One of our members at Emmanuel in London, Lucie Brear, has compiled a fantastic collection of recipes and suggested Scripture readings for advent. If you want to discover a traditional English way to prepare for Christmas, then just read on! I’ll post them here one week at a time. Here’s the first:
Stir Up Sunday
The first Sunday before advent, which this year fell on November 26th, is traditionally known as Stir Up Sunday, when families gather together to mix and steam the Christmas pudding.
The term comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer:
“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Christmas pudding would traditionally contain 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples. Practically, stirring the mixture is hard work, so as many family members as possible join in the task. The pudding mixture is stirred from East to West in honour of the Magi (three wise men) who visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The customary garnish of holly represents the crown of thorns.
Most recipes for Christmas pudding require it to be cooked well in advance of Christmas and then reheated on Christmas day – but even though Stir Up Sunday has passed, there’s still plenty of time to prepare your pudding. You may even want to follow this traditional Victorian recipe, made with shredded beef suet.
Victorian Christmas Pudding
- 450g/1lb shredded beef suet
- 225g/8oz flour
- 225g/8oz breadcrumbs
- 225g/8oz sugar
- 450g/1lb raisins
- 450g/1lb currants
- large pinch freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 115g/4oz candied peel, chopped
- pinch salt
- 1 lemon, rind only
- 8 free-range eggs, beaten
- 300ml/10½fl oz brandy
Serves 6-8 people
For this recipe you will need a large piece of thin, unbleached cotton or calico (a tea-towel is also fine), lightly floured.
1. Mix together all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.
2. Place mixture onto floured cloth. Dampen the cloth in water, squeezing out any excess. Spread the cotton out onto a work surface and rub a handful of flour over it (this seals the cloth). Place the floured cloth into a large bowl, so that the cloth lines the bowl and any excess hangs over the edges. Transfer the pudding mixture to the bowl and use the bowl and the cloth to mould the pudding into a sphere. Bring the edges of the cloth tightly together so that the pudding is wrapped inside it, then tie the top of the cloth together tightly with string, to seal.
3. Place the wrapped pudding into a large pot of boiling water and cover with a lid. Boil for 5-6 hours, adding more water during cooking, as necessary, if the water level gets too low – the water should cover the pudding at all times. Alternatively, cook the pudding in a pressure cooker for about one hour. A pudding this size will need to be cooked in a pan large enough to hold a minimum of six litres of water, plus the pudding. Otherwise the pudding can be divided into two smaller puddings and cooked separately for 4-6 hours each, or until cooked through. When the pudding is cooked, remove and pat it dry with kitchen paper, then hang in a cool, dark place for as long as possible, ideally several days (it will keep for up to three months).
4. When the pudding is required, prepare a steamer. Add the wrapped pudding to the steaming pan, cover with a lid and steam for two hours. Remove from the pan and unwrap.
5. To serve, place the pudding onto a serving plate, douse it in brandy, and set the alcohol alight. Allow the flames to flare up and die down before serving. Serve with custard, whipped cream or brandy butter.
Daily Scripture readings for the first week of Advent
Monday: Psalm 79; Micah 4:1-5; Revelation 15:1-8
Tuesday: Psalm 79; Micah 4:6-13; Revelation 18:1-10
Wednesday: Psalm 79; Micah 5:1-5a; Luke 21:34-38
Thursday: Psalm 85; Hosea 6:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
Friday: Psalm 85; Jeremiah 1:4-10; Acts 11:19-26
Saturday: Psalm 85; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Mark 11:27-33