Authentic Victorian Christmas Pudding

“In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered—flushed, but smiling proudly—with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843.

Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball Hand colored etching by John Leech from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843.
Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball, etching by John Leech from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843.

A 19th century Christmas feast would not be complete without a Christmas pudding. Comprised of dried fruit, suet, egg, flour, and other basic ingredients, it was a popular holiday dish in both the Regency and Victorian eras.  Naturally, there are many historical recipes available for such an old favorite, but when looking for the simplest, and the best, you need search no further than Mrs. Beeton’s 1861 Book of Household Management.  Below is what Mrs. Beeton refers to as “A Plain Christmas Pudding for Children.”  It is the most basic historical Christmas pudding recipe I could find and perfect for those of us whose only experience with cooking a Christmas pudding comes from reading about Mrs. Cratchit fretting over the copper in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Recipe for Christmas Pudding from Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861.
Recipe for Christmas Pudding from Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861.

If you find the above children’s recipe too basic, Mrs. Beeton also provides the traditional recipe for Christmas Plum Pudding – complete with brandy.  This pudding is much more similar to the type served by Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol.

Recipe for Christmas Plum-Pudding from Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861.
Recipe for Christmas Plum-Pudding from Beeton’s Book of Household Management, 1861.

I will be taking off the week to spend the holiday with my family and, as a result, there will be no Animals in Literature and History post this week.  I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy holiday with your own families (both human and animal!).  If you would like to keep up with me, I will be continuing to update my Twitter and Facebook page with lots of 19th century images and info.  You can find me at the links below.  Do stop by and say hello!  Meanwhile, I leave you with an image of the very first commercially produced Christmas card, introduced by Sir Henry Cole in 1843.

The first commercially produced Christmas card, 1843.
The First Commercially produced Christmas card, 1843.
Mimi Matthews is the USA Today bestselling author of The Matrimonial Advertisement, The Pug Who Bit Napoleon, and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty. She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law.

Sources

Beeton, Isabella. Ed. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. London: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1861.

Dickens, Charles.  A Christmas Carol in Prose Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.  London: Chapman & Hall, 1845.

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Sarah Waldock
Sarah Waldock
5 years ago

Mrs Rundell has one in 1806 which is straightforward but not basic

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
5 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Waldock

There were definitely earlier recipes, but no one can beat Beeton when it comes to recipes that are (relatively) easy to follow. She invented listing out the measurements and cooking times ahead of the instructions!

Sarah Waldock
Sarah Waldock
5 years ago
Reply to  Mimi Matthews

just wanted to point out there was a fairly modern version in the Regency if anyone wanted a Regency pudding…

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
5 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Waldock

Oh, not at all! I always appreciate the info – and I know everyone else will, too. It’s hard to cover the whole 19th century. I should narrow my focus to one era, but can’t bring myself to do it!

Sarah Waldock
Sarah Waldock
5 years ago
Reply to  Mimi Matthews

yes, there is so much in history to discover, it’s hard to aim at one era. Regency and Medieval are my main thing [and I could mention that plum pudding grew from frumenty, which was a fruity porridge, served with venison]

paper doll
paper doll
5 years ago
Reply to  Mimi Matthews

When one thinks of it, there are many distinct eras within the century…who can choose among them ?

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
5 years ago
Reply to  paper doll

It’s impossible!

paper doll
paper doll
5 years ago

” Oh, the pudding! The pudding! “

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
5 years ago
Reply to  paper doll

The high point of the Cratchit’s feast!

tammayauthor
tammayauthor
5 years ago

Interesting. I always thought that Christmas pudding was a version of the awful holiday fruit cake.

Tam

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
5 years ago
Reply to  tammayauthor

Hopefully it’s better than fruit cake!

Sarah Waldock
Sarah Waldock
5 years ago
Reply to  Mimi Matthews

I find this extraordinary aversion to fruit cake in so many of my American friends who claim to like the most odd things like butter icing on sponge cake…. fruit cake is one of those things like mince pies that I regret most for living in a sugar free zone these days. Rich, boozy fruit cake eaten with Wensleydale cheese…. mmmmm

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
5 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Waldock

So much depends on how it is made. Perhaps the aversion is to the store bought variety?

Sarah Waldock
Sarah Waldock
5 years ago
Reply to  Mimi Matthews

ah, now if you’ve had something very dry, or stuck full of cherries [I hate cherries] it would give a whole different outlook on it. Fruitcake should be dark, moist, heavy and a hangover in every slice and it should have REAL almond paste to hold on Royal icing, not yacky yellow synthetic marzipan.

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
5 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Waldock

Your description makes it sound much more appetizing!

Sarah Waldock
Sarah Waldock
5 years ago
Reply to  Mimi Matthews

I’m not hugely keen on Christmas pud [it’s the texture] but I love a rich dark fruit cake…

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
5 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Waldock

Christmas sweets are the best! And there is almost always some 100+ year old tradition behind them.

Sarah Waldock
Sarah Waldock
5 years ago

chacun a son gout I suppose and sorry about the lack of accents

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Lucy
Lucy
5 years ago

Merry Christmas, Mimi! :) I adore Christmas pudding, it’s probably my favourite dessert, although I may not feel that way if it were eaten all year round. I also love the idea of possibly one of the most heavy desserts of the year being eaten after the heaviest dinner, it makes no sense but who cares!? :D

Mimi Matthews
Mimi Matthews
5 years ago
Reply to  Lucy

Merry Christmas to you too, Lucy :) And you’re so right about the heaviest dessert with the heaviest dinner. I always feel that way at Thanksgiving. By the time dessert comes, everyone is already stuffed!

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