friday feast: pudding and pies, oh my!

Victorian kitchen at Shugborough Hall, UK.

by Anonymous (English/Medieval)

All you that to feasting and mirth are inclined,
Come here is good news for to pleasure your mind,
Old Christmas is come for to keep open house,
He scorns to be guilty of starving a mouse:
Then come, boys, and welcome for diet the chief,
Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minced pies, and roast beef.
The holly and ivy about the walls wind
And show that we ought to our neighbors be kind,
Inviting each other for pastime and sport,
And where we best fare, there we most do resort;
We fail not of victuals, and that of the chief,
Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minced pies, and roast beef.
All travellers, as they do pass on their way,
At gentlemen’s halls are invited to stay,
Themselves to refresh, and their horses to rest,
Since that he must be Old Christmas’s guest;
Nay, the poor shall not want, but have for relief,
Plum-pudding, goose, capon, minced pies, and roast beef.

The countdown is in earnest — just one more week till Christmas!

So happy you decided to stop by today. Were you by chance lured here by the heavenly aroma of freshly baked pies and steamed pudding? ☺

Dining Room at Shugborough during Christmas.

We all have our favorite holiday recipes, treats we simply must make or Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas. Mine are mostly cookies, but I’ve always been fascinated by a few British traditions, things I’ve heard about since childhood in story and song — ye old plum (figgy) pudding, for example, wassail, and mince pies.

American style mince pie.

Sigh. I had a minceless childhood *violins*. We were pumpkin pie people at Thanksgiving, with pecan or maybe apple pie or cake at Christmas. But, just like with rice pudding, I married into mince pie. The in-laws serve the American version, not the individual pies the British make.

photo by Dictionary Corner.

An essential part of any British Christmas, these little beauties date back to the 16th century, when “mincemeat” actually consisted of shredded meats, like venison, capon, mutton, and chicken, along with dried fruits and spices the Crusaders brought back from the Holy Lands. Eventually, the mince filling became wholly sweet with sugar, spices, raisins, sultanas, apricots, citrus peel, glace cherries, etc., and brandy.

I like knowing that British children leave out a couple of mince pies with sherry, brandy or milk for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve, and that it’s important to include three spices in the mince — cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, to represent the three gifts given to the Christ child by the Magi. Click here for an easy mince pie recipe. You can use either shortcrust or puff pastry and prepared mincemeat, or if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own from scratch. The Christmas star on top is traditional, and ensures one doesn’t end up eating more crust than filling.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding,
And a cup of good cheer.

I first tasted plum pudding, aka, Christmas pudding, or figgy pudding, when a friend sent me one from England. Alas! I didn’t realize I was supposed to re-steam it first. I’ve since had some commercially baked ones that were so-so. I suspect that a homemade version would be far superior (try one of these top ten recipes). They can be eaten with anything from brandy butter to hard sauce, lemon cream, warm custard, or rum butter.

The British like to douse theirs in brandy and set it aflame when bringing it to the table, to ward off evil spirits. Three of my girl cousins (*waves to Lani, Lori, and Tugar*) and I used to sing the figgy pudding chorus with special dance steps. Way back then, none of us had the foggiest idea what figgy pudding was — but we loved singing about it. I imagine, as with fruitcake, people either love it or hate it. I hold that those who like fruitcake (homemade, of course), are of a more civilized ilk. ;o)

Figgy pudding with clotted cream by Webrarian.

Now, if you’re a rugged individualist who likes neither mince pie nor plum pudding, I’m serving up some chocolate pecan pie. I had mentioned it as a kick one Sunday over at 7-Imp, and Jone MacCulloch asked about a recipe. This was given to me by my sister-in-law in New Hampshire, who told me a few days ago that it’s a very old recipe, passed down for generations. I’ve made it many times and love its fudgy nuttiness. Easy to make; be careful not to overbake. Enjoy!

from Beverley

photo by kaszeta.

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 T butter
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Melt chocolate and butter over hot water.
Beat eggs, sugar, chocolate mixture and corn syrup with rotary beater. Add chopped nuts.
Pour into pastry lined pan and bake at 375°F for 40-50 minutes just until set.
Garnish with whipped cream.


Now skip on over to Susan Taylor Brown’s blog, Susan Writes, for today’s Poetry Friday Roundup. Be sure to wipe the chocolate off your face, then sing her a festive carol when you see her.


♥ It is considered unlucky to cut mince pie with a knife, or to stir the mincemeat mixture in a counter-clockwise direction.

♥ A wish should be made whilst eating the first mince pie of the season, and it should be eaten in silence.

♥ Christmas pudding is traditionally made on “Stir Up Sunday,” the first Sunday before Advent. Each member of the family stirs the batter (clockwise, or East to West, in honor of the Three Wise Men), making a secret wish.

♥ The pudding should contain 13 ingredients to represent Christ and his disciples. Often, a coin is baked in the pudding, and whoever finds it on their plate would supposedly be wealthy in the coming year.

♥ Plum pudding was banned by the Puritans in the mid 16th century. Such a sweet, boozy dessert was considered downright sinful.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!!



Copyright © 2009 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

13 thoughts on “friday feast: pudding and pies, oh my!

  1. Jama, you and your violins crack me up.
    First of all, is that guy at Shugborough on STILTS?
    Secondly, drool. Thanks for the chocolate pecan pie recipe!


  2. I love plum pudding – we have a family recipe that I grew up with. It’s served with something called Sauce Delicious, which is made using raw eggs, heavy cream and sugar. It’s all fabulous, and I will sadly NOT be having it this year because my mother didn’t make it up soon enough for her liking, so we’re having apple pie instead. Weird.
    I made my fruitcake already – it’s got some good bourbon on its cheesecloth wrapping. I’ll have to send a loaf out in the box that’s leaving here today or tomorrow!


  3. I’m listening to the figgy pudding song as I am reading your blog! 🙂
    I’ll take Christmas cookies over figgy pudding and mince pies anyday! 🙂 (actually I haven’t tried either, but I still think I’d like the cookies better!)
    The chocolate pecan pie sounds yum!


  4. Yum! What a lovely and yummy post! My grandma always made plum pudding, which I always thought was unusual since she’s from the hollers of eastern Kentucky. They also eat lots of raisin pie, which must taste a lot like mincemeat. I find this all so interesting!
    And by the way, we’re big fruitcake eaters here. My husband loves to make it (you know he loves weird food projects)–and it really is good. (And very rum-y!)
    Merry Christmas, Jama!


  5. Tanita Says:
    I’m having so much fun baking that I’m not blogging much, but Jama! You’re killing me here with this tasty food!!
    Pictures of mine coming soonish…


  6. More evidence that we’re twins separated at birth: fruitcake love!! Yay! Never had raisin pie, but it does sound similar to mince pie. I bet your grandma’s plum pudding is delish. :9
    Merry Crimbles to you, Becky!


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