“like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top. Oh, a wonderful pudding!”
Charles Dickens, ‘A Christmas Carol’
Our Christmas dinners for the last 10 years or so have found inspiration from cultures all over the world. China, Italy, Sweden, Mexico, Germany… Some of these cultural traditions have stuck around and carried over year after year. Slowly, a new tradition has started to emerge, an “our” tradition, curated from our global holiday explorations, and a few things that have been passed down to us.
About four years ago, our Christmas season found us exploring England. There were two key elements of a classic English Christmas that we embraced more than the others and have added those traditions each year after.
1) Christmas Crackers – fun filled decorative paper tubes that give a little pop when the two ends are pulled apart. Perhaps the best part of these would be the colorful paper hats (crowns) that are inside. Everything feels so much lighter and more festive while wearing a paper crown!
2) Christmas Pudding – A sort of cake created with an assortment of ingredients, hours of steaming/boiling, days of waiting, more boiling, and then, flaming whiskey. We love it!
The “pudding” is often stirred up and cooked at least a month before serving. This stirring is traditionally done on Stir-Up Sunday (it totally sounds like I just made that up, but I didn’t, seriously), where each person in the household gives the mixture a stir for luck in the new year. The pudding is, then, hung in the cellar (or other cool dark place) until the big day.
In a pinch, I suppose the whole recipe could be done in two days, but it just wouldn’t be the same… The resting period helps all of the flavors come together to develop complexity and unity. I would try to give it at least a week. (Last year I didn’t get to making it soon enough, so we postponed eating it until New Years. Just sayin’ that it’s not too late for you all to make some…) You could also mix it up months in advance. I’ve read about puddings being mixed up in June!
Today, In the spirit of giving… Here is my Christmas Pudding recipe.
6 oz Dried Currants
6 oz Raisins, chopped
8 oz Sultanas, chopped (Golden Raisins)
2 oz Dried Cranberries, chopped (Craisins)
6 oz Dried Figs, stems removed and chopped (I like a mix of Mission and Turkish figs)
5 Tbs Whiskey (We use bourbon, but brandy, rum, scotch, or other whiskey would all work well)
6 oz All-purpose Flour
3 oz Plain Bread Crumbs (We use Panko)
1/2 tsp Nutmeg, ground
1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
1/4 tsp Ginger, ground
1/2 tsp Allspice, ground
1/4 tsp Clove, ground
1/2 tsp Salt, kosher
3 oz Brown Sugar
1 Medium-Large Carrot, peeled and grated
3 oz Almonds, finely chopped
1 Apple, cored and grated
Zest and Juice of 1 Medium Orange
Zest and Juice of 1 Small Lemon
4 oz Beef Suet, grated (It is easier to grate if it is frozen)
4 Eggs, beaten
150 ml of Beer (Darker English ales work great for this)
Now that’s an ingredient list! Yes, there are simpler, more minimalist versions of this, but this one is awesome in all its ridiculousness.
In a medium bowl add the dried fruit along with 5 Tbs of whiskey. Stir it around and let macerate while you prepare the rest of the mix, or let it sit overnight, covered and at room temperature.
In a large bowl stir together the flour, bread crumbs, sugar and spices. Add the carrots, almonds, apple, suet, and citrus peels and juices. Give it another stir.
Now add the dried fruit along with any residual steeping liquid. Stir. Add eggs and beer. Now is the time to give everyone else a turn at stirring!
Grease or spray two pudding basins and then fill each with the pudding mixture. Cover with a layer of parchment paper and then a layer of foil. Securing them with kitchen twine.
Place each pudding into a separate pot and add water until the levels reach about half way up the basins. Bring water to a boil, reduce to a lively simmer and cover. Simmer for 6 hours, periodically checking the water level.
Remove and allow to cool. Store in a cool, out of the way spot for a month or so.
On the desired day, replace the parchment paper and foil with fresh wrappings and boil again for 2 hours. Turn it out of the mold after it has cooled a bit. Then, when ready to serve pour an ounce or so of whiskey over the top of the cake and light it on fire. Serve with brandy butter or a simple icing.