Stir Up Sunday II

Today being the last Sunday before advent, is Stir-Up Sunday. A day in the  Lincolnshire kitchen calendar, that since the early 19th C has been traditionally associated with the first stages of Christmas preparations, by making the centre piece desert, the Christmas pudding. Other households took this as the day to make instead, the family Christmas cake. Both foods in fact being ones that benefit from having time to mature. Stored carefully and 'fed' with alcohol if required, the 4 week period allow the flavours to mellow beautifully.

I had planned to get this post up much earlier, but the day has been a whirl of soaking fruits, sourcing ground almonds and stirring cake mixes!

But let us consider for a moment, that for many rural households, the reality was that the classic steamed pudding, blazing in blue brandy flames, captured in prints and made popular by contemporary writers such As Charles Dickens. Was simply not dish that either resources, or assets would allow. The following two recipes give a much more honest insight into the 2nd part of the Christmas Day meal that would have graced tables in farms and workers cottages across Lincolnshire.

The Cover of Lincolnshire County Food, by Eileen Elder.

Both these recipes come from the wonderful , Lincolnshire County Food, by Eileen Elder [1]. A book in two parts, that in the first part, looks at the lives and traditional foods of the common land workers and country people. Examining the combination of home produced staples such as eggs milk and butter, and the seasonal foods that could be grown and harvested through the turning wheel of the year. The second section provides a selection of recipes collected by the author from friends and farmers wives. Many of these recipes had often in turn been handed down to them by their own mothers and grandmothers. Which in all gives a view of a diet enjoyed by people who were entirely dependant on the land for their living. A world almost lost now to modern mass production, and cheap global transport. Sadly this book has been long out of print, but I was lucky enough to be kindly given a copy by the author's daughter!

It's important to note, that the term 'pudding' used in the titles of both of the following recipes, will NOT result in anything resembling the Dickensian desert I've described earlier. In fact, both dishes are variations of Frumetty (or Frumenty) a dish that can be traced back to the early Middle Ages. A sort of flavoured porridge of boiled grains (these use cree'd wheat or oats), and would be made and eaten on the same day.


This pudding has the consistency and taste of a very moist Christmas pudding.

1 cup of pearl barley
1 cup raisins
3 tbsp suet
1 cup currants
3 tbsp sugar
½ a grated nutmeg

1. Stand the barley overnight in cold water. 
2. Simmer in the oven for one to two hours until creed.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix. 
4. Continue cooking adding boiling water as necessary, stirring frequently until the pudding is something like the consistency of porridge. 
5. Serve with cream.


This pudding was traditionally eaten by the poor as a Christmas pudding up to the late 1800s.

2 oz / 50g sugar
2 oz / 50g groats (pinhead oats make a good substitute).
1 oz / 25g raisins
1 pint / 575 ml milk

1. Cree the groats in water in a pudding dish until the groats are creamy and the water has virtually disappeared (approximately 1% hours in a slow oven). 
2. Add the fruit, sugar and milk and cook for a further 45 - 60 minutes, stirring occasionally until thick and creamy
  - Grimsby


Sources and further info:

1. Lincolnshire Country Food - The cookery and associated customs, By Eileen Elder & Illustrated by Valerie Littlewood. Scunthorpe Borough Museum & Art Gallery, 1985. ISBN 0 947777 024


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