I know it is October and we haven’t even reached Hallowe’en but I decided to make my Christmas puddings. There is something about the shortening of the days and the lighting of the fire to warm us that steers my thoughts to Christmas preparations. I also like to let the puddings mature. They taste so much better after a few weeks soaked in Brandy and wrapped in greaseproof paper and foil. Traditionally I should have waited for Stir Up Sunday which is Advent Sunday, the first of the four Sundays before the 25th December or the nearest Sunday to Saint Andrew’s day. It is the traditional day for everyone in the family to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding, whilst making a wish. On Stir-up Sunday families returned from Church and gave the pudding its traditional lucky stir. Children chanted the following rhyme
Stir up, we beseech thee,
The pudding in the pot;
And when we get home
We’ll eat the lot.
Christmas pudding is always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men. It is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples. Every member of the family must give the pudding a stir and make a secret wish A coin was traditionally added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding. It was supposedly to bring wealth to whoever found it on their plate on Christmas Day. The traditional coin was an old silver sixpence or threepenny bit. Other traditional additions to the pudding included a ring, to foretell a marriage, and a thimble for a lucky life. All these traditions are more Pagan than Christian harking back to a much earlier time. Along with the wishes and the money and charms there is the flaming of the pudding which represents the winter solstice celebrations in which fire light and warmth are sought in the chill darkness of mid winter.
I have been a bit disappointed in my puddings over recent Christmases. I like them black and rich. The recipes I had attempted were lighter and to me not what they should be. I found this recipe while looking around the internet. I will make no other from now on. The original recipe comes from Jo Pratt. I tweaked it just a little.
This delicious Christmas pudding can make 3x 900g/2lb or 2x 1.5kg/3lb puddings.
50g/2oz self-raising flour
175g/6oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
50g/2oz ground almonds
225g/8oz shredded suet
225g/8oz dark muscovado sugar
100g/4oz white breadcrumbs from a 2-day loaf
1.5kg/3lb mixed currants, raisins and sultanas
1 tbsp black treacle
1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
1 orange, finely grated zest and juice
1 carrot, finely grated
1 medium cooking apple, peeled and grated
2 tbsp brandy or rum, plus extra for flaming
150ml/5fl oz dark ale or stout
4 eggs, beaten
flour and butter, for preparing the basins
1. Sift together the flours, baking powder and spices into a large bowl. Stir in the almonds, suet, sugar and breadcrumbs, mixing well. Add the remaining pudding ingredients stirring well after each addition. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge or a really cool place for 24 hours or up to 1 week if possible, stirring a few times.
2. Grease and lightly flour either 3 x 900ml/1½ pint or 2 x 1.2 litre/2 pint basins and pack in the pudding mixture. Top the surface of the puddings with a circle of greaseproof paper, then cover with baking parchment or aluminium foil. Fold around the edges of the basin and tie with string, or tightly scrunch the foil under the lip of the basin. Place in a steamer of boiling water for about 6 hours, topping up with water every so often, making sure it doesn’t boil away (if you don’t have a steamer, you can place the pudding on an upturned bowl in the bottom of the saucepan).
3. Leave to cool and remove the parchment/foil and greaseproof paper and replace with a new lot. The puddings can now be stored in a cool, dry place. On the big day the pudding should be steamed for about 1½-2 hours, or covered loosely and heated in the microwave for about 6 minutes on high power, checking its progress every so often by inserting a skewer into the centre and leaving for a couple of seconds. If the skewer comes out piping hot, the pudding is ready to eat after standing for 1 minute. For more accurate timings it is best to check the manufacturer instructions.
4. To flame the pudding half-fill a metal ladle with brandy (or use as much as you want) and carefully heat over a gas flame or lit candle. When the flame is hot enough, the brandy will light. Pour the flaming brandy over the pudding. Make sure the lights are out when taking to the table for a grand entrance.
Changes I Made
I used 500gms sultanas, 500 gms raisins, 250gms currants and 250 gms chopped prunes.
I also added 2 good tablespoons of cocoa powder. If you have ever tasted Nigella Lawson’s chocolate fruit cake you will immediately identify with this addition. It works wonderfully in the Christmas pudding.