Christmas Traditions

“Oh! All that steam! The pudding had just been taken out of the cauldron. Oh! That smell! The same as the one which prevailed on washing day! It is that of the cloth which wraps the pudding. Now, one would imagine oneself in a restaurant and in a confectioner’s at the same time, with a laundry next door. Thirty seconds later, Mrs. Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre. Oh! The marvelous pudding!”
Charles Dickens, ‘A Christmas Carol’
     When I married Richard I wanted to incorporate new traditions into our family Christmas. Making a proper British Christmas Pudding is one tradition we have added. My Grandma Baah, would always buy a Collin Street Bakery Fruit Cake, but no one in my family ever steamed a pudding. I did find a Christmas Pudding recipe in my Grandmother Macafee’s cookbook but I am not going to use Corn Syrup or suet. Sorry, Grandma. My recipe is a bit more modern and comes from the “Traditional British Cooking” cookbook that I bought a few years ago.
The recipe looks complicated and there are a lot of ingredients and steps, so here goes.
Serves 8
1/2 cup butter
1 generous cup soft brown sugar
1/2 cut self-rising flour
1 tsp. mixed apple pie spice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
My secret ingredient: Bolillos toasted and grated into fine breadcrumbs 
2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs
2 cups golden raisins
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants
3 Tbsp mixed candied peel
1/4 cup almonds
1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
finely grated rind of 1 orange or lemon
juice of 1 orange or lemon mad up to 2/3 cup brandy, rum, or sherry
  1. Cut a disc of greaseproof (waxed paper) to fit the base of the basin and butter the disc and basin.
2. Whisk the butter and sugar together until soft. Beat in the flour, spices, and eggs. Stir the remaining ingredients in thoroughly. Don’t forget to put a clean penny into the mixture so that the person that finds the penny will have good luck in the new year.
3. Turn the mixture into the basin (I use a glass bowl);level to the top. Cover with another disc of buttered greaseproof paper.
4. Make a pleat across the center of a large piece of greaseproof paper, folding in both directions and cover the basin with it, tying it into place with string under the rim. Cut off the excess paper.
5. Pleat a piece of foil in the same way and cover the basin/bowl with it, tucking it around the bowl neatly. Tie another piece of string around the basin and across the top, as a handle. My steamer has a handle on it, so no extra string.
6. Place the basin in a steamer over a pan of simmering water. Steam for 6 hours if a large pudding, 2 hours if it’s a small pudding. Check the water level often and refill pan with hot water as it evaporates. When the pudding has cooked leave it to cool. Remove the foil and greaseproof paper. Wipe the basin clean and replace the paper with clean pieces, ready for reheating. Do not butter the new pieces of paper.
7. This pudding can be made a month in advance and stored in a cool-dry place.
8. Decorate the pudding with a sprig of holly for your Christmas table.
     I could not find any golden raisins or a mixed bag of raisins this year so I bought a mixture of raisins, dried cherries, and cranberries instead. I think it will bring a very nice flavor to the pudding. We shall see.
     Now the fun part. When you are ready to serve, you douse the pudding in rum, brandy, or sherry, and light it! This is fun for the kids and I admit, I like this part as well. Cut the pudding into serving size pieces and serve with custard sauce. You can find Bird’s Custard Powder (’…) in most grocery stores in the US.
Walden, Hilaire. Traditional British Cooking / The Best of British Cooking: A Definitive Collection. London: Hermes House, 2010.

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