This year, Downtown Dad and I decided to establish some new Christmas traditions by preparing foods from our respective ancestral lands. On Christmas Eve, he paid tribute to his Norwegian heritage with baked salmon, oyster stew, pickled herring, and lefsa. I opted for a Celtic/British menu the next day that featured roasted lamb, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and, inspired by having watched 8 different versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – for dessert, a traditional Christmas pudding.
What could be more Christmassy than Mrs. Cratchit’s pudding, which despite her trepidation, was always a triumph? And who hasn’t sung that caroling standard ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ and wondered about the allure of figgy pudding? I mean when the inevitable marauding band of rogue Victorians come to your door, sing a carol or two, then demand figgy pudding, wouldn’t be lovely to be able to comply with their unreasonable demands?
So what is figgy or Christmas pudding? My research into this question led me to some of the most varied and merry sites, all of which helped me learn more about my intended treat. Basically, it is often affectionately called, Christmas pud, and it isn’t exactly what we think of here in the US as pudding, it’s more of a really moist cake.
Making this dessert is an adventure, from understanding the equipment and ingredients and their measurements, to the process and traditions behind putting it all together, hearing that satisfying ‘plop’ when the pudding releases from its bowl onto the serving plate, to actually tasting the finished product and sharing it with friends.
I can tell you though, despite the name, and the greedy pudding crazed bands it attracts, it’s quite delicious. But you do need to be willing to put in the time and effort to make it. I did take the time and effort and I was so delighted with the results I just had to share it here!
2 1/2 cups dried fruit of your choice (roughly chopped)
1/3 cup candied peel, or candied ginger
2 cups Brandy or Sherry
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp Mixed Spice (see additional recipe)
2/3 cup flour
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon and 1 unwaxed orange
1 1/4 cups grated cold butter
1 egg, beaten
1 Tblsp maple syrup
3/4 cup Extra Stout Guinness
1/3 cup milk
Soak the dried fruit and peel in the sherry overnight.
Whisk together the brown sugar, spice, flour, salt zest and breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl. Beat together the egg, butter and maple syrup then mix into the dry ingredients along with the stout and milk.
Stir. Stir some more. Keep stirring. It will take a long time for the dry ingredients to absorb the liquid because of the massive amount of butter. It will look curdled, but trust me, it will turn out fine. Stirring should traditionally be shared by everyone in the household, stirring from east to west, while making a wish.
Stir in the fruit and any sherry in the bottom of the bowl, and then taste the mixture and add a little more mixed spice or sherry if you like.
Thoroughly grease a pudding basin (I used a two quart ovenproof bowl). Cut a round of waxed paper to fit the very bottom of the bowl, smooth it down and be sure to grease the waxed paper as well.
Spoon the mixture in – it should be no more than three-quarters full. Cut length of waxed paper a couple of inches larger than the top of the bowl, to use as a cover. Cut a length of foil paper the same size. Pleat the foil and waxed paper together to form some expansion room. Cover the bowl with both sheets of the pleated papers. Tie the paper tightly with string to ensure that it is water tight. Tie another length of string around the bowl across it’s diameter both ways to create a handle for your pudding basin.
Using a pot with a lid that is large enough to accommodate your bowl, put in enough water to only come up to the middle of the bowl. Put an upturned saucer or jar lit in the bottom to keep the pudding from burning. Using your string handle, carefully lower the covered pudding bowl into the pot. Put a lid on the pot. Steam the pudding for 4 hours, checking the water level regularly.
After 4 hours, turn off the heat, remove the lid and let the pudding cool slightly. Remove the pudding using the string handle and let it cool completely. Once cool, cover your pudding with plastic or cling wrap and store in a cool place until Christmas Day, feeding occasionally with alcohol if you like your puddings boozy.
When you’re ready to eat it, repeat the covering and steaming process for 2 hours then cool slightly, top with booze, light and serve with brandy butter, custard, or ice-cream.
Would you be interested in a Christmas Pudding making class at Crooked Lane Farm on or around the first Weekend of Advent in 2018? Lets get together to stir up some tradition and fun memories so your Christmas Dinner will be a triumph!