan Day)
Whatever recipe your family enjoys, I am sure it would not have resembled the earliest Christmas puddings which in the 14th century were very meaty fare. The puddings were called "frumenty"made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants and prunes, wine and spices - more of a potage - a soupy porridge  mixture.  In about 1420, the pudding was recorded as a method of preserving autumn slaughtered meats, with the dried fruits acting as the main preservative.  By the 1700s, the methods to prolong the life of meats improved and the sweeter element of the puddings remained... and in 1714, King George I ordered "plum pudding" as part of the royal Christmas feast. 

 There are many other traditions related to making and serving the Christmas pudding . Some practices have religious meanings : 

- the pudding must have 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and the 12 apostles; 
- everyone in the family must stir the pudding mixture - from east to west to honour the Three Wise Men 
- the holly on top of the pudding represents the crown of thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion. 

We all love the traditional, but here in Australia, because it is so hot , a new kind of Christmas pudding has become popular.... cold Christmas pudding, which is also a wonderful desert for a summer's day.  

 The best way to solve the dilemma of hot or cold? traditional or modern? is to have both! Enjoy your Christmas pudding.... 
and don't forget the silver coins in the pudding for good luck .... you may like to follow the link to  last year's post Pudding Coins  to find out the story behind this pudding practice. 
What are your family traditions related to the Christmas pudding? 

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