St Stephen’s Pudding is a steamed apple pudding. Serve as a light alternative to a Christmas pudding on St. Stephens Day or Boxing Day.
There is something comforting about a steamed pudding. The gentle rattle and clatter as it steams gently in the pan makes you aware that a delightful pudding is on the way. Sadly they are not so fashionable these days as health food is more of a fad. With the start of winter steamed puddings are perfect for warming you up.
British steamed puddings have been part of British life for centuries. They were originally made from suet wrapped in cloth and cooked in the same pot as the meat. They migrated to pudding basins cooked over boiling water hence the name steamed pudding. The very names are melodic, Sussex Pond, Kentish Well, Spotted Dick, Canary Pudding and Jam Roly Poly. They can be both savoury and sweet.
Read more: Traditional recipes from North East England
When reading cookery books recently I came across a recipe for St. Stephen’s Pudding. The recipe was in The Delia Collection: Puddings, a book which seems to be out of print. Delia’s Complete Cookery Course may offer similar recipes. There is a whole section on steamed puddings in this book. When I was young I helped my mum make Christmas puddings. I have many memories of helping to stir the pudding and then watching it cook. In those days a silver sixpence was put into the mixture for a lucky person to find.
St Stephen’s Pudding is a lighter alternative to Christmas Pudding. It is a lemony apple tasting pudding with plenty of sultanas and is the ideal comfort food for a cold day. It is also very easy to make. The pudding does use suet so you will need to track this down.
I recommend serving with plenty of custard for a perfect comforting end to a Sunday roast. The taste of this pudding is delicious. The apples and lemon really shine though bringing the promise of Spring to come. It is also a great way to use a glut of apples in the Autumn as well as making plenty of apple chutney. It is a delicious apple pudding dessert.
Saint Stephen was the first deacon of the Christian church and also the first Christian martyr. He died by stoning after accusing the supreme court of murdering Jesus. Now he is the patron saint of deacons, headaches, horses, coffin makers, and masons. I pictures he is often shown carrying a pile of rocks or with rocks on his head.
The feast day for St. Stephen falls on the 26th December or Boxing Day (unless it is a Sunday). You are probably familiar with this day from the carol Good King Wenceslas:
“Good King Wenceslas last looked out
on the feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep and crisp and even.”
I am not sure why the pudding has the name St. Stephen’s pudding. It is the perfect pudding for Boxing Day. Lighter than Christmas pudding but still comforting. The lemony apple flavour works well with the traditional Boxing Day meal of cold meats and vegetables served with chutney.
Read more: Leek Pudding: A savoury steamed pudding
Often people think steamed puddings are difficult to make. In fact they are really easy. It is worth the effort as they make the perfect dessert on a cold day.
Use a food processor to make the breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs will freeze really well and are useful for other dishes like sage and onion stuffing. I always make extra and freeze some.
For St. Stephen’s pudding you just need to mix the ingredients in a bowl. Put flour, suet, breadcrumbs, sugar and salt into the bowl. Grate some apple into the mixture. Stir though some lemon zest and raisins. To bind the mixture stir in an egg and some milk. Place into a greased pudding bowl.
Wrap up the top of the pudding to prevent the steam making it soggy. Traditionally this is done with a cloth. The tied up corners make a great handle to remove the pudding from a pan. In modern times silver foil tied up with string are more common.
Place the basin in a pan half full of boiling water and leave to steam for a couple of hours. Keep checking the water level in the pan so that it does not boil dry. When ready turn out onto a plate and serve with custard.
Read more: Queen of Puddings
Instead of steaming the pudding you can cook it in the microwave. Put it in for three minutes and leave to stand for one. Put it in for a couple more minutes. The pudding is done when the top is solid, but be careful not to overcook.
Unlike Christmas pudding you can’t keep this pudding in a bowl to mature. You need to eat it after cooking.
It will freeze well so you can make it and freeze it for later.
Why not pin the recipe for later?
Have you made a steamed pudding before? Let me know below.
Originally published in January 2014. Updated in October 2017.