Dear Constant Reader,
You may have seen the title of this missive and thought “Mina, Christmas pudding? Christmas is like a year away. Can’t you read a calendar?” Fear not, O Reader, for this pudding wants to be made well in advance and aged like a fine wine or cheese. The longer it sits, the better it tastes. The last pudding I served had been aging for about 16 months and was just amazing.
Now, one does not *have* to age a Christmas pudding — there are Victorian recipes for puddings to be made and eaten right away — nor does one even have to use alcohol for an unaged pudding (the temperance movement, you know), but those are not the kind of pudding we’re going to make.
This pudding is going to be steamed and will require some specialized equipment, which I shall discuss in another missive.
You need a vast array of ingredients (so many I couldn’t get them all in the shot), thusly:
Flour, bread crumbs, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, mace, various dried fruits, nuts, lemon, eggs, suet, and booze.
The most important ingredient is suet. Suet is a white fat from around beef kidneys and has a very neutral flavor. Any other beef fat (aka tallow) can have a kinda meatish taste. I’m told there is vegetarian suet out there and some people have used vegetable shortening in steamed puddings, but I don’t know how well it ages.
The suet should be grated. I find it’s easiest to freeze it and then grate it with a food processor. If you’re grating by hand, keep it cold, so it stays firm. If it starts to get mushy, put it back in the fridge for a bit. Once I’ve grated a batch of suet, I split it into 4-ounce portions and freeze them until I need them for pudding.
Equally important is the booze. I use rum, but you could also use brandy or bourbon, really whatever brown liquor you prefer. You need this for the aging process. Also for the flaming, but that’s quite a ways away.
Combine the flour, bread crumbs, sugar, salt, and spices in a big bowl. I make my own bread crumbs, but you could use purchased plain crumbs.
Add the fruit and nuts. I use a mix of raisins, golden raisins, currants, dried cranberries, dried sour cherries (from my tree), and candied citron. Sometimes I add candied orange peel, but I didn’t make any this Christmas, so I didn’t have any to hand. You could pretty much add any dried fruit you liked, as long as it was cut into little bits, about raisin-sized. You’ll want 5-ish cups of fruit. For the nuts, I use slivered almonds, but you could substitute your favorite nut, chopped into bits. Toast the nuts for better flavor.
Peel the lemon and chop the zest finely. Add to the batter. Hang on to the rest of the lemon.
Toss the fruit around in the dry ingredients until they’re coated. This will keep the fruit from clumping up and sticking together.
Add the suet and mix it in. Lightly beat the eggs and mix them in. Juice the lemon and add the juice and then the rum. At this point it’s going to be easiest to mix with your hands.
Your pudding batter is ready to be molded and steamed! Steaming is a bit of a process and deserves its own missive. I’ll cover that next week.
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each ground mace, nutmeg, and ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup dried currants
1 cup rasins
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
1/2 dried cranberries
1/3 cup candied citron
1/3 cup candied orange peel
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 oz. suet, finely grated
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup rum
Combine the flour, bread crumbs, sugar, salt, and spices in a big bowl.
Add the fruit, nuts, and lemon peel.
Toss the fruit with the dry ingredients so they’re coated. This will keep the fruit from clumping up and sticking together.
Add the suet and mix it in. Mix in the lightly beaten eggs. Add the lemon juice and then the rum. Mix with your hands.
Stay tuned for the next step!
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