Maybe it’s because I share the same taste in winter apparel as a 19th Century
Dickens street urchin. Or perhaps it is just that I am a fan of a bad-guy-turns-good redemption story. For whatever reason, my all-time favorite tale is A Christmas Carol. Each year I watch as many television adaptations as possible. Whether it is Alastair Sim or
George C. Scott, no matter which version I watch, I am always fascinated with Mrs. Cratchit’s pudding scene. That sounded naughtier than intended.
Christmas Pudding is a dessert with more nicknames than Joseph James DeAngelo (look it up) and despite its multiple aliases, Plum Pudding aka Figgy Pudding is little known on this side of the pond. Other than Bob Cratchit’s ceremonious taste test at the end of every Christmas dinner, or the few Americans with a British ancestral family tree, Christmas Pudding is not a big deal in the US. To be perfectly honest, up until the last decade I always thought they were singing “now bring us some piggy pudding” in the classic carol We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
Piggy Pudding is not that far-fetched, after all the original pudding was savory. Back in medieval England peasants created a method of preserving dried meat, along with fruits and liquid in a bag. Over the centuries more fruit and bread were added and eventually the meat was left out altogether leaving the dessert more cakelike. By the Victorian era, Christmas Pudding evolved into a sticky sweet confection with notes of cinnamon and chunks of candied fruits, dried currants and orange zest; each mouthful an adventure for the taste buds. Christmas Pudding is a British holiday tradition steeped with symbolism. For instance, while many families have their own take on the recipe, traditionally only 13 ingredients are used as an homage to Christ and his twelve disciples. Other religious traditions include stirring the pudding from east to west and topping it with a sprig of holly symbolizing the crown of thorns.
In England, families gather on the last Sunday before advent, known as Stir Up Sunday, to "stir up" their Christmas Puddings and hide a silver coin inside. The belief is that whoever finds the coin will have good luck for the next year. The cake is left to mature for the following 5 weeks until Christmas Day when it is reheated and topped with a flaming brandy or rum syrup at end the holiday meal.
EDITED FOR 2021 -Unfortunately, COVID has AGAIN thwarted my ability this year to travel to the UK for my first taste of homemade Christmas Pudding and I’ve yet to find a Nick’s Bar stateside that sells a flaming rhum punch or mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves. But there is always next year to eat and drink like they do in my favorite Christmas Movies.
Check out this interesting blog for a really good looking recipe.