Of plums and puddings and Christmas…

{ Fruit.  Booze.  Dried fruit, raisins, more booze, spices, more raisins, lots of currants, dates, zests of fruit, apple/pear, tanned apricot, candied ginger, dark dark sugar, butter and eggs. }

I was going to write something about Christmas here.  It is, after all, a Christmas cake we’re looking at up there – straight Cratchett-style, boiled for 8 hours in a pot just like ye olde medieval Englyshe wyves used to do when terrible things like sausage casings and beef broth seemed like a good idea (MMM ^-^), before thankfully we had the option of butter.  But then I remembered that talking about Christmas these days is like talking about religion and politics (yethink?) and having an opinion on it is even worse, and really I’m just giddy for a few certain things like strings of tiny electric lights, drinking with family, and mincemeat.

Have I ever even had plum pudding before I decided to make not one but two of these silly things?  Errrrr.   Well, no.  But given that I’m no stranger to food projects that need babysitting while burblegurgling on the stove (see: canning season), I couldn’t help but just throw a whole bunch of quality fruit and spices together into a gigantic bowl earlier this month with my fingers crossed that whatever bowling-ball-resembling Xmas-bomb that emerged from my double saucepots would be both A: delicious enough to get me off the hook for making cookies this year, and B:  drenched enough with booze to actually do that little immortality trick it’s supposed to (ie; keep in the pantry until next Christmas if necessary).  

And see the annoying thing is that despite everything being an apparent Resounding Success (!), I actually can’t confirm either of those two things until freaking Christmas Day!  Which is like totally unfair and makes me all squirmy and excited like a kid hopped up on candy canes and halfway believing that Santa Claus might not only exist but hand out name-brand merchandise, too.  The anticipation!  Eeeeek.

I’ve even managed to post this in time for others to benefit from a recipe I found that was very nice, that comes with a website for troubleshooting and has all manner of plum pudding minutiae.  Thank you Paul!!

and … don’t be afraid of the ingredients list!  It is long but it is mostly raisins.

PAUL DENYER’S CHRISTMAS PUDDING

My Changes:

I used butter instead of suet.  I used candy ginger and apricots instead of lemon peel.

I used a St. Viateur bagel instead of breadcrumbs, and instead of Guinness I just dumped 1/2 a cup of brandy in there.

These things are true.

SERVES 10 TO 12 PEOPLE  This recipe makes one large steamed pudding in a 2 pint (1.2 litre) basin. and will need a day’s advance preparation!

  • Suet, 4 oz (110 g), you’ll need to order at least 175g, chill first then use a grater or chop with a knife
  • Self-raising flour, 2 oz (50 g) sifted
  • White bread crumbs, 4 oz (110 g) from the Bakery, not the Supermarket (see associated recipes page)
  • Salt ¼ teaspoon
  • Nutmeg (freshly grated) 1¼ teaspoons
  • Cinnamon, 1¼ teaspoons of freshly ground (buy a cinnamon stick/quill and grate this just before mixing)
  • Ground Ginger, 1/3 of a teaspoon
  • Ground Cloves ¼ of a teaspoon
  • Soft dark brown Sugar 8 oz (225 g) (the darker the better)
  • Currants 10 oz (275 g)
  • Sultanas 4 oz (110 g)
  • Raisins 4 oz (110 g)
  • Dates (dried or fresh) or Prunes 4 oz (110 g) cut into pieces, removing the stones.
  • Peel, mixed & candied 1 oz (25 g) chop finely
  • Almonds 1 oz (25 g), skinned and chopped (packet bought is OK)
  • Pear or Apple, 1 small, peeled and grated (remove core)
  • Lemon, 1 LARGE, grate the skin (zest) only the yellow surface layer, not the white bit!
  • Eggs 2, size 1 (large) fresh
  • Guinness 5 fl oz (150 ml) you may use any dark beer. (you MAY substitute the same amount of Milk)
  • Muscat 2 Tablespoons (fortified wine, similar to but not the same as Tokay, but Port will substitute)

The following are optional (much less than a ¼ teaspoon of each!);

  • ground Allspice
  • ground Coriander
  • ground Mace

Very optional;

  • 6 silver Threepenny pieces (be very aware of the danger of choking, add these at your own risk, and warn diners!)

