The Everyday Lore Project

22 November 2020 – Stir Up Sunday

22 November 2020 – Stir Up Sunday

I’m writing this eating one of yesterday’s leftover mince pies. Today was really one of those days where I should have done a bit more preparation than just make sure I had all the ingredients. It’s Stir Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent when it’s traditional to make your Christmas puddings, pies and cake (although everyone I know who makes their cake, does it way more in advance than today). 

I’m a fan of Christmas pudding, especially fried on Boxing Day for breakfast. When I was a child, the one task I was entrusted with every Christmas Day was making the brandy butter. I usually curdled it, my kitchen skills emerging early, but after stuffing my face with the savoury, a bowl fat with post-flamed pudding, brandy butter and custard was just the best. But the pudding was always shop bought. I inherited my kitchen skills.

However, I do have vague memories of making a Christmas pudding before. I definitely have memories of forgetting a Christmas pudding and the plastic bowl melting to the bottom of the pan. But I put those aside and vowed to do it probably this time. Spoiler alert, I didn’t. But thankfully I was joined again by the lovely Sarah and Robert (in his dinosaur onesie), so the making of it was much more fun. Given my pudding needs an initial 6 hour steam and Sarah’s is a three-er, we started early. 

First up, Christmas puddings are traditionally meant to have 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his 12 Apostles. My recipe from Cattern Cakes and Lace, had 17. But because I couldn’t find any gluten free stout, I bought GF ale and added treacle (it made sense at the time). And then when I thought my mixture tasted a little bland, I added ginger and hazelnuts. So my pudding has a total of 20 ingredients.  

Secondly, I found out that my natural instinct is to stir widdershins, or counter-clockwise. Which in the world of Christmas pudding making is the equivalent to breaking several mirrors while eating fairy food. The pudding must always be stirred sunwise, or East to West, to symbolise the journey of the Wise Men or the luck is lost. My luck was lost several times in the making of this pudding. But I did remember to make a wish as I stirred.

Next I substituted the lucky sixpence for an almond again. I still can’t get my head round coin metal leaching into my dessert. Then when I was bundling it up, I found the recipe to be slightly opaque, meaning I had to busk it. I remembered to pleat the greaseproof paper, an action made slightly redundant as I then didn’t do it with the pudding cloth. But anyway it’s steaming away now. I’ve just popped a trivet under the basin having since read what I was actually supposed to do. 

The London kitchen getting down to the juicy bits.

Back in the London kitchen, things were going very well. We’d laughed a lot about Mel Brooks, pubs, and their house smelled of Cointreau. They were also much more organised than I was, and as before took much better pics:

We finished about the same time and have been checking in every so often to see how the other pud is going. They get to freeze theirs when it’s ready. I have to store mine in a cool place (the tool cupboard) before giving it another 4 hours of steaming before eating. So not exactly the most cost effective or green recipe. But one with a lot of brandy in it, so there’s hope.

UPDATE – 3.20pm: Sarah and Robert’s pudding is out!

Sarah and Robert
Smells good too!

UPDATE – 4.45pm: And mine is out too. But even after 6hrs of boiling away, the bits I scraped off the grease proof paper still tasted raw and eggy (and delicious). But at least it’s gone Christmas pudding colour. However, I have a suspicion that if I turned it out, it wouldn’t nearly be so solid as Sarah’s. Into the tool cupboard it goes…

The Everyday Lore Project has been running since St Distaff’s Day on 7 January 2020 and will run until 12th Night on 6 January 2021. Most of my daily doings are done and dusted on the same day, or overnight, but some like today don’t see results for weeks, sometimes months after I do them. And sometimes I forget about them all together (usually the weatherlore ones). So it makes sense to subscribe and share this blog for no other reason than it makes it easier for you to call me out on not following the folklore up. I shan’t be upset, it’ll be a relief to know that at least one of us is paying attention.


Jones, J. and Deer, B. (1987) Cattern Cakes and Lace, London, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Sarah and Robert’s recipe:

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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