The unexpected origins of the Plum Pudding
And no plums anywhere

Fancy a standing ‘pye’ or ‘cof fyn’ of tough flour paste, containing meat or fish, fat and dried fruit?

Today’s sweet plum pudding started as a much meatier dish.

They were often as thick as muesli.

The rich got spiced meat and fish stews containing dried fruits and sugar.

The poor made do with steamed vegetables and, if they were lucky, scraps of meat.

We know that plum pudding was around in the mid-1600s because that’s when the English Puritans banned it — and Christmas, too!

But nobody got plums in the plum pudding

The ‘plum’ was a pre-Victorian generic term for any type of dried fruit, but most often, raisins.

Plum dishes with and without meat became party food.

William IV giving a feast to 3000 poor people on his birthday in 1830, offering boiled and roast beef and ‘plum pudding’.

George I was called the “pudding king” after he was apparently served plum pudding for his first Christmas as monarch.

Stir-Up Sunday

Stirring the Christmas pudding. Image@LIFE magazine

On “Stir-Up Sunday,” the Sunday before Advent, entire families would make their Christmas pudding.

It was popularly supposed to be a warning to housewives to prepare and mix the ingredients for Christmas mincemeat.

In fact, the day comes from a line traditionally read that Sunday at church.

Pudding-making families would each stir the mixture and hope for good luck.

The traditional recipe had 13 ingredients, which represented Jesus and each of the Twelve Apostles.

The sprig of holly on top stands in for the crown of thorns.

And, of course, the most important part of the Christmas pudding tradition: setting it on fire.

That particular tradition represents the passion of Christ.

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