There’s a lot to like about celebrating Christmas. One thing that springs to mind is the food. There is roast turkey, pork and ham. There is cranberry sauce. And then, my favourite dish of all: plum pudding with brandy custard and lashings of pure cream. To me there is no other fare quite so enjoyable.
Plum pudding has a history dating back to 1430. Cooking was a lot different back then. Most meals were prepared in a large pot over an open fire. These dinners were called pottages and consisted of meat and vegetables. Those who could afford to used plenty of dried fruit and spices. For special occasions, these rich pottages were also served with a wine sauce that was set alight with brandy.
Then, what was known as a stiff pottage developed. The meal was thickened with breadcrumbs and egg yolks and contained more dried fruits than meat and vegetables. Eventually dried fruits, spices and nuts became the main ingredients of what we now know as plum pudding. As time passed, more elaborate versions became traditional at Christmas.
By the 17th century, the rich were using a variety of moulds to shape elaborate puddings. The richer the people, the larger and more impressive the pudding became with some taking the forms of bridges, towers and even castles.
However, the not so rich had to be content with their puddings in the shape of balls. And if they were a bit heavy, they were called cannonballs.
Customs and superstitions
Over the years there have also been many customs and superstitions around the Christmas pudding.
The last Sunday before Advent became known as Stir-up Sunday. It was the day the whole family came together to make the Christmas pudding. It was created using 13 ingredients. This was to represent Jesus and his 12 Disciples. It is said the mixture was stirred from East to West in honour of the three wise men. Every member of the family took turns in stirring the mixture.
Not only was the pudding made with meaning, it contained an assortment of tokens bringing many possibilities. A sprig of holly was a sign of good luck. Holly was also thought to have many healing powers. A silver coin found in the pudding bought success. If a young man discovered a button in his serving, it meant he would remain a bachelor for the coming year. Similar to the bachelor’s button was the ‘old maid’s’ thimble, suggesting the woman would remain a spinster. Alternately, a ring supposedly brought about a marriage.
Throughout the years, customs surrounding the Christmas pudding have changed. All that is left these days are elaborate cannonballs that taste mighty good; especially if they are smothered with brandy custard and pure cream.
DiVine would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy and healthy New Year.