History of the Holidays: Plum Pudding


Plum Pudding, also called Christmas Pudding, as a Christmas tradition was born in Medieval England when families would make their pudding four to five weeks before Christmas Day.  This traditional day for making a family’s Christmas Pudding was commonly called “Stir Up Sunday”, with each family member taking a turn stirring the pudding for good luck.  Sometimes trinkets were added to the pudding – coins (for wealth), wishbones (for luck), thimbles (for thriftiness), or anchors (for safe journeys).

But surprisingly enough, the Christmas staple “Plum Pudding” doesn’t actually have plums in it – before the Victorian period plain, old raisins were commonly called “plums”.   Historically, the rich, heavy pudding is steamed for a number of hours the day it is made, stored in a cool place and moistened regularly with stout or brandy, and then steamed again for several hours on the day it is served.

 Try your hand at making the historical dish with the recipe below, and don’t forget to send us some!


Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Marinating Time: 12 hours

Total Time: 20 hours, 45 minutes

Servings: 8-10


1lb dried mixed fruit (use golden raisins/sultanas , raisins, currants)
1 oz mixed candied peel, finely chopped
1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped grated zest and juice
½ large orange and
½ lemon
4 tbsp brandy, plus a little extra for soaking at the end
2 oz self-rising flour, sifted
1 level tsp ground mixed spice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 oz shredded suet, beef or vegetarian
4oz  soft, dark brown sugar
4 oz  white fresh bread crumbs
1 oz  whole shelled almonds, roughly chopped
2 large, fresh eggs


Lightly butter a 2½ pint pudding basin.

Place the dried fruits, candied peel, apple, orange and lemon juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the brandy and stir well. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to marinate for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.

Stir together the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon in a very large mixing bowl. Add the suet, sugar, lemon and orange zest, bread crumbs, nuts and stir again until all the ingredients are well mixed. Finally add the marinated dried fruits and stir again.

Beat the eggs lightly in a small bowl then stir quickly into the dry ingredients. The mixture should have a fairly soft consistency.

Now is the time to gather the family for Christmas Pudding tradition of taking turns in stirring, making a wish and adding a few coins.

Spoon the mixture in to the greased pudding basin, gently pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, then a layer of aluminum foil and tie securely with string.

Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 7 hours. Make sure you check the water level frequently so it never boils dry. The pudding should be a deep brown color when cooked. The pudding is not a light cake but instead is a dark, sticky and dense sponge.

Remove the pudding from the steamer, cool completely. Remove the paper, prick the pudding with a skewer and pour in a little extra brandy. Cover with fresh greaseproof paper and retie with string. Store in a cool dry place until Christmas day.

On Christmas day reheat the pudding by steaming again for about an hour. Serve with Brandy or Rum Sauce, Brandy Butter or Custard.

Note: The pudding should not be eaten immediately, it really does need to be stored and rested then reheated on Christmas Day. Eating the pudding immediately after cooking will cause it to collapse and the flavors will not have had time to mature.