A festive culinary staple in any UK household, the Christmas Pudding has a very rich and fruity history…
The Christmas Pudding was first conceived in the 14th century, in the form of a porridge known as frumenty. Frumenty consisted of meats such as mutton and beef, mixed with spices and dried fruits. Frumenty had a soup-like consistency, and was often consumed as a fasting dish ahead of the Christmas celebrations. Christmas Pudding is also said to have derived from medieval English sausages which (similar to frumenty) were stuffed with a blend of fruit, meat, vegetables, spices and grains. This is because these ingredients were very good natural preservatives.
By the 15th century, the Christmas Pudding transitioned into a plum pudding as, surprisingly, a savoury dish. Plum pudding was added to with beer, spirits, eggs and breadcrumbs for added seasoning and taste.
Christmas Pudding transformed into the sweet form in the 16th century, this was because there was more dried and candied fruit available. A pudding cloth (a floured cloth) was also made during this time to extend the lifespan of a pudding.
When the 17th century rolled around, Christmas had been significantly affiliated with the plum pudding. A fun fact is that Christmas Pudding got banned multiple times throughout the 1600s: first by Oliver Cromwell in 1647 who deemed it both Roman Catholic and paganistic, then by Puritans in 1664 who declared it as a ‘bad custom’.
Fifty years after its ban, the Christmas Pudding was brought back by King George I. This time, it didn’t contain any meats.
19th Century and onwards
The Christmas Pudding was cemented into what we know it now thanks to the Victorians – mainly writers, journalists and politicians who wanted to “promote” a quintessentially British family Christmas. Victorian Christmas Pudding was made up of spirits, suet, spices, candied orange peels, eggs, sugar, and currants & raisins. The Christmas Pudding was said to represent British patriotism with its shape reminiscent of the British Empire. The Christmas Pudding’s long life span also ensured it could be shipped to British colonies to be eaten by soldiers.
The Christmas Pudding hasn’t changed much since then, although it has seen a reduction in size and had its rich ingredients toned down. The Christmas Pudding is now complemented with a brandy sauce, which is set alight. A silver 5p coin is placed in the pudding to encourage good fortune to the lucky person who finds it.
So, the traditional “British” Christmas Pudding isn’t actually as British as you think, with its vibrant flavoursome heritage lying in its colonial history. Get yourself in the Christmas spirit by exploring our delicious traditional Christmas Hampers!