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We all want some figgy pudding! We take a look at the history of the Christmas pudding – and recommend some delicious puds to try
A Christmas pudding – flaming with brandy and crowned with a sprig of holly – is the classic finale to a British Christmas dinner. And with its concoction of warming spices, dried fruit, and sherry, port or cider, the smell of a pudding steaming in the kitchen must be one of the most evocative scents of Christmas.
Christmas puddings originated in the 14th century, firstly as “frumenty” – a kind of stew made with meat, onions, dried fruit and spices. Over time – and with the addition of eggs, breadcrumbs and alcohol – the pudding gradually evolved into its more familiar form. During the 17th and 18th centuries, people began to include the puddings at the end of the Christmas meal.
The Victorians enjoyed Christmas puddings that were very similar to those we know and love today – and by the turn of the 20th century, puddings were extremely popular and widely established as part of the seasonal festivities.
There are a number of customs and superstitions surrounding Christmas puddings. They should be made with 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and the 12 Disciples. The decorative sprig of holly that adorns the top of the pudding represents Jesus' crown of thorns – and holly was believed to bring good luck and have healing and protective powers.
It's common to douse the pudding in brandy and set it alight. Some believe this represents Christ's passion, while others see the practice as a nod to Pagan winter celebrations involving fire.
Either way it undoubtedly creates a spectacular display as the pudding is ceremoniously carried to the Christmas table.
When making the Christmas pudding, it was traditional to include a silver coin in the mixture. In times gone by, this would have been a sixpence – the modern day equivalent is a five pence piece. Whoever found the coin was guaranteed good luck in the coming year. Sometimes other items, or favours, were also added. Finding a button or thimble in the pudding meant you would remain single for another year, while discovering a ring promised marriage or wealth.
For even more good luck, each member of the family should take a turn to mix the pudding, making a wish as they do so – and making sure to stir from east to west, in honour of the Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus.
Christmas puddings are traditionally made on Stir-up Sunday – the last Sunday before Advent. But don't worry if you missed the boat for making yours this year – we've found seven delicious puddings that will create the perfect finale for your festive feast.
For a really traditional looking pudding, this organic offering from Daylesford is spot on. The spherical puddings are handmade to a family recipe – and are beautifully packaged in a cloth bag, adorned with a silver sixpence that can be used as a Christmas tree decoration after the pudding has been unwrapped! The pudding has a rich, velvety flavour and wonderful texture – packed with generous chunks of almonds and fruit peel and fruits soaked in stout and rum. Would make a marvelous gift.
This pudding is presented in gorgeous natural packaging: a recyclable corrugated carton tied with brightly-coloured raffia and finished with a real pine cone. The pudding is melt-in-your mouth moist and is made from fruit soaked in brandy and Guinness, along with almonds, oranges and lemons. It has a light but luxurious texture and is made with butter, not suet – so is suitable for vegetarians.
This delicious Christmas pudding is made from a traditional 100 year-old recipe, and is packed with fruit and spices. Preserved with Irish stout and French brandy, it's not too sweet and has a smooth texture. This pudding can be cooked in the microwave, and will be ready in five minutes – making it a good choice for busy cooks this Christmas. Suitable for vegetarians.
For something a little different from traditional Christmas pudding, why not try these smaller desserts from Georgie Porgie Puddings? Available in a range of different flavours, our favourite is the Chocolate Orange and Baileys pudding. Rich, sweet and very tasty, it's made with real Belgian chocolate and fresh oranges, and is infused with Baileys liqueur. Also available are Orange and Cointreau and Cider and Apple – as well as a classic, fruity Christmas pudding. All the puddings are a traditional spherical shape and serve 1-2 people – so you can order a few and choose your favourite!
This is a lovely, traditional pudding that's presented in a ceramic basin and packed in an attractive, sturdy box embossed with gold writing – so it would make a beautiful gift for a foodie friend. The pudding is extremely moist, and has a good alcoholic kick – a result of lashings of cider and cognac. Thick cut “Tawny” orange marmalade adds a delicious, tangy, citrus flavour to the classic blend of sultanas, raisins, currants and spices. This is a tasty nut-free option for people with nut allergies. Tiptree also produce brandy butter in a jar – an ideal accompaniment to your Christmas pudding!
This single serving sized organic pudding is packed with plump raisins, sultanas and currants. It has a lovely flavour of cognac, oranges, lemons and spices, and the texture is quite light and spongy – so an ideal pudding to enjoy after a big meal. Roots & Wings donates 10 per cent of profits to charities concerned with the needs of children – so by buying this pudding, you'll be helping others too!
Little Green Space December 2016
This award-winning, luxury pudding is delectable – you can really taste the Somerset cider brandy and port stout. It has a rich flavour and a wonderful light texture, crammed with dried fruit, English Bramley apples, cherries and almond pieces. Figgy's is a small business based in Devon. Their puddings are handmade in small batches to a traditional family recipe, using locally sourced ingredients. Each pudding is steamed in a ceramic pudding basin, and attractively presented in a cloth wrapping. It's large enough to feed 8-10 people – ideal for family gatherings or for giving as a gift.