Well, here we are well into November and it’s time to start thinking about Christmas puddings again. I still intend to make one this year even though it will probably be two or three smaller puddings rather than a large one. I first posted this recipe in 2013 along with several other Christmas recipes that I like to make every year.
It doesn’t have to be made as far in advance as this and if you intend to make an alcohol free version you should probably leave it for a couple more weeks although as I explain you can freeze it. It needs a long cooking time so by doing it ahead you can pick a time when it is convenient to have it on the stove top for several hours rather than rushing to get it done later.
I usually start thinking about Christmas cooking in November. Not that we have a big celebration any more but I love the traditional Christmas Puddings, fruit cake and mince pies and as well as making them for us I also make them for my sister and to give as gifts to friends. I was taught that the earlier you prepared Christmas Pudding the better. They keep well and as they take a long time to cook it’s nice to have it all done and just have to reheat it on Christmas Day.
In a way it’s labour of love. When I was a child my grandmother and later my mother would make the Christmas Pudding. They would be cooked with silver coins or little charms inside and the adults would always make sure that the children found one in their bowl. We continued the tradition when we moved from England to Australia even though the summer weather is often too hot to be eating a boiled or steamed pudding let alone cooking one. Australian decimal coins are made of an alloy, not silver and you can’t cook them in the pudding. Mum would slip five cent pieces into the bowls when she served it instead. I can’t remember when I took over the making of the puddings. Mum never really enjoyed cooking that much and as she got older and found the hot summers tiring I started to do it instead.
We have used a few different recipes, the ones we used to use were made with suet. Traditionally you boil the pudding in a floured cloth which always makes me think of Bob Cratchit‘s Christmas in Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. However, they can also be steamed in a basin or pudding steamer and that’s what we have always done.
A Word About Weight’s and Measures
The recipe I’m going to share with you today originally came from an Australian Women’s Weekly magazine that I bought several years ago now. It had a Christmas cooking section which I liked so much that I use some of the recipes every year. I will give the measurements in metric weights and measures but will put in cup equivalents where I can and mention any substitutes that I’ve used as a variation. Here is a helpful link to convert metric to imperial weights. http://www.taste.com.au/how+to/articles/369/weights+measurement+charts#cup
A friend of mine who is a very good cook says that if you are following a recipe which someone has given you it is always better to weigh the ingredients as cup measurements can be inaccurate. That’s why your aunty Maude’s fruit cake recipe may not come out the same way when you try it. The cup she uses might be an old china tea-cup she always uses for cooking not your nice new metric 250ml measuring cup. My friend also says that even the way you add dry ingredients can make a difference. Do you pour them in straight from the cup or do you spoon them in gradually? So this recipe and the ones that I’ll post in the weeks leading up to Christmas will tell you what I do. Hopefully it will work for you too!
- 4 cups/750 grams mixed fruit
- 1 1/3 cups /185 grams seeded dried dates chopped coarsely
- 1 1/4 cups /185 grams raisins chopped coarsely
- 1 1/2 cups/375ml water
- 3/4 cup/165 grams caster sugar
- 1 cup/200 grams firmly packed brown sugar
- 250g butter chopped ( I sometimes use cooking margarine for this instead)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons bi-carbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 3 eggs beaten lightly
- 1/4 cup/60ml dark rum OR 1 tablespoon rum or brandy essence with 2 tablespoons of orange juice
- 3 cups/210 grams firmly packed white breadcrumbs ( If I don’t have white bread I use whatever I have on hand)
- 1 3/4 cups/260 grams plain flour
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
#Note: cup means 250ml Australian metric sizes
For the steaming method you will also need the following:
- Pudding basin or steamer
- baking paper or greaseproof paper
- aluminium foil
- kitchen string
- large pan for boiling water.
- largest mixing bowl you have
- wooden spoon
This recipe can make one large pudding in an 8 cup/ 2 litre basin or you could make smaller ones. The suggested sizes are 2x 5 cup/1.25 litre basins or 10x 1 cup/250ml moulds. I don’t have enough bowls in those sizes so I use what I have and alter the cooking times accordingly. This year I used one very small bowl, a slightly larger one and a medium-sized one which I didn’t quite manage to fill. It makes working out the cooking times a bit tricky but I’ve been doing it for long enough now.
My thrifty mum and grandma would alter recipes according to what they had in the house and I do the same. If you want to leave out dates and put in currants, sultanas or extra raisins instead it’s fine. Nothing bad will happen I promise! Now, to business.
Combine the fruit, sugars, butter and water in a large pan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Bring to boil.
Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 8 minutes.
Stir in bi-carb soda. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. During this time I usually make my breadcrumbs and prepare my bowls if I haven’t already done so.
Add the combined eggs and rum, then the breadcrumbs, sifted flour and spices. I sift my flour twice, once when I put it on the scales and again when I add it to the pudding. Mix well. At this point my mother and grandmother would invite anyone in the household to take a turn in stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon. Each of us would stir the pudding three times while making a wish. I still make a wish whenever I do this.
If you haven’t already done so grease the pudding basin or pudding steamer and line the base with a circle of baking paper. Spoon in the mixture and top with a sheet of baking paper and a sheet of aluminium foil which has had a pleat folded into it. Secure the cover with string, or if you are using a steamer with a lid you can just seal it. I usually tie a string across the top of the bowl too as it makes it easier to lift out of the boiling water without hurting yourself.
Place the basin or steamer into a large pan filled with enough boiling water to come about half way up the side of the basin. You may have to experiment a bit with this. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and boil for the following times:
- 8 cup/2 litre – 6 hours
- 2×5 cup/1.25 litre – 4 hours
- 10x 1 cup/250ml – 2 hours in a shallow pan, an electric frying pan is suggested for this.
If you have a different size you may have to “guesstimate”. I’m doing my two small ones for 3 hours and the medium one for 4 hours. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the pans while they are cooking and replenish with more boiling water to maintain the water level. I don’t recommend the tall stock pot in the picture above as it is too tall and narrow. However it is all I had available at the time. Something like the one in front works much better.
This pudding keeps for several weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. It can also be frozen and reheated later. If you freeze it thaw it out in the fridge for about 3 days for the largest size. You can reheat it in the microwave, either as individual serves, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about 1 minute per serve, or the entire pudding. We generally turn it out of the bowl and stand it on a serving plate then microwave it on medium for about 15 minutes for the large size or until hot.
If you want to be very traditional you can pour brandy over the pudding before serving it and set it alight. You are bound to get a few “Oohs” and “Aahs.” The pudding can be served with the traditional brandy custard or as we do with thick cream and or custard. Australians often serve it with ice cream too and why not?
I don’t have a photo of the finished pudding about to be served but it should look something like this.