CHRISTMAS 100 years ago was grim. The war was never ending, and the deprivations were getting worse – there were, truly, only crusts left for Christmas.

Rationing was biting, and queues for staples of life were becoming a daily fact of life. In the week before Christmas 1917, The Northern Echo reported how an elderly woman in West Hartlepool had collapsed from cold in a queue of hundreds of people outside a shop in Lynn Street, and in the Midlands, a queuing mother learned that the child she had left unattended had been killed in a fire.

The British were bloodied, but their upper lip was still stiff.

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“We have learned to do without many things since the war began, but the fourth Christmas of the war makes yet a new call upon our powers of self-denial,” wrote “Our Lady Correspondent” in the Evening Despatch, which was the Echo’s sister paper.

Such were the shortages, she said, that many families had been forced to forego the traditional Christmas pudding.

But help was at hand. A leading lady of the north, “well known for her patriotism and her skill in all that pertains to the science and art of cooking”, had provided Our Lady Correspondent with a recipe for a pudding “that we can eat without losing our self-respect or feeling unpatriotic”.

The correspondent wrote: “We gladly offer to our readers what we feel sure will be an excellent substitute for the star turn of the Christmas dinner in this year of grace, 1917.”

Darlington Christmas Pudding

½lb suet, ½lb crusts, ¼lb flour, ½lb mashed potato, ¼lb carrot (grated), 2oz maize semolina, 1lb apples, 1lb dates (or less), 2oz peel, ¼lb treacle, two teaspoons ginger, half nutmeg, one teaspoon carbonate soda, about half pint milk. Cost 3 shillings; makes five medium-sized portions.

Grate or chop suet, grate carrot, soak crusts with half of the milk. Mix in the crusts, maize, flour, chopped apples, dates, stoned and cut up. Add spices and treacle. Dissolve soda in milk, stir in, and pour into greased basins. Steam for four hours or longer.

Note: one egg may be added, or dried egg soaked previously.