Christmas Wouldn't be Christmas Without Traditional Christmas Pudding!

The Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding being flamed
Christmas Pudding being flamed | Source

Christmas Pudding

5 stars from 3 ratings of Christmas Pudding

History of the Christmas Pudding and King George 1

Christmas Pudding, sometimes called Plum Pudding is the greatest of all suet puddings.

We British people (at home and round the world) eat it on Christmas Day - to round off the feast of stuffed, roast turkey with its banquet of trimmings. Christmas Pudding is not only hot, rich and stodgy, and oh-so Christmassy but everything about this bomb has fun and games about it that traditionally began months earlier than Christmas (and isn't due to end until end a few days after the last turkey wing has been turned into broth).

I'll be writing about these happy traditions here, but first a little history of this great Pudding with a capital P.

In "The Cookery of England", Elizabeth Ayrton writes that one of the earliest recipes she found in her research of the history of English food was for a boiled Christmas pudding called 'Christmas Pye', which came from Edinburgh in Scotland in 1700.

The most traditional Christmas Pudding recipe (see below!) was originally served in 1714 to King George 1 for his first Christmas in England. King George is sometimes unkindly called 'The Pudding King'

Victorian Christmas Dinner

Victorian picture depicting "Christmas Comes But Once a Year"
Victorian picture depicting "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" | Source
Christmas Pudding on a hook
Christmas Pudding on a hook | Source

When to Start Making the Pudding

Traditional Christmas Puddings will keep for two years. The secret to their survival is keeping the mice away. My grandmother made her Christmas puddings and kept them in her large larder, in her large home alongside the preserves she made from the fruits of her garden. Presumably, because she was in and out of the larder a lot, there wasn't much chance a mouse could get at her puddings. She proudly pulled one of its shelf intact at Christmas each year.

If you make your Christmas Puddings a few years ahead of time, or even six months ahead of time, which is advised since the taste richly matures over time, then the first thing to consider is where to store them. Somewhere safe, cool and dark. Basements aren't a good idea, neither are attics because mice can smell the puddings - unless

  • you cover them with fine netting, which you make sure is held down fast
  • you remember to regularly lay your rodent poison out

Sixpenny pieces

20th century sixpenny pieces
20th century sixpenny pieces | Source

You Put Sixpence in the Christmas Pudding

One of the most important traditions was putting money in the pudding, slipping coins into the fruity mixture, which had the magical value of doubloons when someone found them! We wrapped up a few coins in wax paper (sixpences in those days) and hid them until some really, really lucky person found them in their slice on Christmas day.

Later on in years, we slipped the coins in at the last moment to make sure the children all got one. By now 'Health' and 'Safety' were buzz words - perhaps all that moist metal in your sugary fruits wasn't the healthiest ingredient.

We are still hiding money in the pudding, but it's rigged, so everyone gets a coin.

But back to Christmas and Christmas dinner!

Ready Made Christmas Puddings - My Choice

Christmas Pudding Preparations on Christmas Day

No matter how many pans and ovens you're using on the turkey feast you'll need room on the cooker somewhere to boil the Christmas Pudding (in its huge pan) - for two hours. Pulling Christmas dinner off is performing multiple miracles, as every Mom will tell you (sometimes Dad will).

Ideally:

  • remember that it takes two hours to boil but it will take about a half an hour, if not more, before the water in the pan comes to a boil in the first place, so allow about three hours.
  • make your rum butter and put it in the refrigerator. If you have bought it, then put it in the refrigerator!
  • whip the cream and keep it in the refrigerator, in its Christmas bowl.
  • have your desert dishes for Christmas ready.

The most delicious thing about boiling up Christmas Pudding (cooking in its pot, in the saucepan) is that the house is perfumed with its hot spices and matured fruits.

If you decide to buy a Christmas Pudding (they smell delicious too) - then here on the right is a good selection of this years produce.

You Set Flame to the Christmas Pudding

The turkey and co have been eaten.

The Pudding is out of it's cloth and bowl now. Its on a pretty warm platter and is placed center forward on the table. It's time to eat the Christmas Pudding!

