The making of a Christmas pudding is like a pre-Christmas ceremony, a labour of love. Indeed my Mum made her puddings months in advance; she would prepare all the fruit by tailing it (cutting the little grape stalk from the raisins etc) and then soaking over night, the next day the rest of the ingredients would be added. Once mixed, we had a tradition in our house which was, we all had to stir the pudding and make a wish. A pagan tradition some would say.
There still are a lot of pagan superstitions about the pudding, historically, the Christmas pudding was seen as a religious affront and in 1664, Oliver Cromwell banned it as a “lewd custom”, considering it “unfit for God-fearing people”! While the Quakers condemned it as “the invention of the scarlet whore of Babylon”!! Thank you Nigella for that little nugget of information. :O)
Anyway back to my Mum’s pudding, once we had all performed our pudding stirring, the puddings were set to steam for what seemed like days (it wasn’t). Once Mum was happy that they had achieved that rich dark colour, they were double wrapped in baking paper and tin foil. Mum would then feed the puds a drop of whiskey/brandy regularly to help them mature in time for Christmas. It was always obvious which cupboard she stored them in, the rich smell would hit you as soon as the door was opened!! And the proof of the pudding…………. Well you know the rest :O)
The toughest part of this recipe is gathering all the ingredients and making sure you haven’t left anything out, as there are 19 different components. The instructions I had been given was to mix all the dry ingredients, then the wet and steam for 8 hours!! Essentially that is what you do however, I will elaborate slightly ;O)
- 450g/1lb raisins
- 450g/1lb currants
- 450g/1lb sultanas
- 175g/6oz candied peel
- 175g/6oz cherries (I substitute these with cranberries, I’ve mentioned my cherry aversion before)
- 110g/4oz dates chopped
- 110g/4oz figs chopped (I put a little extra in to give it that figgy pudding texture!)
- 1 medium-cooking apple grated
- 1 lemon, use zest and juice
- 225g/8oz soft brown sugar
- 110g/4oz plain flour
- 225g/8oz breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp mixed spices
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- 6 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 small bottle stout (the non draught kind)
- 1 glass whiskey/brandy
- 110g/4oz butter melted
I’ve divided the ingredients into 3 groups, fruits, dry and wet ingredients. Simply, because I find it easier to work this way and it also ensures that you are less likely to forget something.
This quantity will make two 1.2 litres/2 pint puddings or four 600ml/1 pint puddings. The smaller puddings make great gifts.
Prepare your pudding bowls by greasing with plenty of butter.
In a large bowl, mix all the dried fruit together, raisins, currants, sultanas, candied peel, cherries or their substitute, chopped dates and figs. Peel and grate the apple and add. Finally add the zest and juice of the lemon.
In a separate bowl mix all the dry ingredients, sugar, flour, breadcrumbs, mixed spices, nutmeg and salt.
Next melt the butter and lightly beat the eggs. Add these to the fruit followed by the stout and the whiskey/brandy, creating your wet mixture. Ensure that all the ingredients are mixed thoroughly. At this stage the smell will be amazing and you’ll start feeling Christmassy.
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, mixing thoroughly. The consistency will be quite sloppy however, if you feel the mixture is a bit too wet, just add some more breadcrumbs or flour.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pudding bowls. If using a pudding bowl with a lid, grease the inside of the lid so the pudding doesn’t stick to it when it expands during steaming. If using a combo of parchment paper and tin foil to seal the top of the pudding bowl, ensure that the parchment paper is greased also. Firstly place the parchment paper over the bowl followed by two layers of tin foil. Seal tightly with some string.
Place in a steamer or pot of boiling water and steam for up to 8 hours, depending on how dark you like your pudding. Alternatively, you can steam for 6 hours and on the day you intent to eat the pudding you can steam for a further 2 hours. Ensure that the water level is kept at about three quarters up the side of the bowl. Check it regularly and top up when necessary.
Once cooked allow to cool fully before double wrapping in parchment paper and tin foil. Store in a cool dry place until ready to eat.
I love pudding served with custard however, it is also great with brandy butter or cream. :O)