The Christmas Pudding Tradition

Another Yuletide tradition we can thank the British for is the Christmas pudding. If you haven’t tried it, why not cook one up this year?

Ever dug into a fine, plummy Christmas pudding? Well… unless you’re British, probably not. As much as we Americans owe the Brits for our general holiday traditions, Christmas puddings just didn’t seem to transplant to these shores.

But if you’re looking for an interesting culinary experience to add an Old World accent to your Christmas holiday, it’s worth giving this fine old tradition a new try.

The History

A traditional Christmas pudding is usually a classic “plum duff,” although some are made from figs — hence the old “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” song, in which the singers demand a “figgy pudding.”

Plum or fig, old Christmas pudding recipes called for 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his Apostles. Of course, the original medieval recipe also called for every member of the household to stir the pudding from east to west in turn, to honor the journey of the Three Wise Men.

By Victorian times, Christmas puddings and the associated traditions had more or less taken on their modern forms. These days, everyone in the house is still supposed to stir the pudding, while making a wish, and some folks hide silver coins in the pudding, to bring wealth in the coming year to those who find them.

Today’s Christmas Puddings

The very best Christmas pudding, of course, is the one made by your own family; and in Britain, families hand their Christmas plum pudding recipes down through the generations as cherished heirlooms.

Most families don’t worry about that 13-ingredient rule anymore. Typically, the ingredients used are expensive or rare, and considered luxurious, items that wouldn’t normally have been around the house in the centuries past. The use of brandies, treacle, dark sugars, and citrus juices result in a rich scent and flavor.

Most Christmas puddings take forever to cook. In the old days, cooks wrapped them in pudding cloths and boiled them for many hours. These days, most people steam them in a dish. Generally, they then place the pudding on a platter and decorate it with a spring of holly, complete with berries.

Some people prefer to prepare the pudding early and then hang it on a hook for quite some time, sometimes weeks, in order to heighten the flavor.

Bloody Well Delicious!

Got a hankering to try a new tradition this Christmastide? Christmas puddings are lipsmackingly good, and while they take some time to prepare, we’re sure you’ll enjoy the results — and hey, you only have to do it once a year.

So go for it! There are plenty of Christmas pudding recipes scattered all over the Internet, and if plums aren’t your thing, no worries; pumpkin, cranberry sauce, mincemeat, and many other fillings will work!