A traditional English Christmas Dinner is Roasted Turkey or Goose, roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce and for dessert Flaming Christmas Pudding. While her father King Henry the VIII started the tradition of turkey for the Christmas Celebration, his daughter Queen Elizabeth I, switched from turkey to roasted goose during her rein.
Today in England, Turkey wins the popularity contest for an English Christmas Dinner, but many continue the “Dickens”, Christmas Tradition and serve roasted goose.
A traditional English Christmas Dinner always ends with a Christmas Pudding, carried into the dining room with much pomp, circumstance and delightful anticipation. The lights are lowered in the room, to better see the flame on the pudding, and everyone applauds the puddings arrival.
Christmas Pudding can be traced back to medieval times and the winter solstice celebration. The early puddings were crude affairs with wheat and other grains mixed with honey and eggs to form a dense heavy cake. Through the ages raisins, dried fruits, apples, and spices were added to become the Christmas Pudding served today.
Christmas Pudding, also called fruit pudding, steamed pudding or Plum Pudding is prepared the beginning of Advent. Traditionally the pudding was made with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and his disciples. It should always be stirred from East to West in honor of the three wise men. All members of the household take a turn stirring the pudding, while making a secret wish. The pudding is decorated with holly leaves and set aflame with brandy before serving. It is often served with a brandy sauce, custard sauce or hard sauce.
Also on the dinner table at each persons plate is a Christmas Cracker. An English Christmas Cracker is a special little surprise gift, that when opened makes a little “pop” or cracker sound. Inside is a paper party crown, a small toy and a joke. Christmas Crackers are easily made or can be purchased online.
Here are my favorite English Christmas Recipes.
1 cup ground suet (available from the butcher)
2 cups raisins or currants or mixed
1 cup apples, cored, peeled, and finely chopped
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup bread crumbs
¾ cup flour
½ cup candied orange peel
¼ tsp. mace
¼ tsp. salt
Mix together. Then add 1 cup brandy and 4 large eggs. Beat together. Pour into greased pudding mold. (A clean metal coffee will work). Cover with a piece of greased aluminum
Foil, and then a piece clean muslin fabric. Tie fabric in place with string. Place on a rack inside a pot of simmering water. The water should go 2/3 up the side of the mold. Simmer 3 to 31/2 hours. Allow to cool until the pudding can be safely removed. When completely cool store in the mold in the refrigerator until Christmas. To serve, reheat by wrapping in foil and placing in the oven 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate, decorate with holly leaves (holly berries are poisonous) and flame with Brandy.
½ cup heavy cream
2-4 Tablespoons brandy
Mix together serve with Christmas Pudding.
Mincemeat pies are another English Christmas Tradition. They can be found from the First of December through the Christmas Season. Mincemeat was originally made using beef, although today in this country most mincemeat available in the supermarket is made with any meat. Here is my mother in laws recipe for Real Mincemeat.
1 pound beef, chopped finely but not ground
Cover and simmer in water until very tender.
Combine beef, 1 cup beef stock, 4 cups chopped apples, 4 cups raisins, 1 cup each orange peel and citron, ½ pound suet, 1 cup molasses, 1 cup sugar, 3 cups apple cider, 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg, ½ teaspoon each allspice and cloves in a large pot.
Simmer over low heat, stirring as needed, until most of the liquid is gone and mixture is thick. If desired add brandy or rum for flavoring. Store in covered container in the refrigerator until ready to make mincemeat pies.