The second part of the traditional festivities: a home-made Christmas Pudding. Don’t know why I’m making it as it seems the whole world despises them, including Jane Grigson, herself. But like she says, English Food wouldn’t be a book on English Food without it included. It’s very easy to make, but requires a huge amount of steaming time; you have to steam them now, and again on the day. The mixture makes five pints’ worth, so I went for two two-pint basins and a one-pint. I’ve had to do mine in lots rather than all at once, so had to guess at the steaming times a bit, but I’ll talk about that when we get to it…
The recipe is not unlike that for the mincemeat; it’s just a question of mixing everything together in the order given. Use your hands to mix it up – it’s a lot easier than using a wooden spoon. Also, you can’t over-stir it, so get everyone in to give it mix. If I remember rightly, to get good luck, thirteen people have to mix it clockwise with their spoon and make a wish before you steam it (if you believe in that sort of stuff). Dry ingredients first: 10 ounces of fresh breadcrumbs, 8 of soft brown sugar, 8 of currants, 10 of chopped raisins, 8 of sultanas, 2 of dried mixed peel, 10 of shredded suet (the packet kind!), plus ½ teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of mixed spice. Now mix in the grated zest of a lemon, a dessertspoon of lemon juice, 2 large, beaten eggs, ¼ pint of milk and a 300ml bottle of Guinness. Divide this between your pudding basins, that have been well-buttered (I’ve bought some of those plastic ones with proper lids so you don’t to bother with foil tops covered with tea towels, etc.). Add a sixpence if you want. Now for the first steaming…If you can fit them in one, then steam for 7 ½ hours – yes you heard me – SEVEN-AND-A-HALF!! If not, a bit of guess-work is required – did the 2 pint ones for four hours, and the 1 pint for three. Don’t know if it’s worked, we will just have to find out on Christmas Day! To store them, either keep them covered in a cool place or freeze them.
Yes I know they look bad in this state,
but they looked like proper puds when I’d done cooking ’em.
FYI: like mincemeat, the Christmas Pud was created as way of preserving meat, and the earliest recipe goes back to 1420, but it wasn’t until the Victorians turned it into a proper dessert, did it become the familiar round shape topped with brandt butter, holly and flaming brandy. The stirring and steaming, traditionally occurred on ‘Stir-Up Sunday’, which was the first Sunday of Advent.
BTW in case you were wondering, Richard Boston was a food writer for The Guardian newspaper.