- Food and Cooking
Traditional Christmas Pudding
Christmas Pudding from Britain
The British Christmas Pudding is a very rich traditional dessert, served as part of Christmas Day dinner.
Of course, many people just can't manage to eat it then, so often it's served later in the day and for several days following because, unless you have a large family gathering, it is too big for one meal. Because it is so rich, most people only eat small portions.
The pudding is made as much as three months before Christmas because, stored correctly, the flavour matures. In fact, some people even use them when they are one or two years old.
English to US Translation
Currant = small seedless raisin
Raisin = a brown raisin (dried grape)
Sultana = white raisin
Ingredients for a Traditional Christmas Pudding
- 12oz breadcrumbs, fresh
- 12oz flour, plain (all purpose)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 level teasp ground ginger
- 1/2 level teasp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 level tsp ground cinnamon
- 12oz sultanas
- 16oz currants
- 12oz raisins
- 8oz candied peel, chopped mixed
- 6oz almonds, chopped
- 8oz apples, peeled & chopped
- 12oz suet, shredded suet (you can now buy vegetarian suet)
- 8oz castor sugar, (fine grained)
- 8oz soft brown sugar
- 1 lemon - rind & juice, grated rind
- 1 orange - rind & juice, grated rind
- 1/2 teasp vanilla essence
- 1/2 teasp almond essence
- 3 eggs, large beaten
- 4 tablesp brandy or rum, (optional, use extra fruit juice if preferred)
- 150ml (2/3 cup) milk
Don't Make It, Buy It!
I have to admit making your own traditional Christmas pudding is a big job. Not only do you have to get a lot of ingredients, it's time-consuming too. The answer is to buy a good quality pudding instead.
Recipe for a Traditional Christmas Pudding
1. This quantity of ingredients makes at 3 puddings. You need traditional pudding basins to cook these. The measurements of the basins required are:
600ml (1 pint) basin, 900ml (1-1/2pt) basin and 1.1litre (2 pint) basin
2. Mix all the dry ingredients plus the apples, orange and lemon rind and juice, brandy, eggs and milk together in a very large mixing bowl. Cover and leave overnight.
3. Grease the pudding basins. Prepare three large pans by half filling with water and then bringing them to the boil or use steamers.
4. Stir the mixture again and then put into prepared basins. Cover with a circle of greaseproof paper then foil which should overlap the basin so it can be tied on with string around the lip of the basin. Put each basin into one of the saucepans. The water should simmer throughout the cooking and the water should be topped up as required. The 2 pint pudding will take 9 hours to cook, the 1-1/2 pint one will take 7 hours and the smallest, the 1 pint, will take 5 hours.
5. Remove from the pans and take off the foil but leave the greaseproof paper in place. When they are cold, cover again with foil and store in a cool place.
6. On Christmas Day, steam the puddings as above for between 2 and 3 hours depending on size.
7. It is tradition to bring a whole pudding to the dining table, pour spirits over it like brandy or rum, then set the spirit alight - see the Setting Fire to the Christmas Pudding below.
8. Serve with brandy butter or traditional white sauce. After Christmas Day, you can heat small quantities, rather than a whole pudding, in a microwave.
Use an electric steamer or crockpot (slow cooker) on Christmas Day to reheat your pudding as your hob will probably be full of other pans.
Storing Your Christmas Puddings
Traditional Christmas Puddings should keep for months and are usually made at least a month or two before Christmas. Wrap them separately in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight tin or plastic box in a cool, dry place.
If you make extra puddings, they are usually given to friends or relatives as gifts because many people don't have the time or knowledge to make Christmas puddings themselves. Home made puddings are almost always received with pleasure.
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How to Make a Christmas Pudding
Get Your Own Pudding Basin - It's what we use in Britain
This is the kind of basin we use for Christmas pudding and other steamed desserts and savoury puddings we make here in the UK. If you've never tried them, you don't know what you're missing.
You stand this basin in a steamer or a pan of simmering water to cook your pudding. Almost every home in Britain has at least one, usually more in different sizes.
A Traditional Wish with the Christmas Pudding
It is traditional for everybody in the family to stir the pudding when it's being made. As they each take a turn to stir, they make a wish. Of course, they mustn't do it out loud or tell anyone what they wished for otherwise it won't come true.
Setting Fire to the Christmas Pudding
- 3/4oz butter
- 2 tbs plain (all purpose) flour
- 300ml (1/2pt or 1-2/3 cups) milk
- 1-1/2 level tbs sugar
- 1 level tsp mixed spice or nutmeg
- 1 or 2 tbs brandy or rum
Melt the butter in a pan and gradually add the flour, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. It will form a thin paste (roux) which should be smooth and free of lumps. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, still stirring all the time, until it bubbles. Now gradually add the milk. Remove the pan from the heat as you add it then put back on the heat, stir vigorously until it boils then add more milk, each time removing from the heat. When the sauce is at the required thickness, add the spice or nutmeg and brandy or rum, stir again.
