Good day to you! Ghost of Christmas Past is here again to take you on our third adventure, so let’s drift on over to 1840s England, where was published one of the most recognized Christmas tales in the world: A Christmas Carol.
God Bless us Everyone!
A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens, was published on December 17th, 1843.
Born in 1812, Charles Dickens began his writing career at the age of 21 when he wrote short comedy stories. Some of his more well known works included Oliver Twist in 1838, Nicholas Nickleby in 1839, and The Old Curiosity Shop in 1841, which brought him fame all on their own, but none of his writings were as popular as A Christmas Carol, which, after it’s publication, made Christmas the most major holiday celebrated in Victorian England.
One of the novel’s main focuses is the impoverished families in England, in which Dickens was well familiar, having had a father who was sent to debtor’s prison, leaving him at twelve years old with the burden of supporting the family which he had to do by working at a factory. Dickens came up with A Christmas Carol as a whole when he visited Manchester, saw the factories, and was reminded of the conditions he witnessed for factory workers when he was a child. A Christmas Carol was Dickens’ way of addressing the issue of the rift between the rich and poor in England.Part of his way of writing the story was taking long walks through England and writing the story in his mind.
Wanting it to be available by Christmas, Dickens finished the novel in six weeks. The message given in A Christmas Carol The Redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge touched readers everywhere. There came a new concern for the poor in England, and Christmas not only was popularized even more after this book was published, but it became a season that celebrated family and friends and inspired charitable giving.
Dickens did several readings of A Christmas Carol up until his death in 1870. At the end of his final reading, he said to his audience, “From these garnish lights, I vanish now forevermore with an affectionate farewell.”
English Plum Pudding
1lb /450g dried mixed fruit (use golden raisins/sultanas* , raisins, currants)
1 oz /25 g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
Grated zest and juice
½ large orange and
4 tbsp brandy, plus a little extra for soaking at the end
2 oz /55 g self-raising flour, sifted
1 level tsp ground mixed spice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 oz /110 g shredded suet, beef or vegetarian
4oz /110g soft, dark brown sugar
4 oz /110 g white fresh bread crumbs
1 oz /25 g whole shelled almonds, roughly chopped
2 large, fresh eggs
Lightly butter a 2½ pint/1.4 litre pudding basin/17cm
Place the dried fruits, candied peel, apple, orange and lemon juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the brandy and stir well. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to marinate for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
Stir together the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon in a very large mixing bowl. Add the suet, sugar, lemon and orange zest, bread crumbs, nuts and stir again until all the ingredients are well mixed. Finally add the marinaded dried fruits and stir again.
Beat the eggs lightly in a small bowl then stir quickly into the dry ingredients. The mixture should have a fairly soft consistency.
Now is the time to gather the family for Christmas Pudding tradition of taking turns in stirring, making a wish and adding a few coins.
Spoon the mixture in to the greased pudding basin, gently pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, then a layer of aluminum foil and tie securely with string.
Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 7 hours. Make sure you check the water level frequently so it never boils dry. The pudding should be a deep brown color when cooked. The pudding is not a light cake but instead is a dark, sticky and dense sponge.
Remove the pudding from the steamer, cool completely. Remove the paper, prick the pudding with a skewer and pour in a little extra brandy. Cover with fresh greaseproof paper and retie with string. Store in a cool dry place until Christmas day. Note: The pudding cannot be eaten immediately, it really does need to be stored and rested then reheated on Christmas Day. Eating the pudding immediately after cooking will cause it to collapse and the flavours will not have had time to mature.
On Christmas day reheat the pudding by steaming again for about an hour. Serve with anyone of these lovely accompaniments. Brandy or Rum Sauce, Brandy Butter or Custard.
Left over Christmas pudding can be reheated by wrapping tightly in aluminum foil and heating through in a hot oven.