Christmas Wouldn't be Christmas Without Traditional Christmas Pudding!
The 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
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
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).
- 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.
Chritmas Pudding Serving Dish
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.
7 1/2" pudding bowls for four puddings
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
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)
How to Make Christmas Pudding
- Mix the dry ingredients
- Separately, beat the eggs to a froth
- Stir the eggs into the dry ingredients
- Add the milk, lemon juice and brandy and mix
- STAND FOR 12 HOURS in a cool place, covered.
- Butter the 2 or 4 basins (up to you which size you prefer)
- Turn the mixture into the basins
- Cover the basins with buttered greaseproof paper, or foil, then tie each one with a cloth.
- Stand in separate large saucepans or a fish kettle so that the water comes half way up each bowl.
- Boil for 6 hours, renewing the water by adding more boiling water from time to time.
- 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