To develop my recipe for Christmas Pudding I tried out some very old recipes including the Plum Pudding that was popular before the currant and raisins version that we like today and I tried out other modern chefs recipes. The basic recipes I kept coming back to were Eliza Acton’s, first published in 1845 and that of Peggy Libby (my sister’s mother-in -law) which was taught to her by her father. The two recipes were almost identical, differing only slightly in proportions of ingredients.
Both recipes make a pudding light in colour and texture, and not overly sweet. Neither recipe uses too much in the way of spice, only nutmeg, which I think gives it a cleaner less complicated taste.
I have added to and tweaked the recipes to my own taste. My two pudding gurus did not put nuts in their puddings, but I like the texture and taste of nuts so they are in. You, of course, can decide for yourself which way you want to go.
Makes enough to feed 12, either as one large or two smaller puddings
100 grams fresh fine breadcrumbs
100 grams plain flour
200 grams fresh suet chopped finely
400 grams dried fruit – a mix of raisins, currants and cranberries
125 grams minced/grated apple
150 grams light brown sugar
1 unwaxed orange
half an unwaxed lemon
40 grams walnuts
40 grams hazelnuts
40 grams almonds
Half a teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
Small glass of brandy
I am not a big fan of the commercially produced mixed peel and prefer the flavour and zing of freshly boiled peel. So start by cutting the orange in half and with a very sharp knife pare off the zest leaving the pith behind. Cut into either fine strips or small pieces. Do the same with the half lemon. Put in a small saucepan together with the juice from the fruits.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
If you can get fresh beef suet, which most butchers will provide at a good low price, it makes I think a lighter pudding. I am a little suspicious of how long some of the boxes of ready chopped and floured suet may have been hanging around. Vegetarian suet? If you must. You won’t get the same texture of pudding.
For the fresh suet, all you need to do is chop it finely. Do not be tempted to do this in the food processor as it turns to mush. (As I have learned by grim experience)
Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to combine to a firm mix. If the mix seems a bit too dry, add a little extra brandy.
Generously butter your pudding dish and add the mixture.
Cut a piece of baking parchment to fit the top of the pudding. Then cut a piece of aluminium foil that will cover the top and come two to three centimetres down the basin. It is useful to tie string round the basin to hold the foil, and then loop it round the base and tie at the top to make a handle to aid removal of the pudding from the steaming pan.
The puddings need 3 and a half hours steaming altogether. I give mine a steam for two and a half hours when I first make them, and then another hour or so when I come to serve them.
The pudding will keep for a long time, you can even make them one year for the following one. If you do this keep them in the fridge and every six months or so check that they are all right and feed them with a little brandy.
Generally speaking I like to make my puddings in September for that years Christmas, although this year I have only just made them and we are already well into December. I will let you know if they suffer from a lack of maturing time.