The plum pudding is often made several months before Christmas, to give it time to mature, and in home made puddings it is customary to put tiny metal “charms” in the mixture. On the day itself, the charms foretell the future of whoever discovers them in their slice of pudding. Another tradition associated with Christmas puddings is that all members of the family should take the wooden spoon with which it is being mixed, stir the mixture and make a wish.
Set It Alight!
The pudding is usually set alight briefly before eating. The tradition of setting sweetmeats on fire is an old one in England. In the game of “snapdragon, ” brandy was warmed and placed in a shallow dish, nuts and raisins were put in it and the brandy was set alight. Players snatched as many burning raisins and nuts out of the brandy as possible, and extinguished them by eating them!
Lucky Charms and Coins
Although there are many Christmas puddings available in shops, they do not contain charms and the good ones can be very expensive. Often, too, shop puddings are not vegetarian, relying on suet to provide the fat.
Here is a recipe for home made vegetarian Christmas pudding which is genuinely Victorian, and it is also simple to make. This recipe has been in use for a hundred years.
Authentic Victorian Vegetarian Christmas Pudding
- 225g (½ pound, 1 ½ cups) dried figs
- 225g (½ pound, 3 ½ cups) breadcrumbs
- 225g (½ pound, 1 ½ cups) raisins
- 225g (½ pound, 1 ½ cups) currants
- 225g (½ pound, 1 ½ cups) almonds
- 225g (½ pound, 1 ½ cups) brazil nuts
- 125g (4 ounces, ¾ cup) candied peel, finely chopped
- 125g (4 ounces, 1 cup) butter
- 125g (4 ounces, 1 cup) brown sugar
- 2 lemons, rind and juice
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 2 medium apples
- 125g (4 ounces, ¾ cup) honey
- 1 scant teaspoon salt.
- 1 wineglass brandy, if liked.
- Mince the figs, raisins and candied peel together. If too sticky, add breadcrumbs to the mixture.
- Grind the nuts. Chop the apples finely. Stir very well with a wooden spoon.
- Melt the honey, sugar and butter gently till blended, add to the mixture.
- Add lemon juice and rind.
- Beat the eggs, and add. Stir very well indeed.
- Add the charms and coin, if used, having first boiled them to sterilize them.
- Add a glassful of brandy if required.
- Put the mixture in to two large (2 pint) cooking bowls, which have been thoroughly greased. Fill them about ¾ full. Cover the top of each mixture with greaseproof paper. Cover the top of the entire bowl with kitchen foil, secured by a rubber band. Alternatively, you can do it the Victorian way, and cover each bowl with waxed greaseproof paper, tied up with string, and wrap it then in a large cloth for boiling, also tied up with string!
- Place each pudding in a large pan of boiling water. Boil, covered, for three hours. The steam must not get into the mixture, so check that the coverings are secure. Remove from pan and cool. It can be eaten right away, or kept in a cool dry place for 2-6 months to mature.
- On Christmas Day heat through by repeating the boiling process for 2 hours. It can be microwaved, but take care it does not dry out. Or it can be served cold.
Pour brandy over the pudding at table. light the brandy and when the flames die, pour over cream, custard or brandy-butter and decorate with a sprig of holly.
For more sweet vegetarian and vegan recipes take a look at Two Great Vegan Desserts for All Tastes and for more historic vegetarian food, try Two Historic Vegetarian Recipes