A good Christmas Pudding should be made at least 3 weeks if not 3 months in advance. I usually get around to it somewhere around 2 months ahead of time. It is in fact, slow food in the very literal sense, it takes hours to make and weeks of storage. Though the ingredients list is made up of the once exotic and hard to come by, meaning it would have been a rich and rare treat indeed. Nowadays even though the ingredients are all close at hand (with the possible exception of suet) you will be hard pressed lay eyes on such a dessert at an American Christmas dinner. With the waining British influence in America and the Postwar Generation’s seeming aversion to the kitchen the only place one is bound to come across a Christmas Pudding is in the pages of a Dickens‘ novel.
I’ve been making them for some years now and I really don’t know what possessed me to make one in the first place. Perhaps it was my mother’s stories of her childhood or that I am a bit of an anglophile or maybe just my curiosity about historical food. Whichever or whatever combination of reasons it was there seems to be no turning back now. Not after that first year’s quest for suet led me to trying to explain to a slightly bemused and confused portuguese butcher what part of fat I wanted from the beef hanging in his meat locker in Providence’s Fox Point.
A Christmas Pudding is a rich desert that, while having a rather long ingredients list, is fairly simple to make. So don’t be put off by the length of the recipe. Equipment requirements are also rather simple. There are specialized bowls (pudding basins) and what not for making puddings, but I have found that pretty much any heatproof ceramic bowl of approximately the correct volume and shape works well. As for a steamer I just use a larger stock pot and either the center of a steamer basket or a steamer rack for a wok. Both of which just fit inside the pan and hold the pudding basin an inch or two off the bottom of the pan.
- 8 oz. sugar
- 8 oz. suet, shredded (I suppose you could use chilled, finely chopped vegetable shortening if you want or need)
- 12 oz. golden raisins
- 12 oz. raisins
- 8 oz. dried currants
- 4 oz. candied peel, chopped
- 1 small carrot, shredded
- 1 small apple, peeled, cored, and chopped, mixed with the juice of one lemon
- zest of one lemon
- 4 0z. flour
- 4 oz. fresh bread crumbs
- 2 oz. of flaked almonds
- 1 t. of ground cinnamon
- 1 t. mixed spice
- 1 t. freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 5 fl. oz. of brandy
- 1 T of molasses
- Grease 2 two pint pudding basins. Or two heat proof ceramic bowls that hold about 4 cups.
- Mix together all the dry ingredients.
- Stir in the the beaten eggs, brandy and molasses. Mix well.
- Spoon the mixture into the greased pudding basins, leaving about 1 inch of space between the mix and the rim of the basin. Cover with a layer of baking parchment and a layer of aluminum foil, both creased to allow expansion. Tie securely with a string, making a string handle by tying the string back across the top.
- Place the pudding in a large steamer of boiling water. Making sure that the water comes about half way up the sides of the puddings. Cover and boil for 6 hours. Topping up with boiling water as necessary.
- Remove the puddings and allow them to cool. Pour a little brandy over the puddings and change the parchment paper and aluminum foil.
- Put in the a cool place or the back of the fridge and store until Christmas, feeding with a little brandy every week or two.
- To serve: steam the pudding for 2 hours in the same manner as before. Turn out onto a serving plate and serve with brandy butter, rum sauce, or cream.