There's a bottle of rum or Cognac on hand and a packet of matches. Someone switches the lights off as a glass of the alcohol is poured over the pudding. Someone lights a match and sets the flame carefully to the Christmas Pudding. Quickly the round, dark, fruity pudding flames up and although it doesn't explode like the bomb it looks like, there's a red fire glowing all around it licking upwards into the darkness. Its round form becomes darker, almost black.

The flames die down, the light may go back on again, and now it is time to pass the cold Brandy Butter (recipe below) and the cold whipped cream - and start feasting all over again.

You Pull Christmas Crackers

Round about the time someone finds the coin in the Pudding, you pull a Christmas cracker with the person next to you and once again great good fortune comes your way. Everyone now has a colored paper hat on their head and you're playing with a baby blue frog that squirts water. Your Grannie has a miniature torch she can't work properly. Your husband has a fairy wand.

It's time to pass the Brandy Butter and cream round. It's time to open more champagne, or does someone feel like a small glass of Port?

But back to the very beginning of making the pudding.


Pudding Bowls

Equipment You Need to Make the Pudding

Aside from the usual mixing bowls and spatulas, making your Puddings will go like a dream if you have the following:

  • Pudding bowls or basins. (either two 2 medium sized bowls or 4 smaller ones)
  • Greaseproof paper
  • A couple of very large pans or a fish kettle
  • 3/4 yards of muslin or cloth
  • String

What is suet?

Suet is beef fat from around the kidneys and is used in traditional old English recipes such as Steak and Kidney Pudding. some pie crusts and of course Christmas Pudding, or Plum Pudding.

If you are a vegetarian you can use vegetarian suet which is made of palm oil and rice flour. Please see below.

Ingredients for Christmas Pudding

  • 3/4 lb suet
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 lb prunes, stoned
  • 1/2 lb mixed peel, cut in strips
  • 1/2 lb raisins, small
  • 1/2 lb sultanas, seedless
  • 1/2 lb currants
  • 1/2 lb self raising flour, sifted
  • 1/2 lb demerara sugar
  • 1/2 lb brown bread crumbs
  • 1/4 lb dates
  • 1/4 lb glace cherries
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 pint milk
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 1 large wineglass brandy

Cook Time (apart from 12 hour standing time and final 2 hours on Xmas Day)

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 6 hours
Ready in: 6 hours 30 min
Yields: 20 portions or 2 puddings

How to Make Christmas Pudding

  1. Mix the dry ingredients
  2. Separately, beat the eggs to a froth
  3. Stir the eggs into the dry ingredients
  4. Add the milk, lemon juice and brandy and mix
  5. STAND FOR 12 HOURS in a cool place, covered.
  6. Butter the 2 or 4 basins (up to you which size you prefer)
  7. Turn the mixture into the basins
  8. Cover the basins with buttered greaseproof paper, or foil, then tie each one with a cloth.
  9. Stand in separate large saucepans or a fish kettle so that the water comes half way up each bowl.
  10. Boil for 6 hours, renewing the water by adding more boiling water from time to time.
  11. On Christmas Day boil for 2 hours or more before serving.

How to Make Brandy Butter

3 ozs. unsalted butter

3 ozs. fine castor sugar

2 - 3 tablespoons brandy

Cream the butter until it's white, beat the sugar in gradually and then a drop at a time, add the brandy - but don't let it curdle. When it's light and fluffy put it in a pretty bowl and then refrigerate to get very cold.

© 2012 Penelope Hart

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Comments 37 comments

GiblinGirl profile image

GiblinGirl 4 years ago from New Jersey

Wow - I had no idea of the intricacy of Christmas pudding and all the traditions that go along with it. Amazing that it will keep for two years. Very interesting article.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

So PLEASED you dropped in! It's as steeped in tradition as it is in spirits! Thanks for your comments which are greatly appreciated.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America

What a delightful presentation! It should become part of a coffee table book of Christmas Traditions. Thanks for the link as well and I will link yours onto mine.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

A coffee table book of Christmas Traditions is a wonderful idea! Perhaps we should put one together? I appreciate the linking and will think about this book idea, seriously. Thank you.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

A coffee table book of Christmas Traditions is a picturesque idea! Would you want to put one together with me? I'm up for it! Glad you're linking here. Many thanks.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Truly a great read. So many interesting things going on at Christmas and so many not done here! Though we can buy some things, like the Christmas Crackers, I'm thinking the whole feel is different, especially without the Christmas pudding!! We do have "Baked Alaska" which gets lit up but doesn't have the tradition steeped on Christmas pudding!

