This speciality began life as something called plum porridge (first referenced in 1573), a pretty unappetising sounding dish made from beef shin, spices, sugar and fruit, boiled in a broth and reduced until gelatinous. It was eaten on Christmas Eve after fasting, and then stored for weeks afterwards (back then people believed if something jellified it was good to eat for a long time). By the 1800s, ways of preserving meat had improved and the porridge started to become less savoury. The first recipe to resemble the Christmas pudding we know today appeared in the 1830s, as a combination of flour, fruit, sugar and spice, with plenty of suet in as a nod to the original beef shin. The tradition for making the mixture on the first Sunday of advent – known as Stir-up Sunday – came soon after.
Brandy butter wasn’t officially mentioned until the 1930s (around the same time it became more commonplace to pour alcohol into the pudding itself), but a similar delicacy called rum butter has been a speciality in Cumbria since the nineteenth century.