Victorian Christmas Pudding and Wassail

As a lover of the Victorian Era I enjoy collecting recipes from that time period. These recipes were found in a wonderful old publication I found at a yard sale, Visions of Sugarplums by Mimi Sheraton.

Victorian Christmas Pudding (England) For purists with patience…

  • 1 lb beef suet, shredded
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 4 ½ cups bread crumbs
  • 1 lb seedless black raisins
  • 1 lb currants
  • 1 lb sugar
  • 2 cups mixed diced candied citron, orange and lemon peel
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mace
  • 1/4 cup blanched and slivered almonds
  • ½ tsp salt
  • juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 8 eggs, well beaten
  • Milk, only as needed
  • Brandy, for flaming

Dredge suet with a little flour. Combine with bread crumbs, remaining flour, raisins, currants, sugar, candied fruit peels, nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, almonds and salt. Toss together well until thoroughly mixed. Mix lemon juice and rind with brandy and eggs.

Stir into dry ingredients and set aside in a cool place for 4 or 5 hours. Stir in just enough milk (about 1/4 cup) to make a stiff paste. Do not make pudding too wet or it will be heavy.

Turn into well buttered gallon size pudding mold or several smaller ones. Cover and place on rack in kettle. Add boiling water to come two thirds of the way up the side of the mold. Cover kettle and steam pudding for about 8 hours or until firm. Smaller puddings will take about 3-4 hours. Add boiling water if necessary to maintain the water level while steaming pudding. Uncover to let steam escape before unmolding. If you want to store the pudding, uncover to let steam escape, recover and store in refrigerator. It will keep for months. Steam 2 hours before serving. Set aflame with warmed brandy and serve with hard sauce.

Hard Sauce 

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups 10X sugar
  • Rum or brandy, as needed
  • 10X sugar and nutmeg for sprinkling (optional)

Cream butter with sugar, adding a little extra sugar if needed to make a stiff paste. Gradually beat in as much rum or brandy as the mixture can absorg while still remaining stiff. Place in glass or china serving dish or jar. Cover and store in refrigerator. Sprinkle with 10X and nutmeg before serving. Makes about 2 cups.


 A health to the King and Queene here,

Nexte crown the Bowle full

With gentle lamb’s woll;

Add sugar, nutmeg and ginger,

With store of ale too;

And this ye must do

To make the wassail a swinger.

– Robert Herrick

Swinging or otherwise, spiced ale has been a part of the English Christmas since medieval times; its name derived from the Anglo-Saxon “was hal”, meaning “be hale”. Not originally a serving bowl, the wassail was a large drinking cup passed around to the assembled guests. Those who could not afford to make their own wassail carried wooden bowls through the streets while singing Christmas carols – going a’wassailing – in hopes of receiving some of the warming brew. This combination of spiced ale and roasted crab apples was also known as lamb’s wool and church ale, the latter referring to the church custom of selling this drink around Christmas to raise alms for the poor. The toast that flavors the wassail was considered a choice morsel and everyone wanted to be lucky enough “to drink a toast”.

A Swinging Wassail

  • 1 quart ale
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 5-6 pieces cracked ginger or 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 2 cups sherry wine
  • Juice and thinly pared rind of 1 lemon
  • Sugar, to taste
  • 2 slices toasted bread
  • 6 or 8 roasted crab apples or 2 or 3 roasted large apples

Heat ale in an enameled saucepan until it is just below the boiling point. Stir in spices, sherry, lemon juice, slivered rind and sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, then cover and steep over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Do not boil at any time. Pour into heated punch bowl. Add toast and warm apples. Ladle into warm punch cups. Makes about 12 servings.

Variation: Twelve well-beaten eggs may be beaten into the hot wassail before the apples are added. An eighteenth-century version of this recipe calls for brown sugar instead of white, beer rather than ale. The cooled drink, toast and all, may be bottled and chilled for several days, then poured into the wassail bowl and garnished with hot roasted apples.

Gloucester Wassail


Wassail, wassail all over the town

Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown

Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree

With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

The Wassail Bowl - John Gilbert, 1860

The Wassail Bowl – John Gilbert, 1860


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