But this means there’s a lot of preparation to be done, baking Christmas cakes, puddings and even decorations for the tree!
The last Sunday before Advent was known as ‘Stir-up Sunday’, when the dried fruit for the Christmas pudding, cake and mincemeat were mixed together. It was tradition in our house (as in many Irish homes) for everyone to take a turn stirring the pudding mixture clockwise for luck. After the pudding mixture was carefully divided between bowls and wrapped and tied with greaseproof paper, I remember the constant fog in the kitchen as the puddings were steamed, and every few hours the water levels were checked to ensure the cooking wasn’t interrupting the puddings reaching their deep rich colour. There was always a tester pudding made that would decide whether the process had to be restarted, but thankfully that never happened! Once the puddings were cooked, they would get a good glug of whiskey every few days to add to the flavour. See my recipe for traditional Christmas pudding.
One of the most wonderful characters of my childhood was my grandfather ‘Pa’ as he was known affectionately to us. The tradition in our house was to find the coins in the Christmas pudding, which was Pa’s contribution to the Christmas dinner. After a wonderful dinner it was time for pudding, which each child eagerly ate trying to find the elusive coins. Then Pa would take out his handkerchief to wipe his mouth and the coins would appear - unbeknown to us there were no coins in the pudding at all!
If you decide to ignite the pudding, heat some brandy or similar in a small pan and pour over the hot pudding.
If the pudding isn’t hot it will reduce the temperature of the alcohol and it won’t light. Ignite as quickly as possible and be cautious with hot liquids and flames. Once the cheers and the flames have died down, it’s time to tuck in!
My mum’s Christmas cakes were highly prized and eagerly awaited by relatives - rich, spicy and full of boozy fruit but never heavy. She covered them with a layer of marzipan, followed by a layer of royal icing that she decorated beautifully.
Not everyone is a fan of the rich fruitcake or puddings, especially the younger members of the family. I’ve included some great recipes that your children will love to help out with, from cookies for Santa, to lovely mandarin cream stars.
Recently we had a great day in the office testing out recipes for the SuperValu Fresh Christmas Magazine. If you’re a fan of mincemeat, you’re in for a treat as we’ve covered mincemeat palmiers and of course the trusty mince pies.
Whether you serve your pies or puddings with freshly whipped cream, brandy cream, Bailey’s cream, brandy or rum butter, or just a lovely vanilla custard, remember to leave some room for an Irish Coffee!