There might be a mutiny in my house if there was no pudding on Christmas Day!
Each Christmas I decorate a tree with my kids, we hang our stockings, and we roast chestnuts on the fire. Before tucking into a turkey dinner, we pull crackers, complete with their silly hats and corny jokes. Jokes that we laugh at simply because it’s Christmas. And we eat pudding!
Over the years holidays become entrenched with customs and the Christmas pudding boasts customs all its own. In Britain, a steamed pudding, rich with sultanas, raisins, and currants, laced liberally with sherry or brandy, is the traditional end to the Christmas day dinner. I have memories of kitchen windows running with condensation, from the double boiler steaming the anticipated fruity dessert. The aroma of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger, hanging heavily in the moist air, was all part of Christmas.
When making the pudding it’s customary for each member of the household to take a turn in stirring, whilst making a wish for the coming year. Some even say it should be stirred from East to West in honour of the Wise Men. Then there is the age-old tradition of putting a silver sixpence in the pudding, thought to bring good luck to its finder on Christmas day. No longer minted, since decimalization in the 1960’s, a sixpence, particularly one of silver, would be hard to find today. Hence my puddings won’t have silver coins in them this year.
Once ready for serving the pudding is adorned with a sprig of holly, to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus. Brandy is often poured over the pudding and flambéed to give a spectacular display, as the host places it on the table. This too has its origins in the belief that it represented Jesus’ love and power. For me, it’s more to do with the ” Ooh” and “Ah” that the blue flames produce.
We each of us interpret these customs in our own way, molding them and fashioning them to become our own. While living in Cornwall I adopted the custom of adding a liberal topping of clotted cream; sacrilege to use anything else. Here in Canada I make do with whipped cream. Such hardships!
Christmas is coming!
I recently made my puddings, ready for the upcoming festive season, and as always the very act of stirring the fruit and smelling the spices reminded me of Christmas past.
As I stirred, I can’t recall if it was East to West, I remembered another kitchen. A kitchen in which my young sons, wooden spoons in hand, would pull up a stool to the counter. With sleeves rolled up, they would work those spoons and make their wishes. An exciting day albeit a sticky one!
This year, with my children grown, I stirred on my own, but I made sure to make wishes for everyone. I added the spices and poured in the sherry. All the time thinking that even if they can’t be here to stir, then surely the pudding will be a strong enough lure to bring them home at Christmas!
Christmas Pudding Recipe, Adapted from one of my all time favourite cookery books,‘The Cranks Recipe Book’
Makes two rich, dark and fruity puddings
Wholemeal breadcrumbs 6 oz
100% Wholemeal Flour 3 oz
Dried Raisins 16 oz
Dried Cranberries 8oz
Almonds chopped 1oz
Raw Brown Sugar 8oz
Ground Mixed Spice 1 tsp
Ground Nutmeg 1/4 tsp
Free-Range eggs, large 3
Raw Sugar Marmalade 1 tbsp
Sherry or Brandy, 4fl oz
Lemon, grated rind
Mix the dried fruit and cover with sherry or brandy. (You may need to add a little more than 4fl oz) Leave to soak overnight. Melt the butter, beat the eggs, and add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Stir well until evenly mixed.
Grease 2 pudding basins and press the mixture into them. Cut 2 large circles of greaseproof paper – about 4″ larger than the top of the basins – brush them with oil and make a pleat in each. Place over the basins and secure with string. Top with a piece of kitchen foil. Steam for 6 hours.
Reheat on Christmas Day by steaming for a further 1 and 1/2 hours.serve with cream or brandy sauce.