Stir-up Sunday is a festive tradition in many households and a date observed by many keen bakers around the world. The annual Christmas cake-making occasion offers a wonderful opportunity for loved ones to come together and bake - but why does it take place so in advance of Christmas Day? We explain all.
When is Stir-up Sunday 2022?
Stir-up Sunday always falls on the last Sunday before advent (when the period of celebration begins), meaning this year it will be on 20 November.
That's right, it's almost time to start cheffing up your Christmas pudding or cake (or other type of dessert, dependent on what you prefer).
What is Stir-up Sunday?
Stir-up Sunday is an age-old annual tradition, dating back to Victorian times, where families or home-cooks would start prepping Christmas pudding five weeks (or four Sunday's before) 25 December.
This would usually involve everyone in the household taking turns mixing, stirring clockwise, with east to west representing the journey of the Three Wise Men travelling to meet Jesus. Another religious connotation is that it would typically involve 13 ingredients, to represent him and his disciples.
The opening of the Book Of Common Prayer 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..."
Today, it's still an excuse to get people together with their loved ones. But if you can't pin down the whole family, friends or flatmates down at one time, don't worry, you can keep feeing the pudding with alcohol or ingredients every now and then in the lead up to Christmas, ready for everyone involved to appreciate what they've made.
Christmas pudding recipe
If you're stuck for inspiration, try your hands at the Christmas pudding from the recently released The British Cookbook by food historian, researcher, and writer Ben Mervis, published by Phaidon.
"A richly spiced and densely fruited suet pudding, the Christmas pudding is steamed slowly for hours, then left to slowly mature in a cool, dark space for several months. There the pudding is fed 1–2 tablespoons of alcohol each week, before being re-steamed on Christmas Day," Mervis writes in an excerpt.
Prep time: 1 hour, plus 8–12 hours marinating
Cook time: 5 hours, plus 1–2 hours additional steaming
140 g/5 oz (3⁄4 cup plus 2 teaspoons) shredded beef suet
120 g/4 oz (3⁄4 cup) sultanas (golden raisins)
120 g/4 oz (3⁄4 cup) raisins
250 g/9 oz (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) currants
250 g/9 oz (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
130 g/41⁄2 oz (22⁄3 cups) fresh breadcrumbs
400 g/14 oz Bramley (cooking) apples, peeled and grated
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
75 ml/21⁄2 fl oz (1⁄3 cup) sweet sherry
100 ml/31⁄2 fl oz (1⁄3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) dark rum
75 g/23⁄4 oz (1⁄2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) self-raising flour, sifted
unsalted butter, for greasing
Brandy Sauce (page 427), to serve
Put the suet, dried fruits, sugar, spices and breadcrumbs into a large bowl and mix thoroughly, making sure that everything is evenly distributed. Add the grated apple, lemon zest and orange zest and juice and mix again. Put the eggs, sherry and rum into a small bowl and beat together, then pour into the pudding mix.
Using a spatula, mix all the ingredients together thoroughly, making sure that everything is coated with moisture. Cover the bowl with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and leave the mixture in the fridge to marinate overnight.
The next day, mix the pudding mixture again thoroughly, then gradually add the flour. Grease two 570 ml/20 fl oz pudding basins (ovenproof bowls) with butter and divide the mixture equally between the prepared bowls. Cover each one with a lid, or make them from a large pleated square made from a double layer of baking (parchment) paper and aluminium foil, and secure them around the top of the pudding basins with kitchen string. * Put the bowls into a steamer and cook for 5 hours. Alternatively, put a pudding basin on an inverted saucer in a large saucepan. Cover the saucer with a small square of muslin (cheesecloth) and set the bowl on top, then fill the saucepan a third of the way full with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 hours, making sure to top up (top off) the water level as necessary halfway through cooking. You may have to cook the puddings separately.
Remove the puddings from the steamer and set aside in a cool, dark place until needed. Reheat the puddings in the steamer for 1–2 hours, before serving with Brandy Sauce.
Vegan Christmas pudding recipe
Alternatively, if you're meat free, V for Life, a charity that supports older vegetarians and vegans in later life if they move into care homes, to help ensure their food choices remain respected, have just the recipe.
And apparently it's one of Viva! Patron Martin Shaw's favourites.
Time to prepare: 15 mins
Time to cook: 6 hr 20 mins
Dietary requirements: Dairy-free, egg-free, halal, kosher, vegan
450g (1lb) plain flour
450g (1lb) currants
450g (1lb) brown sugar
450g (1lb) potato, cooked, mashed and cooled
450g (1lb) carrots, peeled and grated
225g (8oz) apples, peeled, cored and chopped
100g (4oz) raisins
100g (4oz) nuts, chopped
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
450g (1lb) vegetable margarine, melted
Pinch of salt
Thoroughly mix all of the ingredients together in a very large mixing bowl.
Put the mixture into a large greased pudding basin (approx. 4 pint or larger) – it should come two thirds of the way up the height of the basin.
If the basin has its own lid (many plastic ones do) put it on. If not cover with greaseproof paper and tie with string, put some foil on top and tie that with string too to ensure no water gets in.
Place in a very large saucepan of water (water should come up to two-thirds of basin), cover and boil for 6 hours. To ensure the water level doesn’t drop too much keep topping up with boiling water at least once an hour. Serve with dairy-free cream or ice cream.
Chocolate stollen recipe
If you're not a huge fan of Christmas pudding and are more of a cake person, try this chocolate stollen recipe from Devin Jones, head pastry chef at The Grand, York.
For the dough:
100g mixed fruit
60ml dark rum
zest and juice of 1 orange
50g glace cherries, quartered
100g dark chocolate finely chopped
375g strong white bread flour
25g cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp dried active yeast (not the fast action kind)
50g golden caster sugar
100g pecan nuts, roasted
400g Dark chocolate
200g Pouring cream
Overnight soak the mixed fruit in orange juice, zest and 30ml of the rum. When you are ready to make the stollen stir in the glace cherries and chocolate.
Melt together the milk, sugar and 75g of the butter. Leave to cool then beat one egg plus one egg yolk into the milky mix. Keep the spare egg white until later.
In a large bowl add the flour, cocoa, salt, nutmeg, mixed spice and the yeast then gently pour in the milk and mix until you have a smooth dough. Knead lightly then place in bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for 30 min., line the 30x20cm baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 190oc.
Heat cream for the ganache till boiling point and pour over chocolate, allow it to sit for 1 min and then stir well until combined, allow to semi set in fridge covered with plastic making contact with the ganache so as not to form a skin You will use half in the rolling of your stolen and then to cover.
Melt together the remaining 50g butter and 30ml of rum. On a lightly floured board knead the dough then roll out into an oblong shape about 5mm thick Brush with the melted butter and rum.
Turn the dough so you have a long oblong (rather than a wide oblong) in front of you. On the top cover 2/3 of the dough with half of the mixed fruit mix. Fold the bottom 1/3 two thirds the way up the oblong, then fold down the top third over it. Much like when you fold a letter for an envelope. Press down the open edges to help seal it.
Turn the dough 90 degrees clockwise (a quarter turn). Roll out to an oblong shape again. Brush with the butter and rum then repeat step 6 with the remaining fruit. Brush the top with the butter and rum and bake for 35 minutes.
As soon as the stollen is baked, brush with the butter and rum (you may need to reheat the butter & rum it to regain the liquid consistency). Once cooled, heat up the rest of your ganache and pour over your stollen and sprinkle pecan nuts, you can chop them roughly.
What will you be making come Stir-up Sunday?
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