Monthly Archives: December 2015

Grace’s Guide to Christmas Puddings

Christmas Pudding

Did you know more than two thirds of Christmas puddings sold in the UK come from one Derbyshire firm?

So when you sit down to your festive pud this season it’ll probably be one of the 26 million produced each year by Matthew Walker , the world’s oldest Christmas pudding maker.

Matthew Walker, a farmer’s son, started making preserves and Christmas puddings, from family recipes. After the Victorians adopted the pudding as a festive favourite for the family Christmas menu, Walker made enough sales to open a small factory in Derby’s Exeter Street in 1899. It was here where the firm began its extraordinary success story producing festive puds for the majority of the British market.

In 1967 Matthew Walker opened the factory in Heanor, where they still remain.
From here they use 1.3 million litres of alcohol and 300,000 tons of raisins to churn out around 7,500 tons of Christmas pudding each year. They sell to every supermarket, produce 280 varieties of pudding, and export as far as Australia.

Visit the official Matthew Walker website.

The first Christmas pudding recipes date back to the Middles Ages when rabbits, pheasants and partridge made up the bulk of pudding portions. The Plantagenets continued the savoury trends and introduced beef and mutton to the mix during the 14th century. It was a highly effective method of preserving meat to last the winter months. Livestock was slaughtered in autumn, and the meat was mixed with dried fruit, sugar and spices to act as preservatives when the mixture was stored in its pastry casing. “Plum pottage” was a name for this mix of meat, fruit and spices and it became a favourite dish served before meals in the 1500s.

A Christmas CarolThis seasonal treat was only enjoyed for a few decades before it was banned by the Puritans in 1664. But King George I (also known as The Pudding King) lifted this ban in the early 18th century. As meat preserving techniques bettered, the meaty ingredients were used less and less, and eventually they were replaced by breadcrumbs, fruit and spirits.

It wasn’t until the 1830’s that the fruity pudding we know, complete with holly sprig atop, came into fashion. They became a classic symbol of the Victorian Christmas menu encouraged more by Charles Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ and newly found ideas of a traditional family Christmas.

Sources of information: http://www.matthewwalkerchristmaspuddings.co.uk/ and From Her Majesty to HMP: The Christmas pudding factory that feeds the nation
By Daily Mail Reporter: 02:07, 23 December 2008