Monday, November 19, 2007

Regency Christmas ~~ Plum Pudding

Yesterday, our family made its Christmas pudding. It is a ritual at our house that starts off the Christmas season, although everything else is left until later in December. The first job is to buy all of the currants and raisins and other ingredients. I like to buy them fresh at the bulk store. And of course we have to buy the stout. We add all the ingredients to an enormous bowl, one daughter chopping the almonds, another grating the lemon and the orange, while I do the measuring. DH decided Christmas lights were the chore of the day and disappeared until stirring time. The whole process takes up a good part of the afternoon, as there is a great deal of talking and laughing and cups of tea.

Once the whole thing is in the bowl, all of us stirred the mix, and of course made a wish, I am not telling you mine because then it doesn't come true, but it must made while stirring with a wooden spoon in a clockwise direction. Then the mix is covered and left over night before it is put into the traditional bowl and steamed. That is what I will be doing today.

We followed this tradition in my family as a child, my mother did it in hers and my husband’s family did the same thing. And as far as I can tell, their parents and grandparents did it too. It got me to wondering whether in fact this was a tradition in the Regency.

I did discover that in Regency times, Christmas puddings were called plum puddings and were made on the Sunday before Advent, therefore five Sundays before Christmas Day. (I see I am early by one week.) Apparently, in the 1800’s poor people would put money into a club at the grocers so that they would have enough money to pay for the ingredients. Clearly, plum pudding, was an important part of the festivities if you had to save up for it. By the way, it was banned by Oliver Cromwell, and brought back into fashion by George I.

Christmas puddings were steamed in those days and I steamed mine today. Our ancestors steamed them in a pudding cloth, which gave them their round, ball shape and according to Dickens (who was born in the Regency) smelled like washing day when steaming. I use a basin.

It does seems that the tradition of wishing while stirring the pudding is of long standing, but I was unable to find a source which said it existed prior to or during Regency times. I did discover that plum puddings were often a starter course in those days, and were only turned into dessert in Victorian times.

Did you make your pudding yet, those who celebrate Christmas? Do you even have pudding on Christmas Day? I know lots of people who don’t like Christmas pudding.

If you are looking for a stocking stuffer, may I recommend Holiday in the Heart, it is a heartwarming anthology from Highland of twelve Christmas stories, one of them by me, and is available on Amazon everywhere.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.