Christmas Pudding is deep, dark and dense. This moist, sweet dessert is stuffed with dried fruits and nuts, and served with a rich, creamy sauce. Much like a fruitcake, Christmas Pudding is one of those ‘love or hate’ desserts. In our home, we love it! And it’s the season, or at least it will be in a very short time, and my hubby couldn’t enjoy Christmas without it. To be clear “pudding” in England is not defined as the sweet, dairy dessert we have here in the States. Although “puddings” in the U.K. are usually served at the end of the meal, they can be sweet or savory, and can also be encrusted in a pastry shell … or not.
Originating in medieval times, Christmas Pudding known then as Plum Pudding or Figgy Pudding (for some reason all dried fruits were either called “plums” or “figs”), still holds true to those medieval roots. To preserve fruits, they were dried … animal fats were also used as a means of preserving foods … and spices were used to cover up the taste of rancid foods. Yummy! Cooking appliances, of course, were very limited. An open hearth was about all you had where you could set a boiling pot or skillet.
The beloved Queen Victoria and Prince Albert adored Christmas and all things traditional. A grand, flaming “Plum Pudding” always took center stage on their table. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why this sweet, dense dessert is still seen on tables all around the U.K.
Christmas Puddings or Plum Puddings are certainly available to purchase. You can find them in the international aisles in most grocery stores and you can certainly find them in British import stores. They can be a bit pricey, but if cooking is not your ‘thing’ or you don’t have time, be sure to pick one up. They are delicious!
Now it’s time to make my Christmas Pudding. As with every traditional recipe, each family or region has their own version. To write down exactly how much of what ingredient is almost impossible. Both my grandmothers, who were very good cooks, could never tell you “exactly” how much to use of any recipe. It was always a pinch of that, or a handful of this. That’s pretty much what this old-fashioned pudding recipe consists of … a pinch of this and a handful of that.
Although this pudding can be made and served the same day, it does much better when made two to three weeks in advance to allow the flavors to deepen. When you are ready to make the pudding, you do need to plan your day. This will require 5 to 7 hours of steaming on top of the stove. The larger the pudding, the longer the steaming time. It was the style during Victorian times to use grand, ornate molds to steam the puddings. Not having one, I used a bundt pan, making one large pudding, which required 7 hours of steaming.
Adding a gold coin for good luck in the coming year has become a tradition in some homes. If you are going to add a coin or a charm, be sure it has been thoroughly cleaned. Lastly, the pound of dried fruits can consist of any combination of fruits you like. I used 1/4 lb. each of sultanas, pineapple, mango and prunes. Mix it up and use whatever you like.
Now have a go!
You will need to know how many you’re going to make … one large, two or more? Be sure the bowls or molds are heatproof and can fit into your covered pot. You will also need parchment paper and aluminum foil.
- ¾ cup rum or brandy or vodka or sherry
- 1 pound of mixed dried fruits – currants, golden raisins, sultanas, pitted prunes, dates, apricots, pineapple, mango, candied peel, glace cherries, etc. Any assortment will do.
- 8 oz. melted butter
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons honey
- zest and juice from one orange
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (more or less)
- 2 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup chopped nuts, walnuts/almonds/pecans (optional)
- Grated rind and juice of one orange
- ½ cup vodka (to flame the pudding)
Cut the pound of dried fruits up into even-sized pieces. Kitchen shears or scissors is the easiest way to do this. Make sure all the pieces are about the same size.
Put the mixed fruits into a bowl and pour the liquor over. Mix well, cover and let steep overnight or up to a week. I used a sweet liquor made from the tamarind fruit. Soooo good!
The next day, or later that same day, combine the dry ingredients and spices in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix together the brown sugar, orange peel, orange juice, honey and melted butter.
Beat in the eggs one at a time. The batter will appear to have curdled. Not to worry. Add the dry ingredients and mix well.
When combined, add the steeped fruits and nuts and mix to combine thoroughly. If the batter is too wet, add more flour. Now you can add the “lucky charm”. Put a large pan of water or steamer on to boil. Place a saucer in the bottom to keep the pudding mold from touching the bottom of the pan. Generously grease the pudding mold(s).
Pour the batter in the prepared mold or bowl, pressing the mixture down and tapping it to get rid of any air bubbles. Then wrap it with a layer of parchment paper and foil so that it is completely watertight. It will rise a bit and needs room at the top.
It’s also important to trim away any excess parchment paper and foil. You don’t want any steam traveling into the mold and making your pudding soggy.
Put a small plate upside down inside the pan to keep the mold/bowl from touching the bottom of the pam. Then place the mold into the pan of water. The water should come at least halfway or more up the side of the bowl or mold.
Bring the water to a boil, cover tightly and steam for 5 to 7 hours, checking every now and again to make sure the water hasn’t bubbled away. The longer you let it steam, the darker it will get. After 5 to 7 hours, remove the mold carefully and let it cool completely. Discard the paper and foil and rewrap with fresh. Store in a cool, dry place or the refrigerator for up to four weeks.
I can’t show you a photo of the finished product because this pudding is getting wrapped up and going into the frig for a couple of weeks. It’s not Christmas yet!! But when you are ready to serve, put the pudding (still in its mold) and still wrapped tightly into the pot to steam again, for about an hour just to reheat.
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To serve it, remove the mold from the pan, remove the lid, put a large plate on top and turn it upside down. Give the mold a little tap to help it out. Decorate the top with a sprig of holly. Then bring the pudding to the table while you heat the brandy, rum or vodka in a small pan until its very hot, but not boiling. Pour the liquor over the pudding at the table and light it. So impressive! Be sure to serve it with an Eggnog Cream, Brandy Cream or sweetened whipped cream.