Voted up, awesome, and interesting.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Sad to say I've never had a Christmas Pudding, unless I did as a child and don't remember. It sounds scrumptious.

We do have the Christmas Crackers and I've always liked those especially when I was a child.

What a fantastic hub! I may attempt to start a new tradition within my family and start making this.

Voted +++, pinning and sharing.


wilderness profile image

wilderness 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

Fascinating! I love the way you've presented the history of this, along with the recipe. I'm not real sure I would keep one around for two years, though.

A neat hub, GoodLady - just had to share it on Facebook.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK

I hated Christmas Pudding when I was a child, but love it now. I can't say I've ever made my own - I used to buy one and these days we eat at mother-in-law's house on Christmas Day. I'm not a fan of brandy butter, but prefer clotted cream. Excellent hub, pinned and shared :)


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

tillsotitan. I'd love some baked Alaska! Sounds fun to me. My Mum makes a great one. Thanks for networking, appreciated.

Susan. It's sch a great tradition, it really is. Thanks for votes ad pin!!!

wilderness. It's best after two years, it really is! Grateful to you for our FB share.

Judi. Clotted cream where you come from would be wonderful on a Sainsbury's Christmas Pudding! There are some superb commercial ones in Britain. I just always enjoyed the palava of making my own. Many thanks for pinning and sharing.

Greatly appreciated everyone! Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas dinner.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very interesting hub. I love pudding and I had never heard about traditional Christmas pudding before reading this hub. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

Prasetio


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I'm looking forward to Christmas already after reading your excellent hub, GoodLady! My mother used to make the Christmas puddings for my family when I was a child, and you brought back some very happy memories for me. (I didn't know that puddings could be kept for years, though!) As an adult I buy my Christmas pudding, but eating it is still a lovely part of the Christmas tradition.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

I knew very little about Christmas pudding before reading your Hub. Great history of and accompanying recipes for this enduring British Christmas dessert. This loosely reminds me of fruitcake that we, in the U.S., eat during the Christmas season. However, we tend to make fun of fruitcake -- like it would be the only to survive a nuclear blast! It does seem to last forever. ;)


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

prasetio. Perhaps you could order one off the internet and try it out this Christmas! Don't forget the brandy butter.

Alicia. I'm looking forward to Christmas too. I'm having one with my grandchildren who have never had Christmas Pudding before since they live in Italy and are less than 3 years old. Never too young to start with traditions!

lindacee. It's only like fruitcake in that its made with fruits, but fruitcake is served cold and really not quite the same thing, however delicious it is.

Thanks so much for your comments which are really appreciated.


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

I have never tried to make this. I think I would love to eat it so maybe you can send some through cyberland. Thanks for sharing this traditional pudding recipe. VotedUP.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

There's time to make it!!!! You'd never forget it, promise. Many thanks for you vote.


jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 4 years ago from Scotland

Hi GoodLady, This brought back nice memories, I used to salivate just looking at my mum's Christmas Puddings Hanging in muslin and couldn't wait to get stuck in to it......jimmy


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Did you get the sixpence jimmy? Thanks for remembering what it was like here.


jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 4 years ago from Scotland

I didn't get a sixpence lol, but I did get a thrupenny bit sometimes.....jimmy


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Rich man!


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

I'm glad you wrap the sixpence in wax paper. Hehe. What an incredible amount of work that goes into this, but it all sounds like a wonderful labor of love! It looks so delicious and beautiful. Perhaps I'll get the courage to try to make it sometime! ;)


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

If you can write a book in a month you can make a Christmas pudding in a month too!


