It is thought Hackin, or Hack Pudding, (an Hackin Pudding) could be the elderly fore-runner to the Christmas Pudding. While some food historians say that the traditional Plum Pudding or Christmas Pudding is descended from a thick soup or porridge, a ‘Plum Pottage’, other food historians think that it is likely to be descended from this far more ‘pudding’ like recipe. This northern dish is cooked like an early sweetened Haggis Recipe, boiled, then sliced and fried in lard for Christmas breakfast.
Although the recipe given below is from 1732 it is obvious that this is a well known, (and much older dish) from the borders of North England and Scotland. According to, ‘A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles’, the word Hackin first came into written use in the 1670s, and persisted in Cumberland well into the 18th century. It is perhaps derived from the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) roots of Hack and Hatchet, meaning to ‘cut’ or ‘chop’ up; as in preparing the recipes minced-meat. The pudding is also called and described as ‘an’ Hackin and not ‘a’ Hackin.
‘The Book Of Christmas’, By Thomas Kibble Hervey, Published 1845
On the subject of the identity of the modern plum-pudding with the ancient hackin, we are furnished with the following curious remarks, by Mr. Crofton Croker—which we think well worth submitting, for the consideration of the curious in such matters.
“‘The hackin’, says that amusing old tract, entitled, ‘Round about our Coal Fire,’ must be boiled by day-break, or, else, two young men must take the maiden [i. e. the cook] by the arms, and run her round the market-place, till she is ashamed of her laziness.”
Brand, whose explanation Hone, in his Every-day Book, has adopted, renders hackin by ‘the great sausage’; and Nares tells us, that the word means ‘a large sort of sausage, being a part of the cheer provided for Christmas festivities’, —deriving the word from hack, to cut or chop. Agreeing in this derivation, we do not admit Nares’s explanation.
Hackin, literally taken, is mince-meat of any kind; but Christmas mince-meat, everybody knows, means a composition of meat and suet (hacked small), seasoned with fruit and spices. And from the passage above quoted, that ‘the hackin must be boiled [i. e. boiling] by day-break’, it is obvious, the worthy archdeacon, who, as well as Brand and Hone, have explained it as a great sausage, did not see that hackin is neither more nor less than the old name for the national English dish of plum-pudding.
It should be noted that this makes an excellent Christmas Breakfast, or as part of the Christmas Dinner ‘trimmings’ it can happily sit alongside all the other side dishes, like the apricot and sausage meat stuffing etc.
Hackin Recipe 1732
‘The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director’, By Richard Bradley, Pub 1732
To make a Hackin. From a Gentleman in Cumberland.
There are some Counties in England, whose Customs are never to be set aside and our Friends in Cumberland, as well as some of our Neighbours in Lancashire, and elsewhere, keep them up. It is a Custom with us every Christmas Day in the Morning, to have, what we call an Hackin, for the Breakfast of the young Men who work about our House; and if this Dish is not dressed by that time it is Day-light the Maid is led through the Town, between two Men, as fast as they can run with her up Hill and down Hill, which she accounts a great shame. But as for the Receipt to make this Hackin, which is admired so much by us, it is as follows.
Take the Bag or Paunch of a Calf, and wash it, and clean it well with Water and Salt; then take some Beef-Suet, and shred it small, and shred some Apples, after they are pared and cored, very small. Then put in some Sugar, and some Spice beaten small, a little Lemon-Peel cut very fine, and a little Salt, and a good quantity of Grouts, or whole Oat-meal, steep’d a Night in Milk; then mix these all together, and add as many Currans pick’d clean from the Stalks, and rubb’d in a coarse Cloth; but let them not be wash’d.
And when you have all ready, mix them together, and put them into the Calf’s-Bag, and tie them up, and boil them till they are enough. You may, if you will, mix up with the whole, some Eggs beaten, which will help to bind it. This is our Custom to have ready, at the opening of the Doors, on Christmas-Day in the Morning. It is esteem’d here; but all that I can say to you of it, is, that it eats somewhat like a Christmas-Pye, or is somewhat like that boil’d. I had forgot to say, that with the rest of the Ingredients, there should be some Lean of tender Beef minced small.
Tip: make the Hackin the night before, then let cool and place in the fridge. On the next morning reheat by placing the pudding back in the steamer, or turn out the Hackin on to a plate, slice, and then fry in a frying pan with a little lard.
Note: Either put the ingredients into a sheeps stomach, and follow the directions for that method, or steam it in a pudding basin.
- 200g lean mince beef
- 200g oatmeal – rolled oats
- 200g shredded suet
- 200g currants
- 200g brown sugar
- 200ml milk
- 2 eggs (beaten)
- 2 apples – peeled and grated or peeled, cored and chopped small
- 1 lemon – grated lemon rind / zest
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1 sheep stomach (optional)
Note: The recipe can be steamed in a pudding basin for convenience, for authenticity you will need – 1 sheep stomach, or ox secum, ask your butcher in advance for this: it must be cleaned and thoroughly scalded, turned inside out and soaked overnight in cold salted water.
You can soak the oatmeal in a little milk overnight, or for a few hours beforehand.
Put everything into a large mixing bowl and mix with a wooden spoon and then with your hands and fingers for several minutes. Make sure the mix is even and coated in spices, milk and egg. Make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed in and there are no clumps of single ingredients.
If the mixture is a little wet add in some extra oats, if a little dry add in some milk. The mixture should be of a stiffened ‘dropping’ consistency, i.e. the mixture is not too sloppy but will drop off the spoon when tilted.
Spoon the mixture into a large greased pudding basin, (1.1 litre basin greased with a coating of butter) and pack it down a little, level the surface with the back of the spoon – the level of the pudding should be about 3cm (1.5 inches) below the top (or less) of the basin. Cut a round, large sheet of baking parchment (or greaseproof paper) and one of foil slightly bigger so they will come down at least 10 cm (4 inches) over the sides of the basin.
Lay the baking parchment on top of the foil and fold a large pleat down the centre of both (to allow for any pudding expansion). Lay the sheets over the top of the pudding basin (foil side up) and secure around the sides with string – wrap the string around the pudding basin several times tightly and tie the string off to make sure the foil top is secured down firmly and the pudding is sealed. Trim off any excess foil and paper if it is too long. You can even make a string handle by looping it over the top and tying it off under the string going around the basin.
Stand the pudding basin in a deep saucepan (which has a tight fitting lid) on an upturned heatproof plate (or metal bars etc.) to raise it off the bottom of the saucepan – add a little water under the plate to get rid of any air pockets. Pour in boiling water to come just under half way up the side of the pudding basin.
Keep the water at a medium simmer and a gentle bubble, cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for 3 hours, topping up with boiling water from time to time. It is important to keep checking the level of the water so that it does not run dry.
If using the sheep stomach: Prepare the Hackin mixture as above: Spoon the mixture into the prepared sheep’s stomach, (cleaned and thoroughly scalded, turned inside out and soaked overnight in cold salted water) so it’s just over half full and packed in very tight.
Sew up the stomach with strong thread and a sharp sewing needle. Prick the stomach a couple of times with the needle, so it doesn’t explode while cooking. Put the Hackin in a pan of boiling water (enough to cover it) and boil it for 3 hours without a lid on a medium simmer. Keep adding more water to keep it covered.
It is important to keep checking the level of the water so that it does not run dry.
Serving An Hackin
When the pudding is steamed or boiled let it get quite cold and store it in the fridge for the next morning.
On the morning of serving turn out the Hackin on to a plate, slice, and re heat in a frying pan with a little lard.