With an array of different Christmas puddings now available, you probably didn’t have any problem getting hold of one this year. However, 60 years ago, you might have had a problem getting the ‘correct’ Christmas pudding, files in The National Archives reveal.
The origins of the Christmas pudding can be traced back to medieval times but it wasn’t until the Victorian era that the Christmas pudding we know and love took on the recognisable form that continues to this day. But the debate about what makes a Christmas pudding continued into the 1940s and 50s, with committees and policy on Christmas Pudding Labelling (MAF 101/914) brought in after the war to ensure that Christmas puddings, also known as ‘The Empire Christmas Pudding’, did not go below the net weight of 17oz (with 1oz leeway) and contained the right ingredients (see image right):
Minimum oils and fats – not less than 9%
Sugar (added) – not less than 15%
Mixed dried vine fruits – not less than 40%
If Christmas puddings that had been imported did not have a label specifying the weight and ingredients listed by 31 March 1952, they could not be sold and could potentially result in prosecution, although it appears no-one was.
A Survey of Christmas puddings
Concern in 1952 about the licensing for making Christmas puddings, and the labelling to ensure ingredients were correctly listed, prompted a survey of Christmas puddings across the country. Plymouth was at the top of the Christmas pudding league table with 1,617 homemade Christmas puddings and 1,536 imported Christmas puddings, but they were all listed with ingredients. It was Lancaster in the ‘Christmas pudding spotlight’ with 1,152 unlabelled, imported Christmas puddings.
There was particular concern about Christmas puddings imported from other countries in the Empire without the correct labelling that were appearing across the country, sparking discussions between the Parliamentary Committee and the Ministry of Food.
It just goes to show that the proof is not only in the pudding; it must be clearly and correctly displayed on it as well.