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Baking Blog: British Christmas Food Traditions

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Leeds chapter.

In comparison with Germany, Britain isn’t huge on baking cookies or biscuits when Christmas is knocking on the door. In Germany, most families start baking cookies in advent, the time leading up to Christmas. There are various magazines that focus solely on Christmas baking. Another difference is that whilst the traditional Christmas dinner is still eaten widely across Britain, the tradition is slowly dying out in Germany.

Instead of baking Christmas biscuits and cookies, British people love to bake mince pies. Mincemeat is generally available throughout the year, but over time has become synonymous with Christmas. They also used to be called mutton pies or Christmas pies. Yet, today, we simply call them mince pies. Mince pies have been around since the early seventeenth century and were baked throughout the Victorian era. It was about this time that the ingredients began to change. The filling of the pie that was once minced meat became sweeter. It is now a minced dried fruit mix with raisins, sultanas and spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. Its shape has also changed. Whilst it used to be an oval or rectangular shape, it is now a smaller round pie with a star on top. The star is to remind us of the Christmas star, or Star of Bethlehem, that led the way to baby Jesus. Mince pies are often eaten during December and sometimes as a dessert on Christmas day.

On Christmas day, the 25th December, British people love to eat a traditional Christmas dinner. Roast turkey is the most popular meat choice. Side dishes include roasted parsnips and potatoes, Brussel sprouts, pigs in a blanket, bacon, chestnut stuffing and gravy or cranberry sauce. Christmas crackers are also put on the table to lighten up the atmosphere and to have some fun with the riddles inside the crackers. Christmas pudding finishes off the Christmas dinner.

Christmas pudding is a rich fruit pudding which is dark in appearance. Christmas pudding started as Frumenty. Frumenty was a porridge made of wheat or corn which was boiled in milk. Later, the porridge was called plum pudding as raisins were added to the mix. This is because, in the pre-Victorian times, ‘plum’ used to mean raisins. Other dried fruits that make up the pudding are sultanas, currants and candied peel. Before the Victorian era the pudding used to be boiled, whereas ever since then the pudding is steamed for several hours in a dish before serving. Christmas pudding is made of breadcrumbs, flour, eggs, suet, brown sugar, treacle, dried fruits, and is flavoured with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. The pudding turns out very dark because of the brown sugar and treacle that are both dark in colour themselves. The Christmas pudding is traditionally served with either brandy sauce or custard. 

Image Sources

Image 1: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/21133/traditional+fruit+mince+pies

Image 2 : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fb/ChristmasDinnerScotla…

Image 3 : http://www.shirescookeryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/christmas-…