‘Stir up, we beseech thee, Oh Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…’ So begins the short prayer that will be read in all Anglican churches this coming Sunday 22nd November. This prayer is read every year, on the last November Sunday before the start of Advent (the period which heralds the start of the Christmas season), which begins next weekend on the 29th November. There’s a very special reason why we mention this ancient prayer. In British tradition, where the Anglican faith is practiced, this coming Sunday has become known over time as ‘Stir up Sunday’ – taken from the first two words of the prayer. It’s also the traditional day, when families would return from church, roused by these motivational words, to make the Christmas pudding together. Everyone would gather in the warm kitchen, with it’s homely scents of spices and fruit. Each member of the family would have a chance to stir the fruity mix, whilst making a wish for the coming year. It’s an age old custom, still upheld in many homes. And one we can all partake in. A magical start to the festive season, especially for children, who are already buzzing with excitement for the big day.
In a nod to practicality, these housewives of old weren’t just being slaves to religion when they earmarked this particlar date to make the pudding – they also knew it would have plenty of time to mature beautifully in the run up to Christmas Day, which allows those rich fruity flavours to develop. Recipes for home made Christmas Pudding are handed down from mother to daughter, year in, year out. And they are nearly always peculiar to tastes of the family in question. Some will favour a straightforward mix of sultanas, raisins and currants with candied peel, bound together in a dark intensely spicy steamed pudding. Others will be more adventurous, adding colour with glace cherries and chopped candied or crystallised fruits like apricots, melon or pineapple slices. Some cooks favour brandy for giving depth of flavour, while others choose whisky or sherry. In Ireland, the Christmas pud might contain Guinness. This writer particularly likes the addition of snipped semi-dried apricots, grated carrot and apple to the trad fruit mix , which is soaked in a good slug of Cork’s own Murphy’s stout. You see – it’s all about personal tastes!
Our blog yesterday mentioned where to get great quality dried fruit for homemade Christmas Puddings. But if you’re not a pudding maker, look to our list of Bakeries which have their own handcrafted range of puddings. Gluten intolerant pudding lovers can also enjoy a slice of the action – with an absolutley delicious gluten free pud from Siobhan Lawless of Foods of Athenry.