Dating back to medieval times in Britain, the Christmas pudding has naturally always been a big part of Australian culture and has been enjoyed through some of Australia’s most important historical events and times. It has evolved in its own way here in Australia, as a result of various factors and the tastes of the people. Let’s take a look at its journey since it arrived on our shores.
Since the country was colonised, Christmas pudding has been around. In fact, even in the early days of the arrival of the British and Australia’s colonisation, it was actually served in the military at Christmas time, in addition to their regular rations. Back in those days, Christmas or plum pudding was slightly different to the version we know and love today, as it contained beef was was more of a savory food.
It was also considerably more difficult and time-consuming to prepare in the late, as it required mixing the batter by hand before boiling it up at the perfect temperature for several hours.
The gold rush of the 1850s brought diggers from all over the world to Victoria, Australia, keen to make their fortune. It is a fact that these people would frequently cook up Christmas puddings and versions of the original, altering the recipe with whatever they happened to have handy. Accounts of the period seem to confirm that the most important ingredients weren’t plums or raisins, but brandy! Even convicts were served plum pudding, a testament to how popular it was at this time. A female convict was actually punished by guards because she insisted the pudding that was served contain brandy when what she was given did not.
Another report that has emerged from the gold rush time is a miner that cooked up a large pudding for 24 hours, and after eating it, needed a week to digest.
Interestingly, the Australian plum pudding evolved quite a bit after the gold rush years, taking on a form that would make it better suited to the Australian seasons. After all, the pudding was originally designed to be enjoyed in winter, yet in Australia, Christmas time was normally quite hot. Light liqueurs such as port and sherry were starting to be used in the place of brandy, and with the emerging crop growing industry, the ingredients of puddings were completely Australian produced.
Meanwhile, other plum pudding traditions were being altered. Back in England, there had always been a tradition that coins would be placed in the pudding batter, and it was said that whoever’s portion had a coin inside on Christmas day would have good luck for a year. A new currency came into effect in the 1960s, with new metals that would actually change the taste of the pudding and pose some health risks of added to the batter. This tradition was discontinued as a result.
Plum pudding hasn’t changed all that much since the mid-20th century, however, when you compared the puddings served in Australia compared to those served in England, you can see how much it has evolved down under. It is rare to see a plum pudding here with the traditional eggs, beef, and breadcrumbs that are common back in England, with the Australian climate certainly playing a part in this evolution as discussed. If you’re looking to try Australia’s best Christmas pudding any time of the year, browse the great range at Stephen’s Fine Foods!