Christmas pudding is the dessert traditionally served on Christmas day. It has its origins in England, and is sometimes known as plum pudding, though this can also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving a lot of dried fruit. Christmas pudding is a steamed pudding, heavy with dried fruit and nuts, and usually made with suet. It is very dark in appearance – almost black – as a result of the dark sugars and black treacle in most recipes, and its long cooking time. The mixture can be moistened with the juice of citrus fruits, brandy and other alcohol. – Wikipedia
I had never eaten, let alone made Christmas Pudding until I moved over here. I was a little hesitant at first just because of the thought of dried fruit with animal fat (suet) didn’t really appeal to me…until I tasted it and was hooked! I’ve now made it a few times and they really taste a treat, especially when served with a creamed rum sauce!
I mainly use a recipe from Delia Smith’s Christmas but I’ve also used a recipe for Figgy Christmas Pudding. They have mainly the same ingredients with slight variations, for example the figgy recipe contains figs (duh!) and milk which the Delia recipe does not.
For those of you who never had Christmas Pudding and would like to try making it yourself, here’s Delia’s recipe. If you want to make this for this Christmas, I suggest you get it done within the next couple of days as it needs time to mature. I’m a bit late on making it as it really needs about 6-8 weeks of maturing time, but it will be OK. Note, you will need two days to prepare and steam this as the ingredients need to sit overnight prior to steaming.
A few words from Delia first:
Maturing: I think it is something of a myth that the longer you keep a pudding, the better it will taste. There is a definite limit and in all honesty, I much prefer this year’s pudding to last year’s. The optimum maturing period is 6-8 weeks, so if you have pudding leftover than I would advise you to freeze it for next year.
Heating and Re-heating: I accept that the microwave is useful for many things, but not for re-heating steamed puddings. It may be more of a chore but conventional steaming is really much better. If you have part of a pudding left over, the best way to warm it up is to wrap it in foil and re-heat in a medium oven for about 30 minutes.
You can use vegetable suet (my preference) in place of the animal suet, especially if you’ll be serving this to vegetarians. If you can’t find barley wine, just use more stout (which is what I do).
Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet, sifted flour, breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together.
Gradually mix in all the dried fruit, mixed peel and nuts, followed by the apple and the grated zests.
Now in a smaller bowl, measure out the rum, barley wine and stout, then add the eggs and beat these to mix very thoroughly. (It is now traditional to gather all the family around, especially the children and invite everyone to have a good stir and make a wish).
It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver threepence or a sixpence. The coin was believed to bring wealth in the coming year. Despite knowing that a portion might contain a coin, many a Christmas reveller damaged his or her teeth by biting into one, or indeed swallowed one by mistake. However this practice fell away once real silver coins were not available, as it was believed that alloy coins would taint the pudding. Additionally, coins pose a choking hazard.
The mixture should have a fairly sloppy consistency; that is, it should fall instantly from the spoon when this is tapped on the side of the bowl. If you think it needs a bit more liquid add a spot more stout. Cover the bowl and leave overnight.
Next day, pack the mixture into the lightly greased basin, cover it with a double sheet of greaseproof paper and a sheet of foil and tie it securely with string.
It’s also a good idea to tie a piece of string across the top to make a handle. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 8 hours. Do make sure you check the water underneath and top it up with boiling water from time to time.
Once the pudding is steamed, let it get quite cold, then remove the foil and papers and replace with fresh ones, again making a string handle for easier handling. Your pudding is now all ready for Christmas Day. Keep it in a cool place away from light. An unheated bedroom or the garage is a good place.
To reheat for Christmas Day, Fill a saucepan with boiling water, put it on the heat and when it comes back to the boil, place a steamer on top and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Put the pudding in the steamer, cover and leave to steam for two hours. While the pudding is steaming, make the rum sauce…
~~Christmas Rum Sauce~~
2 1/2oz (60g) butter
2 1/2oz (60g) plain flour
1 pint (570ml) milk
2oz (50g) caster sugar
3 or more Tbsp. dark rum
1/2oz (15g) butter
1 Tbsp. double cream
Place 60g butter in a saucepan with flour, pour in the milk, then using a balloon whisk, whisk everything vigorously together over a medium heat. As soon as it comes to simmering point and has thickened, turn down the heat to its lowest setting, stir in the sugar and let the sauce cook for 10 minutes.
After that add the rum, 15g butter and double cream. Pour the hot sauce into a jug, cover the surface with clingfilm/plastic wrap and keep warm until required.
After the pudding is steamed, remove it from the steamer and take off the wrapping. Slide a palette knife all around the pudding, then turn it onto a warmed plate. Place a suitably sized sprig of holly on top.
Now warm a ladleful of brandy over direct heat and as soon as the brandy is hot, ask someone to set light to it. Place the ladle, now gently flaming on top of the pudding – put don’t pour it over until you reach the table. When you do, pour it slowly over the pudding, sides and all, and watch it flame to the cheers of the assembled company! When both the flames and cheers have died down, serve the pudding with rum sauce.
A very important message to all frazzled Christmas cooks. The good news is that what you now have, in addition to your aching limbs and heavy eyelids, is a house full of company and food and absolutely no more cooking to do. So stretch out, fill your glass with your favorite tipple and have a very Merry Christmas!