Everyone stir your pudding from east to west & make a Christmas wish (I think we’re all pretty much wishing for the same thing this year!). It’s the time of year for traditions & puddings, as we all know, I’m a big fan of both! There’s nothing more classic or steeped in history & tradition than Christmas cakes & puddings.
Originating in around the 14th century, it’s understandable how there are so many traditions around our Christmas puddings. Although, back then it took the form of a type of rich porridge called ‘frumenty’, containing thing’s such as beef, mutton, raisins, currants, prunes, wines & spices, whichever were available (yum). It wasn’t until the 15th century that this frumenty began to transform into a plum pudding, so named not because it actually contains plums but because the word ‘plum’ was used as a term for raisins & currants.
With the addition of eggs, breadcrumbs, dried fruit & spirits, it soon became the customary dessert of Christmas dinner. Superstitious types would make their puddings with 13 ingredients to represent Jesus & 12 His Disciples. It was also common practice to place a small silver coin, usually a sixpence, inside the pudding which would bring luck to the person that finds it within their serving (providing that they didn’t choke on it first, obviously).
One tradition which has stood the test of time though is the flaming of the pudding, dousing your pride & joy in hot brandy or rum before setting it alight & ceremoniously bringing it to the dinner table (again, comes with a bit of a hazard warning). Although, I believe the appetite for a good Christmas pudding is declining, but it shouldn’t! Puddings now are a far superior take on the old school boiled puddings of the Victorian era. These were boiled in cloth, forming a round, dense Christmas Pudding, sometimes referred to as a cannonball if it was a bit on the heavy side.
These days, we’ve taken to steaming our puds, they’re much richer & lighter in texture too. You really can’t knock it until you’ve tried it, trust me, this one will win you around. Don’t be put off by the suet or by the 8 plus hours of steaming, nothing worth enjoying in life comes quick or easy (surely we’ve all learned that by now?). All a pudding asks of you is a good stir & to wait, patiently, for it to cook, develop & mature it’s wonderful flavour until Christmas day. This is my favourite version of Christmas pud, but feel free to swap out the alcohol to make it t-total.
(makes one large 2 pint pudding or two medium 1.3 pint puddings)
(to make the pudding alcohol free, replace with an equal measure of black tea or milk):
- 275g currants
- 180g sultanas
- 40g glace cherries, chopped
- 25g candied peel
- 25g almonds, chopped
- 1 Bramley apple, chopped into small dice
- 225g dark soft brown sugar
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- Zest of 1 orange
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 110g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 110g suet
- 85ml stout
- 65ml rum
- 2 large eggs
- 50g self-raising flour
- The night before, place all of the dry ingredients except for the self-raising flour in a large bowl & mix together
- Then add the eggs, stout & rum to the bowl & mix through until well combined
- Cover the top of the bowl with a beeswax wrap or a large plate, set it aside & leave it overnight for the fruits to plump up
- The next day, sift the flour into the bowl & stir through well
- Pack the pudding mixture into lightly greased pudding basin/s
- Cover the top of the pudding basin with a layer of foil
- Next, cut out a square of baking parchment & place this on top of the foil layer, use a piece of string or twine to secure both layers to the bowl, trying it around & just under the lip of the basin
- Use another piece of string or twine to attach to the top of the bowl to act as a handle for careful lifting
- Next, fill a large saucepan with a few inches of water & bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer
- Set a steamer over the saucepan & put the pudding in (if you don’t own a steamer then place your pudding straight inside your large saucepan &with enough water to reach an inch or two up the side of the pudding basin before placing a lid on top)
- Steam the pudding for 8 hours, checking on it every now & again, topping up with more water where necessary to maintain the same level as the beginning
- Once steamed, carefully remove the pudding & leave to cool
- Remove the foil & baking parchment layers & replace with a clean layer of baking parchment & string or twine
- Store your pudding in a cool, dry place like the pantry until Christmas day
- When ready to serve, re-steam the pudding for 2 hours or place in baking dish filled with water & place in a low oven for 2 hours