Bake with Michelle Darmody: Stir-up Sunday

Now is the time to get organised if you want to make your own mincemeat, Christmas cake and pudding. You need to give them at least the next few weeks to allow the flavours to blend. Stir-up Sunday is traditionally the last Sunday before Advent, which this year is tomorrow, Sunday November 25.

The phrase is becoming more prevalent and seeping into the general pattern of people’s year. Traditionally it was solely an Anglican tradition. I had always presumed that the ‘stir-up’ was in relation to all the stirring involved in Christmas baking. In fact it is believed to come from the first line of a Anglican Book of Common Prayer ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.’

Most Christmas baking is about accurately weighing up a long list of ingredients and, yes, stirring them together which a generous dash of alcohol. Christmas puddings commonly contained thirteen ingredients, some saw this is a way of representing Christ and his disciples but the pudding was first created to highlight the wealth and unity of the British Empire. The recipe was scripted to bring together ingredients from the many corners of the Globe under British rule.

The amount of stirring to be done in your household will be in whatever quantities suit your family. At home I often make a large amount of mince or an extra pudding and use these as Christmas gifts. The generous amount of alcohol in all of these recipes acts to preserve the other ingredients but it also adds flavour and richness.

Preparing your Christmas Cake

270g golden raisins

270g sultanas

360g currants

225g of mixed peel

250 mls of whiskey, brandy or rum

225g of soft butter

230g of brown sugar

1 tin of strawberries drained and mashed

5 medium eggs, lightly beaten

275g plain flour

2 tsp mixed cake spice

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

200g glacé cherries washed and patted dry and chopped

zest of 3 oranges

1 medium sized cooking apple, cored, peeled and grated

120g of almonds, finely chopped

½ glass of sherry

Put all fruit except cherries into a bowl add the whiskey and leave to soak overnight.

Beat butter brown sugar, then add strawberries, gently beat in the eggs. Add a little flour if curdling. Fold in flour with spices.

Fold in soaked fruit, cherries, zest, grated apple and almonds. Stir in the sherry.

Line 8inch tin and bake in a cardboard box on a tray of salt for three hours at 100 degrees and then for a further 1 hour at 140 degrees.

Making mincemeat

2 large apples, peeled, cored and grated

500g sultanas

350g raisins

200g chopped peel

4 tsp mixed spice

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

500g of nuts finally chopped

200mls of dark rum

zest of 2 oranges, plus the juice of 4

zest and juice of 2 lemons

350g dark muscovado sugar

200g vegetable suet

Combine all the ingredients except the muscovado sugar and suet in a large saucepan. Place over a low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until the fruit has plumped up and most of the liquid has evaporated. Do not let it dry out. Set aside to cool completely, then stir in the muscovado sugar and suet.

Sterilise your jars and lids in a hot oven after washing them.

Divide the mincemeat between the hot jars and set aside to cool. Store in a cool place for up to six months. You will get just over 2kg of mince from the recipe.

Pudding preparation

100g of self-raising flour

2 tsp of mixed cake spice

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

100g of breadcrumbs

50g of ground almonds

90g of muscovado sugar

225g of sultanas

100g of currants

100g of raisins

50g of mixed peel

the zest of 2 oranges

½ a medium sized cooking apple, peeled and grated

1 small carrot grated

3 eggs, lightly beaten

100g of suet or cold butter grated

3 tbs of ale

1 tbs of brandy

1 tbs of rum

Butter and flour a 1.5 litre pudding bowl. Cut a circle of parchment to sit neatly into it so it sits about two thirds of the way up.

Sieve the flour and spices into a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, almonds, sugar, fruit and peel and stir everything together.

Add in the zest, apple, carrot, eggs and suet and again stir until everything is combined. Stir the ale.

Sit the circle of paper on top of the mixture, place more baking parchment and foil over the top of the bowl and tie securely with string.

Steam gently on an upturned saucer in a pot large enough to allow the pudding bowl to comfortable sit into it. Steam it for five hours. Make sure to continuously top up the water.

Allow the pudding to cool in the bowl and pour the brandy and rum over it. Re cover the pudding with lid or wrap it so it is airtight and store in a cool dry place until Christmas Day.

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