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December’s Recipe from the Victorian Kitchen – Three Christmas Puddings!

Christmas Puddings from The Victorian Kitchen for Stir-Up Sunday

There’s still time . . . . .. . . .

It’s not too late . . . . . . . . . . .

If you get your skates on you can still have a home-made Christmas Pudding for The Big Day.

This year,  November 20th, the last Sunday before Advent, is ‘Stir-Up Sunday’, the day decreed by our Victorian ancestors when the Christmas pudding should be made. We, however, have a much easier time than they did. For them it was days of preparation – raisins had to be stoned, currants cleaned and washed, suet chopped, candied peel made and sugar pounded to the correct degree of fineness. Phew!

Lots of traditions and rituals surround this festive dish, many going back centuries. These are just a few –

13 different ingredients should be used in memory of Jesus and his 12 disciples.

Charms were stirred into the uncooked mixture and for the ‘lucky’ person who found one in their portion of pudding it foretold events to come over the next 12 months. A silver sixpence – wealth. A ring – marriage. A thimble – spinsterhood. A button – bachelordom.

Each family member on this special Sunday had to stir the pudding and make a silent wish. This had to be done clockwise; to stir anti clockwise was thought to bring bad luck!

The history and origins of the Christmas pudding go way back in time. Some food historians believe the 16th century was when our beloved pud first took form; others go even further back to the 14th! There is much debate about this, but all historians agree that it was the Victorians who literally shaped and created the Christmas pudding of today!

In the Victorian kitchen this weekend there are 3 different recipes for visitors to look at, think about and discuss the making with our costumed interpreters. There’s even going to be a little bit of fun which our younger visitors can join in with – if they want.

One of the recipes came from Eliza Acton’s book, Modern Cookery for Private Families published in 1843, and was her personal favourite. Choose to make this one and you are going to eat a pudding from a recipe almost 200 years old. It’s not as rich as the other two but still extremely pleasant.

The next pudding, Ingoldsby Christmas Pudding, is also from Eliza’s book and is richer in taste. This is the one Mrs Bird and her family will sit down to eat at this festive season.

The third one is a right Royal Pudding! It is from no less a personage than Charles Elme Francatelli, Chef to Queen Victoria in the early years of her reign. This too is quite a rich mixture. But whichever one you choose, they are all very good.

I can hear people wondering what the difference is between these recipes. Well, in a nutshell, the simple answer is – Not A Lot!

At this time the range of ingredients used in all Christmas puddings, from the highest to the lowest tables, was very similar. The main difference lay in the amount of the expensive ingredients used. So, if you were eating with Mrs Cratchit and her family, breadcrumbs and apple would have figured largely in the making. However, dine at the Royal Table and a more heavily fruited and spiced dessert would be served, probably in a more elaborate form than the round cannonball or pudding basin shapes used by us ‘lesser mortals’.

These three are simply representative of puddings eaten around 1840. Eliza’s is her own family recipe and is typical of that eaten by the lower middle classes. Francatelli was only the Royal Chef for about 3 years but it gives an insight into food at the royal table at this time!

All the recipes are given below. For anyone wishing to give one of these ‘a go’ it might be worth looking at the Notes which are at the end of this document.


Eliza Acton’s Christmas Pudding

This is half the quantity given in Eliza’s book

1½oz (40g) flour

1½oz (40g) fine breadcrumbs

3oz (80g) beef or vegetarian suet

3oz (80g) raisins

3oz (80g) currants

2oz (50g) grated apples

2½oz (65g) light brown sugar

1oz (25g) candied peel

½ teaspoon mixed spice

Grated nutmeg about ¼ – ½ teaspoon according to taste

2 tablespoons brandy

2 medium eggs – beaten

  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl
  2. Put into a greased pudding basin and cover tightly as described in the cooking notes at the end of the document
  3. Boil for about 3 ½ hours
  4. When cool enough to remove from the pan turn out carefully onto a plate. Cover and store as per the suggestions
  5. Reheat when required


Ingoldsby Christmas Pudding

This is the rich version according to Eliza. The less rich version has 2oz (50g) flour and 2oz (50g) breadcrumbs, all other ingredients remain the same.

