Boozy Christmas Pudding

Christmas pudding in October? “Once again we’re starting Christmas ridiculously early”, I hear you say- and in general I’d agree. But Christmas pudding is the one exception here. In the same way that a stew is best the day after it is made, or a fine wine doesn’t want drinking straight away, a Christmas pudding needs time for the flavours to develop and mature, considering all the fruit, spices, and alcohol. Traditionally, the Christmas pudding was made four of five weeks before Christmas, on “stir-up-Sunday”, where everybody in the house gave the pudding a stir, making a wish while doing so. I think it is worth giving the pudding a little longer though- why not, the flavours will only develop further? Some people even make their Christmas pudding in January, after the previous holiday, then leave it to mature for the entire year.

Our homemade contraption for steaming the Christmas pudding. A colander is inside a Le Creuset filled with boiling water. The pudding is uncovered here, so that it is clear to see the setup of kitchen equipment.

If you haven’t grown up in the UK, you might not have met Christmas pudding before. One of the quintessential English dishes, Christmas dinner would not be complete without the sight of a flaming pudding being put on the table, after having been covered with brandy and set alight. A fruity, dark, sticky pudding, Christmas pudding is traditionally made with suet instead of butter. Suet is an animal fat also used to make pastry and meat stuffings- but vegetarian versions are available, which I actually think produce better results. Using suet is typical in British puddings, like with mincemeat, roly-polys, and even the savoury steak and kidney puddings. You should be able to find suet in most British supermarkets, often with the stuffing mixes or baking goods.

Another key feature to Christmas pudding is that the pudding should be steamed. This can be quite hard to do if you don’t have a steamer at home, and even if you do, your pudding may not fit in it, as ours didn’t. If you are making smaller puddings, or even individual ones, you can simply put them in a saucepan containing boiling water with a lid over the top, and use the steam from that. With a bigger pudding though, you have to get a little creative- the picture on the right illustrates the steaming contraption I came up with, the pudding in a colander with a pyrex bowl keeping the steam in. The pudding is steamed for 8 hours initially, and you have to keep filling up the water, as steam escapes, so make sure you’ve got a day where you can be home all day.

Given how, in British cuisine, Christmas pudding is very traditional, I thought I would base my recipe on one from Delia’s Illustrated Cooking Course, a classic English recipe book. I love a lot of the autumn and winter fruits like plums and figs, so I’ve substituted these for the sultanas, currants, and mixed peel you’ll find in the traditional version. Additionally, I’ve done a lot more.. er.. ‘rigourous’ soaking of the fruit beforehand, going with some of the classic food-alcohol combinations: figs with port, prunes with brandy, rum and raisin, and cherries and kirsch. Christmas pudding is usually has stout or another ale mixed in, but here the soaking alcohol goes back into the pudding itself, so I haven’t included the heavier stout. Hopefully these modifications will give a lighter, fruitier pudding with more complex flavours coming from the alcohol. Now, the most difficult part of the recipe- waiting until Christmas to eat it.

Boozy Christmas Pudding. To complete the effect, serve with Rum butter, or Brandy butter.

Boozy Christmas Pudding

This recipe will make a pudding for a 3-pint pudding basin, which you should be able to get from any good kitchen supply store (I got mine from Boswell’s in Oxford). Just for posterity’s sake, I’ll also list the recipe in ounces.

6oz/170g shredded vegetable suet (you can buy this in UK supermarkets)
3oz/85g self raising flour
6oz/170g white breadcrumbs
1tsp mixed spice
1/2tsp ground nutmeg
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
12oz/340g soft brown sugar
zest 1 orange
5oz/150g raisins
5oz/150g dried figs
5oz/150g dried cherries
5oz/150g prunes
150ml dark rum
150ml port (I use Ruby Port as it is cheap)
150ml kirsch
150ml brandy
3 eggs

1. Soak the fruit. About a week before you plan to make the pudding, get four bowls out. In one, soak the raisins in the rum, in another the figs in the port, in another the cherries in the kirsch, and the prunes in the brandy in the last bowl. Cover all with cling film and leave in the fridge for a week.
2. Make the Christmas pudding mix. Mix together the suet, flour, breadcrumbs, spices, orange zest, and sugar in a large mixing bowl until homogeneous. Saving the soaking liquids, add in the fruit, and mix together. In a jug, beat the eggs and mix in the soaking liquids. Add to the mixing bowl, and combine together. Leave in a 3-pint pudding basin overnight, covered with cling film.
3. Pre-steam the Christmas pudding. The next day, cover the pudding with greaseproof paper, and steam for 8 hours, in whatever steaming contraption you have designed. Once finished, allow to cool, then pack tightly, cover well, and store until the day.
4. Steam the Christmas pudding. On the day, set up your steaming contraption again, and steam for another 2 hours. Serve hot, with flaming brandy.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Oxmas: Brining a Turkey « oxfood
  2. Trackback: Porcini and Scallop Tartlets « oxfood

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