For many people, the traditional Christmas pudding – dense with suet and raisins – brings back memories of family meals, hoping for a silver sixpence, and an overload of cream, butter or custard as accompaniments.
However, the first pudding of its type started more as a porridge called ‘frumenty’ which was made with meat sweetened with raisins, currants, prunes and wines. It was served more as a soup and in preparation for the festivities rather than the finale.
Later on, in the 16th Century, the dish changed more into a plum pudding, having been thickened with more dried fruit and also with eggs and breadcrumbs. Although it had a spell at this time of being a customary dessert for Christmas, the Puritans considered it a bad thing and it was banned until King George I decided he rather liked it.
By the Victorian times, Christmas puddings had evolved to more as they are today, although in their progression to the modern day they have picked up many superstitions.
For example, it is suggested that every member of the family has to take a turn in stirring the pudding, and there should be 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and His Disciples.
Although much of the tradition of the pudding is around eating it at Christmas, some of the customs are actually about Easter – for example, the sprig of holly on the top of the pudding is a reminder of Jesus's Crown of Thorns that he wore on the cross.
During Victorian times, puddings made in wealthier houses were often cooked in fancy moulds in the shapes of towers or castles, although the most common version was a ball shape.
Putting a silver coin in the pudding is said to bring luck to the person that finds it. The tradition seems to date back to festivities on the Twelfth Night of Christmas – the official end of the Christmas celebrations – when originally a dried pea or bean was baked in the cake and whoever got it was king’ or ‘queen for the night.
Whatever is added to the Christmas pudding, whether a homemade or supermarket version, there is no doubt that the raisin will never be excluded, having been a mainstay of the recipe since the concept began.