Do you like hunting down obscure ingredients to create a unique and obscure recipe? How about 'eating the world' while STILL simultaneously buying 'local'? Well, have we got a recipe for you! Empire Christmas Pudding was created almost 100 years ago in Britain in an attempt to highlight and use ingredients from all of the British Colonies, including Guyana.
In the UK, the word pudding isn't used to refer to a specific meal like Guyanese black or white pudding, nor is it neatly packaged in little snack packs with flavours like chocolate and vanilla. It is actually a generic word used to refer to sweet or savoury dishes, but is generally used to refer to a dessert course.
The original recipe for Empire Christmas Pudding was England's attempt to "buy local". In 1924, the Women's Unionist Organization, a branch of the Unionist Central Office, developed a Christmas Pudding recipe using ingredients produced in the various British colonies. They began encouraging housewives to purchase the boxes of the required ingredients that they had for sale to use for their Christmas Pudding, and even started selling small, already prepared puddings. It was commented at the time that this was an unusual activity for the Organization to support as this was a political organization. Of course, there were arguments both for and against the whole concept. Some called it "Foreign free trade pudding" and argued that if a consumer wanted to pay more for their ingredients, then they should be free to choose.
The original recipe contained ingredients that were from the various British colonies with the aim of promoting their products. For example, it required candied peel from South Africa, currants from Australia, and cloves from Zanzibar. The recipe evolved over the years due to costs, import issues, shortages, the war and the economy. It continued to be refined with regard to parameters such as weight, fat & sugar content.
Later recipes also called for 'old beer' from England - and we're not exactly sure what that means and how we feel about that :/
Nevertheless, the recipe picked up traction and by 1927, the King's Chef was supplying the recipe to the public, and preparing / handing over of the prepared recipes became newsworthy. In 1928, a 7ft high pudding was made and was large enough to provide 7000 servings! It was the King's wish that it be distributed to children's institutions.
So what do you think was needed from the British Guiana / British West Indies? Sugar, of course! Some versions of the recipe indicated that you also could also use rum and nutmeg from the British West Indies.
While the recipe eventually ceased to be known as "Empire", Christmas Pudding still remains an integral part of the British Christmas tradition. What makes its ongoing popularity even more impressive is the massive amount of time it takes to prepare. Fruits are soaked in the liquor for at least 24 hours, it takes approximately 5-7 hours to cook (it is steamed slowly), and also cannot be eaten immediately - it needs time to rest and is therefore made well in advance of Christmas - some recipes suggest as much as a month. We've even read that a Pudding can be stored for up to two years in a cool dry place!
There's still enough time to give it a shot using ingredients that you can get locally. If you do, tag us or drop us a line and let us know how it goes!
Yorkshire Evening Post, Sept. 24, 1927
The Scotsman, Dec. 9, 1927
Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Dec. 10, 1924
Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Dec. 8 1924
Leeds Mercury, Nov. 16, 1925
Leeds Mercury - Friday 02 December 1927
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 26 November 1929
Dundee Evening Telegraph - Monday 03 December 1928