Christmas pudding, also called plum pudding or figgy pudding, comes from England and traditionally was made 5 weeks prior to Christmas. Usually the Sunday before Advent started was called “Stir up Sunday” because every member of the family had to stir the pudding and make a wish. It wasn’t just a fun thing either because it took that many people to actually get the pudding stirred.
Plum pudding is a cake-like substance that is boiled or steamed and made of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, and suet. Isn’t suet a meat bi-product or fat that you put out for the birds in the winter? Yes, it is but suet was all they had back in those days as there was no Vegetable Shortening yet. Plum pudding has a dark color, almost black and many recipes soak it in brandy or ale.
The pudding took 5 weeks to make and cure and that is why there was so much liquor added to it. After being steamed it was placed in a cool dry place and then it would be steamed again for a few hours before serving on Christmas day. Often it was decorated with holly and fir boughs and many times it was doused with brandy and set on fire with much ceremony.
The pudding itself was beautiful to behold. They were usually steamed in forms of which they took the shape of. Then they were decorated with frostings and dried fruit. They were usually served with some sort of sauce as well and they are very rich. A small piece goes a long way to making one full and satisfied.
The following recipe is a more modern recipe as it uses butter instead of suet. There is one long list of ingredients and it takes some time to make, but it is delicious and everyone should have a plum pudding just once in their lives.
Flaming Christmas Pudding
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup dry sherry
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1-1/2 cups dates
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup dried apricots
- 1 cup carrots, grated
- 1-1/2 cup pecans
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup dried currants
- ½ cup dark molasses
- 1 tablespoon orange peel, grated
- 1 tablespoon lemon peel, grated
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ cup brandy
- In a covered bowl place the raisins and pour the sherry over top. Cover and leave at room temperature over night.
- In the morning grease a 2 quart mold with a tight fitting lid. You can use any heat resistant mold from metal or ceramic and if it doesn’t have a top you will just have to tie on parchment paper.
- In a mixer cream the butter and sugar.
- In a small bowl combine the four, baking soda, and salt.
- Add to the sugar mixture until well blended.
- Stir in the raisins with any sherry that is left.
- Chop all dried fruit and nuts well and add everything else except the brandy to the bowl and mix very well. You might have to use a large wooden spoon at the end.
- Spoon mixture into the prepared mold and cover with the lid or cut several layers of parchment paper and tie on to the opening of the mold with cooking string.
- Place a small rack in the bottom of a large pot that holds about 8 to 10 quarters. You do not want the pudding to be touching the bottom of the pot.
- Put the pudding in and then fill the pot around the edges being careful not to hit the top of the mold until it is almost to the top but now flowing into the mold.
- Cover the pot and bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer for 5 hours.
- Check water every ½ hour to make sure it stays at the same level and add more hot water you have boiled in a tea kettle when it gets low.
- Carefully remove mold from the water and uncover.
- Let it cool about 30 minutes then run a sharp knife around the edges and invert it onto a platter.
- Do not try to remove the mold yet.
- The pudding is so heavy that gravity should do it for you eventually.
- When it is totally cool remove mold, wrap in foil and store in the refrigerator.
- You don’t have to make this 5 weeks before Christmas these days. When you are ready to serve grease the same mold and slide it back into it.
- Put a new parchment cover on with string and steam as before for just 1 hour.
- To make it flame heat about ½ cup brandy in a sauce pan and before pouring it on the pudding put a flame to it then pour and bring to the table quickly before the flames go out. Serve with a lemon hard sauce
Lemon Hard Sauce:
- 1-1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- ½ cup butter
- 3 tablespoons brandy
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated
- In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients and beat until light and fluffy.
- Place in the refrigerator over night and put a couple spoonfuls over slices of the pudding.
- You can omit the brandy and use either orange juice or lemon juice instead.
Have a bit of Christmas Cheer this season with a Plum Pudding. Notice there is no plums in the pudding at all. It just seems to be a traditional name since many Christmas Puddings were made with prunes in the past. If you don’t have the time or energy to do a real plum pudding you might want to try a date pudding with a sauce. This doesn’t take near as much time or money and it is similar to a Plum Pudding.