We spoke to Andy Tyrell, Head Chef at River Cottage HQ, about the origins of Stir-up Sunday and how to get your Christmas pud just right.
Why is it called Stir up Sunday?
The answer lays in the Book of Common Prayer, where the collect of the day for the Sunday before advent reads:
“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.”
As well as calling forth the good will of faithful people, it has been taken to mean that it is the time to stir up your Christmas pudding.
When should you start making your Christmas pud?
Making the pudding a few weeks before the big day is not only a cunning way to get ahead with seasonal preparations, but also gives the cooked pudding a chance to mature and for the flavours to get to know each other a little better. Traditionally, stir up Sunday on the weekend before Christian Advent is the time to dig out your pudding basin and silver sixpence.
What essential spices should Christmas Puddings contain?
For me, the backbone is a good mixed spice. With its warming sweetness, a good mixed spice will be based around cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice with possible additions of ginger, cloves and coriander.
How should you store your finished pudding?
After your pudding has been steamed it will have a secure covering of baking parchment and foil. I like to remove the foil and cover the top with muslin or an old tea towel tied with string, then keep in a cupboard or larder until needed.
How do you prevent your Christmas Pudding from getting too dry as it’s stored?
It is traditional to ‘feed’ the pudding occasionally with a little alcohol on the run up to Christmas. How much is needed to prevent it drying out, I’m not sure. I do know that in a lot of families this is a much-celebrated step and you can use anything from cognac to sloe gin. The quantities can vary and some puddings can be very thirsty.
Can you suggest some good alternatives to alcoholic puddings?
I would feed the pudding with something like a tart apple juice, possibly with ginger. Or maybe something like an elderberry syrup that would be richer and darker.
River Cottage will be running their Stir-up Weekend course on 23rd & 24th November. For more information, visit www.rivercottage.net/cookery-courses