Happy Stir-Up Sunday! It’s time to officially kick off the holiday season–starting with dessert. Those Christmas puddings need time to mature and develop their flavours (some people actually make them more than a year in advance), so pull out those pudding basins and steamers and let’s get to work!
Christmas pudding has its origins in the medieval period and is also traditionally known as plum pudding, though it doesn’t typically have plums in it (the plum pudding term is probably because the Victorians used to refer to raisins (which are always part of the ingredients list) as plums). In the medieval period, the Catholic church decreed that a ‘pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after trinity, that it be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honour the Magi and their supposed journey in that direction.’ Nowadays, we give it a stir in any direction and make a wish. The traditional pudding recipe took its form in Victorian England, when people would either boil it in a pudding cloth (resulting in the nostalgic round shape) or pack it into a pudding basin for steaming, as we do now.
The nice thing about this pudding is that, although there are some traditional elements you may want to keep, it’s pretty versatile. Feel free to play with the fruits you include–dried cherries and candied ginger are delicious additions, and I even tossed in a bit of leftover homemade cranberry sauce that I had around after our wee Thanksgiving on Thursday, just to see what would happen. I also soaked the vine fruits overnight in some Christmas Orange tea I picked up from Anteaques. Have a little fun with it, and don’t forget to make a wish!
Adapted from Delia Smith
400g mixed vine fruits
brandy or strong black tea for soaking
4 oz (110g) shredded suet
2 oz (50g) self-raising flour
4 oz (110g) white breadcrumbs
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
good pinch ground cinnamon
8 oz soft dark brown sugar
1 oz (25g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
1 oz (25g) slivered almonds
1 oz (25 g) candied ginger, chopped
1 oz (25 g) prunes, chopped
1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored, and grated or finely chopped
grated zest and juice of 1/2 large orange
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2T rum, brandy, or whisky
5 fl oz (150 ml) stout
2 large eggs
Pour the brandy or the strong (brewed about 10 minutes) tea over the vine fruits and let sit overnight. The next morning, drain and set aside.
In the largest bowl you have, combine suet, flour, breadcrumbs, spices, and sugar. Mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, nuts, and ginger, followed by the apple and zests. Mix thoroughly.
In a smaller basin, mix the eggs and all liquid ingredients. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Call in family members for help and wishes. Once it’s mixed (it’ll be a fairly wet and sloppy mix), cover the bowl with clingfilm and let sit overnight so the flavours meld.
Butter a 1.2-litre pudding basin and put a small circle of greased parchment paper in the bottom. Scoop in the pudding mixture and cover the basin with baking parchment and foil. Tie securely with a string and place in a steamer for 8 hours. For those without a steamer, put an upended saucer in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid, place the pudding in the pot, fill up halfway with hot water, put the lid on, and boil away for 8 hours, checking back periodically and topping up with more boiling water as needed.
Remove the pudding from the steamer or pot and let cool completely. Refresh the parchment paper and foil and leave in a cool, dark place until Christmas. When ready to serve, flame with brandy or serve with holly and sifted icing sugar.