If you make the sauce before you want to serve it, cover the surface with greaseproof paper to stop a skin forming on top.
- 3oz butter
- 3oz castor (fine grained) sugar
- 2-3 tbs brandy
Cream the butter until its soft and pale then gradually beat in the sugar. Now add the brandy very carefully. It should only be beaten in very small amounts so that the mixture doesn't curdle. When that's done, the mixture is soft, pale and frothy. Leave it to harden then serve with Christmas pudding.
Till Death Us Do Part - The Garnetts on Christmas Day 1966
This was the most popular comedy show in the UK in the 1960s. In this episode Alf Garnett swallows the threepenny bit in the Christmas Pudding. The Christmas decorations and other details of the set are typical of a working class British household of the period.
Cold Chocolate Christmas Pudding
This makes a good alternative if you don't like traditional Christmas Pudding. It looks similar but is much lighter. Serves 6 - you need to make this at least one day before you serve it and finish it off just before serving. It would be far better, though, to make it well in advance.
- 350ml/11 fl oz milk
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 stick on cinnamon
- 4 egg yolks
- 95g/3-1/4oz soft brown sugar
- 200ml/6-1/2 fl oz chilled cream
- 2 tbsp brandy (optional)
- 105g/3-1/2oz fruit cake, broken into 1 or 2 inch chunks
- 45g/1-1/2oz chopped marron glacé
- 45g/1-1/2oz chopped glacÃ© cherries
- 45g/1-1/2oz amaretti biscuits (cookies), broken into large pieces
- 185g/6oz good quality plain (semi-sweet) chocolate
- 30ml/1 fl oz oil (not olive oil)
- 50g/1-3/4oz white chocolate
Christmas Desserts Around the World
If you want to experiment with new desserts this Christmas, here is the cookbook for you. There are recipes from countries as diverse as France, China, South Africa, even Antarctica plus several more.
1. Put the milk, vanilla essence and cinnamon stick into a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, then remove from heat.
2. In a bowl, cream the egg yolks and sugar together until thick, then, after removing the cinnamon stick, add the hot milk and mix until all ingredients are well combined.
3. Put the mixture into a fresh saucepan and very slowly, over a low heat, stir it continuously until it thickens enough to coat a spoon. Do not allow it to boil.
4. Using a sieve (strainer), strain it into a clean bowl and put aside to cool completely.
5. When it is completely cold, add the cream and brandy. Stir them in then put them in a container and freeze until just firm to the touch, about 3 hours.
6. Take the mixture out of the freezer, put into a bowl and beat until the it is thick and creamy.
7. Repeat the freezing and beating twice more but on the final one, add the marron glacÃ©, fruitcake, glacé cherries and amaretti biscuits (cookies) and put in a 2 pint or 1 litre pudding basin to produce the traditional Christmas pudding shape. Cover with clingfilm (Saran wrap) and return to freezer. Check after 30 minutes and stir if the cake, biscuits and fruit have sunk to the bottom. Cover again, and freeze overnight.
Topping - Do at least 2 hours before serving
8. Remove from freezer and then turn it out onto a wire rack. Flash the basin in and out of very hot water to loosen the ice cream, if necessary.
9. To make the topping, melt the plain (semi-sweet) chocolate. When it is melted, add the oil, stirring it in well and until chocolate is cool but still liquid.
10. Now pour the chocolate smoothly and evenly over the pudding so, except for the bottom, it is completely covered. Put it back in the freezer for about 2 hours.
11. Melt the white chocolate. Take the pudding out of the freezer and put on a serving plate. Pour the white chocolate over the top of the pudding. This time it should not be completely covered. The white chocolate is supposed to resemble cream poured over a pudding. Decorate with a sprig of artificial holly.
12. It would be much better to make it in advance, wrap it well in cling film (saran wrap) and keep it in the freezer. Take it out about 30 minutes before serving.
Christmas Pudding Traditions
There are several traditions associated with the British Christmas Pudding. One is 'Stir-up Sunday', the last Sunday before Advent, when every member of the family took a turn to stir the pudding and made a silent wish. It got its name from the Collect (prayer) for that Sunday which says:
"Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"
Another tradition is that an old silver sixpence (see picture above) or threepenny bit was stirred in the pudding and whoever got it on Christmas Day would come into money. Nowadays, it's more likely to be a 5, 10 or 50 pence piece. In these more hygienic times, people often wrap it in foil before putting it into the pudding mixture.
Although you can serve Christmas Pudding with custard, cream or ice cream, it is customary to serve it with a white sauce or brandy butter.
If your family don't like the traditional pudding, below there is a recipe for an alternative, Cold Chocolate Christmas Pudding, made with fruitcakes, spice and cookies and homemade ice cream. It looks a lot like a traditional pudding and the spicy fruity flavours give a similar taste. The advantage is that it's much lighter especially after a big Christmas Dinner.
© 2008 Carol Fisher