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Friday, 19 November 2010

The first Christmas Pudding

It’s getting towards that time of year, and it’s still not too late to make your very own Christmas Pudding.  Some people make them months, even a year, in advance, but don’t worry too much about the so-called “maturing time”: I have made this pud just a few days before Christmas and it has turned out fine.

When I first got this recipe, I was told that this was the first Christmas pudding, served to King George 1 in 1714, and that the recipe is supposed to be authentic.  Since then, I have found several recipes for the “original”, and they all differ!  This recipe will give you a great pudding: it omits the breadcrumbs found in many recipes, and the result is not as heavy as some.

The mixture is enough to fill two three-pint (1.5 litre) pudding basins – you could make one vast pudding, but only if you have an absolutely huge pan to steam it in.  If you don’t need two puds, you could, of course, halve the ingredients and just make one.  Or make the two, and keep one for next year: as long as you don’t break the seal, it will be fine in a cool cupboard, or you can freeze it, defrosting overnight before you give it the final steam.


8oz/225g cut mixed peel
8oz/225g stoned prunes, chopped
8oz/225g seedless raisins
8oz/225g sultanas
8oz/225g currants
8oz/225g glace cherries, whole, or cut into smaller pieces, as you prefer
8oz/225g plain flour
8oz/225g muscovado sugar
4oz/100g chopped dates
2 teaspoons mixed spice
Half a grated nutmeg
6 eggs, beaten
Quarter pint/150ml whole milk
Juice of a lemon
Glass of brandy (it doesn’t specify how big a glass, so I usually use about a tumbler full)
A little soft butter for greasing the basins

Method – (you will need a very large mixing bowl!)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add beaten eggs and milk and stir well.  Whisk brandy and lemon juice together and add to the other ingredients, stirring all very thoroughly.

Grease your pudding basins and fill with the mixture: leave a little room at the top for expansion; half an inch will do it.  Cover the tops with a double layer of kitchen foil, pleated, again to allow for expansion, and tie firmly with kitchen string.  Tie a cloth round the bowl, to stop it knocking against the side of the boiling pan: you can also leave a “loop” of the cloth and/or string to make handling/lifting the hot pudding easier.

First Cooking:  on the day you make it.  Carefully lower the puddings into pans of boiling water, making sure the water doesn’t come more than halfway up the basins.  Put lids on the pans, and cook at the slowest possible simmer for five-six hours.  Check the water level from time to time to make sure it isn’t boiling dry, and top up if necessary.  Once cooked, allow to cool, then put them somewhere safe until needed.

Second Cooking: on Christmas Day, or whenever you are to serve it, repeat the simmering process as above, but you only need to cook this time for around three hours.  Space on the cooker is usually at a premium on Christmas Day, so you can time your cooking to end around an hour before your meal: the pudding will stay perfectly hot until you need it, especially if covered with a towel or thick cloth.

Traditionally, you “flame” the pudding at the table before serving.  The safest way to do this is to gently warm a small measure of brandy (or rum) in a pan – don’t get it too hot, or the flammable alcohol will boil off.  Take pud, tipped from the bowl onto a suitable dish, to the table, pour over the warmed spirit, and light immediately.  Wait for the “oohs and aahs” (and the flames) to subside, then serve with cream, custard or brandy butter.

Any leftovers keep well, and can be simply reheated in the oven, microwave, or, traditionally, gently fried in a little butter.

Merry Christmas!

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