It is also half the quantity given in her book.

1oz (25g) flour

1oz (25g) breadcrumbs

4oz (125g) raisins

4oz (125g) currants

4oz (125g) beef or vegetarian suet

2oz (50g) light soft brown sugar

2oz (50g) candied peel

Grated nutmeg about ¼ – ½ teaspoon or to taste

½ teaspoon mixed spice

2 Medium eggs – beaten

Grated zest 1 lemon

3 good tablespoons Brandy or rum approx 50 ml

Good spoonful of good quality marmalade or apricot jam

  1. Mix all the ingredients well together
  2. Pack the mixture into a well greased pudding basin. Cover tightly as per the cooking notes
  3. Boil for about 3 ½ hours
  4. When cool enough to remove from the pan. Turn out onto a plate, cover and store as suggested
  5. Reheat when required

The Royal Chef’s – Francatelli’s Christmas Pudding

The quantity given here is a quarter of the ingredients given in the original recipe.

3oz (80g) raisins

3oz (80g) currants

2oz (50g) candied peel

4oz (125g) beef or vegetarian suet

4oz (125g) flour

3oz (80g) light soft brown sugar

1 medium egg – beaten

4fl.oz (125ml) milk

Zest 1 lemon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

3 good tablespoons (50 ml) Brandy

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl
  2. Pack the mixture into a greased pudding basin. Cover tightly as suggested in the cooking notes
  3. Boil for 3 ½ hours
  4. When cool enough to handle, turn out onto a plate and cover as suggested
  5. Reheat when required


  • Traditionally these puddings were boiled in a cloth suspended in a large pot of water. Boiling in a basin or steaming over a pan of boiling water became the preferred method. A modern steamer or a pressure cooker can be used but the user guide needs to be consulted for the exact cooking instructions. Generally, the cooking time for boiling and steaming are the same; pressure cooking is shorter
  • It is easier to cook the pudding in a Pyrex or pot bowl, slightly larger than is strictly required. This ensures that no water can get into the pudding during the cooking
  • Grease the bowl well and put a small piece of greaseproof paper or parchment in the bottom; this helps when turning out the cooked pudding
  • Cover the basin tightly with a double thickness of parchment and foil. Tie these on with thin string. This makes sure the cover does not become loose during cooking
  • Use a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid. The pan should be large enough for the pudding to fit comfortably but with enough space around to allow for topping up the water when necessary and to make removing the cooked pudding relatively easy. Another way to remove the pudding, is to use a strip of foil, folded several times to make it strong. This can then be used underneath the pudding basin to lower it into the water, the ends can then be folded across the top and unfolded to remove the pudding at the end of the cooking time,
  • Put the prepared pudding into the pan and carefully pour boiling water around the basin – do not pour it directly over the pudding. The boiling water should come about halfway up the bowl and the water should boil gently throughout the cooking time. Check the water level regularly and top up with more boiling water if the level drops. Using a pan with a tight lid will help prevent too much evaporation
  • If using an aluminium saucepan put a few slices of lemon in the water. This stops an unsightly dark ring forming on the inside of the pan
  • When the pudding has cooked for the correct amount of time – using whatever is the preferred method, leave the pudding in the pan until it has cooled down a little. It will not harm, and it makes handling the basin easier.
  • Remove the foil and parchment. Carefully run a flexible knife round the cooked pudding. Turn out onto a plate, take off the little circle of paper on the base of the pudding
  • Allow the pudding to cool completely before wrapping in clean parchment and storing it in a cool dry place until required
  • On the day this is to be eaten, it traditionally needs to be re-boiled for a least an hour in the same way as it was cooked. Many microwaves give information about reheating puddings so refer to the user guide for how to do this
  • Victorians served this type of pudding with a sweet custard or a hard sauce – eg Brandy Butter
  • Plum pudding, as this type of dessert was called, was served throughout the winter months so don’t restrict this delicious pud to just one day a year
  • Left over pudding can be reheated, but if you want to be very Victorian then fry slices in butter and serve them with cream or custard

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Registered address: The Courtyard, Wollaton Hall And Deer Park, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England, NG8 2AE

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