Luna B. profile image

Luna B. 4 years ago from Nashville, TN

Great Hub. My family makes Christmas pudding every year from an old family recipe. The suet is the hardest ingredient to come by (you always have to get it from a butcher), but very important to get the pudding right. Thanks so much for writing this great description of the history behind Christmas pudding, as well as, how to make it! Most people in the states aren't as familiar with it so, it's great to have someone sharing the love for this traditional dish! We've never made it with brandy butter before; might be a cool thing to try this year! :)


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Really happy to hear how you too keep old traditions alive and on the Christmas table!

Really appreciate your lovely share. Thank yiu


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

It sounds like this pudding's worse enemy is a mouse! I enjoyed reading about all the traditions surrounding it. Brandy butter sounds fabulous. I would try the vegetarian suet, not that I'm vegetarian, but because it would be easier to come by here in Peru. I might just whip up a batch of this sometime. Thanks for sharing!


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

I love the way you make making things in Peru sound so possible! Kidney fat is very good if you can't find suet / might not be in fashion but that doesn't mean it's not good!

Thanks for enthusiastic comment as always.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

I'm sure kidney fat would be delicious and it should be easy to find, too. Thank you GoodLady!


annart profile image

annart 3 years ago from SW England

Well done for a good explanation of Christmas pudding; so many nations don't understand what it's all about - notably the French! They think it's a large, dry, stodgy pudding that must be 'off' if it's been in the cupboard for more than a month or so. I know someone who cooked one in a tin, in a pan on the stove; it exploded and the pudding ended up all over the ceiling, walls and floor of the kitchen! Your recipe and directions are brilliant. Even if you don't like Christmas pudding, it's worth doing for those who do as it's such a sight to set light to it and smell the aroma! Voted up, etc.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 3 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

It is just so wonderful, and so important and off the top festive agreed!

Appreciate your vote, thank you for comment and pudding story!


nifwlseirff profile image

nifwlseirff 3 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

I will be making a Christmas pudding for the first time next year, but I need to find a pudding bowl and a source to buy suet from first! Thanks for the recipe!


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 3 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Will you be making it a few months ahead of Christmas too? If you have British friends ask them to send you Astora or else you can buy online. It is very good!


annart profile image

annart 3 years ago from SW England

You're right. Atora is definitely the best; light and fluffy. Good luck to nifwlseirff!


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

This sounds like a delightful Christmas tradition. I have never had Christmas pudding, and doubt that I ever will, but I have certainly leatned something new here! Thanks for sharing!


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 2 years ago from Australia

I loved Christmas pudding when we lived in the UK, but the Australian summer at Christmas time is better suited to Christmas cheesecake. lol.

Awesome hub!


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 2 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Now it's sad you think you may never have Christmas pudding! It's worth a trip to the British isles at Christmastime rebeccamealey.

My sister lives in Australoia and doesn't eat Chrismas pud either! I can believe cheesecake's a much better alternative in the heat.

Thanks so much for your comments and wish you a Happy Feast!


JANICE 2 years ago

I live in Australia and my grandmother and mother made a Boiled Christmas Pudding every Christmas and it was wonderful to see several hanging in the pantry ready for the Christmas Season and Christmas Day. Up until 1966 a silver sixpence was cooked in the Pudding and even the ones who were not keen on the pudding would have a slice on the chance they were the lucky person to get the sixpence. After 1966, when decimal currency was bought into Australia, the coins could not be cooked in the pudding any more, so my grandmother would slip the 5 cent coin into one of the puddings and a 2 cent coin into the other puddings. It was a wonderful tradition and brings so many wonderful memories for me. The reason I responded was for the fact that even in Australia, on a hot Christmas Day, we still had our hot Chicken Dinner and hot Boiled Pudding and we loved it. The worst things about Christmas Day was the washing up. The men and boys went out onto the verandah and the women and girls had to clean the kitchen which could take a while because in my grandmothers family their were 10 children, and my mother and our family were 8 and then if grandmas sisters and husbands were there, it was a lot of people. But these were the traditions back in the good old days when traditions like this mean something special.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 2 years ago from Rome, Italy Author

Thanks so much for super response. Shame that the women did the dishes AS WELL AS make the traditional meal!!! Maybe that's one tradition that's changed in your home a little. I get my husband to do the dishes after a special meal now. Turns out he is fantastic at it'

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