The start…Use a LARGE mixing bowl and start by adding the suet, sifted flour (hold the sifter high to add some air) bread crumbs, salt, spices and sugar. Mix these WELL together, then gradually add & mix in all the Almonds Mixed Peel and dried Fruit, Then the Pear (or Apple) and the grated lemon zest. Make sure you have included everything, as, with all those ingredients around, it is easy to miss one. (I generally put all the ingredients all in a line in front of me).

 Step Two

In another bowl break the Eggs (if you break Eggs into another bowl, you won’t spoil the main mixture if one of the Eggs is bad!)
Add the Muscat and Guinness, and blend or whisk them all together. Add this mixture into the large mixing bowl, and stir. (Add the Threepenny pieces here).
Make sure the mixture is well blended, it should look very light brown and should be fairly sloppy, you can test this by taking a spoonful of the mixture and tapping the spoon handle on the side of the bowl. If the mixture is right it will drop instantly from the spoon.
If in the previous test the mixture stuck to the spoon the mixture needs a bit more liquid. Add a trifle more Guinness until the test is successful!
Leave the mixture in the bowl, press the mixture down so there are no air-gaps, cover with stretch-film and leave overnight, (you can leave in the Larder, or, in the Fridge if you’re in a hot country like Australia!) this is important as it will allow the Dried fruit and Breadcrumbs time to absorb the liquid

Step three, now get the pudding bowl/basin ready….

You will need a 2 (Imperial/British) pint (1.2 litre) clean, dry, pudding basin, lightly greased using some Suet. To make sure the pudding doesn’t stick, after greasing the bowl with the Suet, sprinkle a small amount of caster sugar (or icing sugar) around the bowl to coat the suet, then turn the bowl upside down to remove the excess. When greasing the bowl, pay particular attention to the bottom of the bowl. 

Step four, the next day

Next day pack the mixture into the prepared pudding bowl (see instructions above), the mixture should be within ½” of the rim of the bowl (this pudding doesn’t expand much), cover it with a double sheet of greaseproof/silicone/baking paper (I use GladBake) and a sheet of foil. Tie these securely with string, pudding basins have a rim ideal for string! Tie another piece of string (see photo) to make it easy for you to lift the pudding out of the pot.

Take your saucepan, add your home made “trivet”, I just use a piece of bent coathanger wire to keep the pudding off the bottom of the saucepan (otherwise the pudding burns where it touches the bottom of the saucepan).
Put the pudding in the large saucepan, then add boiling water, (about half to three-quarters of the way up the bowl) set to a high heat and watch it until the water boils. Reduce heat to allow a gentle simmer and steam the pudding for about 8 hours, make sure the lid is on for the whole of that time.

Make sure you keep a regular eye on the water level about once every 30 minutes, and top it up with boiling water as needed.
When the pudding is cooked, remove from the pot, let it get quite cold, remove the paper and foil and replace with fresh ones, duplicating your previous wrapping. (as an optional extra, you can add a top layer of pudding cloth, it makes it more attractive on Christmas day).

Store in a cool dark place, a larder will be fine. NOTE: this will keep for years stored like this!

Christmas Day

To serve on Christmas day, steam for 2½ hours.

Remove from the Saucepan, leave for a couple of minutes for any pressure to escape, remove string, foil and paper, you will find that it’s a dark colour, and smells lovely! give it a little shake to observe how loose it is, (you might need to loosen it a bit using a flexible knife around the sides). Have a warmed serving plate ready, place the plate upside down on top of the pudding bowl, then flip the whole thing over give a gentle shake (you might hear a “slurp” sound, as the pudding releases). Place the plate on the table and carefully remove the bowl. HOORAY, it’s done!
Serve with any or all of the following; Cream, home made Custard, or Cumberland Rum Butter.

And one last bit of festive cheer, c/o anachronistic gastronomic miniseries’d feastmaking:

Merry Skidzmas to everyone!

Christmas Pudding on Citeeze

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