Christmas pudding is the dessert traditionally served on Christmas day in the United Kingdom (especially England) and some other Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. It is sometimes known as plum pudding, though this can also refer to other kinds of boiled pudding involving a lot of dried fruit.
The pudding needs to be made and cooked well in advance, to allow the flavours to mix (and to save the cook labour on Christmas day); it is merely reheated when it is to be eaten.
The following is a Sussex recipe for Christmas pudding that is known to have been in annual use for over 50 years without a break, and is believed to have been used largely unaltered since the late nineteenth century, despite the difficulties in gathering the ingredients during the rationing in force in the UK in two world wars. All measurements are in imperial units (with metric measurements in brackets), generally meaning that volume measurements are 20% larger than with the Queen Anne units used in the USA. Originally, twice or even four times these quantities would have been made.
(As an aside; Jane Grigson notes in her wonderful book "English Food" that Mrs Beeton's recipe for Steak and Kidney pudding was sent in by a correspondent from Sussex and mentions that by the 1850s, when Mrs Beeton was writing, that Sussex had been famous for its puddings for at least a century. Mrs Grigson thus conjectured that steak and kidney pudding also had its origins in Sussex. The most famous pudding indubitably linked to the county is Sussex Pond Pudding, the most magnificent of all suet puddings.)
To make two 1-pint (0.56 litres) puddings (remember: use the same measurements throughout (imperial or metric))
- ½ pound (lb) (225g) raisins
- ¾ lb (340g) currants
- ½ lb (225g) sultanas
- ½ lb (225g) sugar (or less)
- ¾ lb (340g) shredded suet (can be vegetarian; see note below)
- ½ lb (225g) breadcrumbs
- ¼ lb (110g) crystallised peel
- 2 teaspoons (tsp) cinnamon
- 2 oz (55g) almonds (chopped, but not too small)
- 1/3 cup (about 60g) flour
- 1/3 pint (about 190ml) milk
- 3 large eggs (beaten)
- Juice and rind of 1 lemon
- 1/3 of a nutmeg
- Mix and stir well.
- Place in pudding basins, and cover with cloths or buttered greaseproof paper, tied tightly in place with string.
- Steam for 7 hours and keep till Christmas day.
- To prepare for serving, steam for 2 hours. Times can be reduced by using a pressure cooker.
- Suet can be difficult to find in some countries, e.g. the USA. Butter is an excellent substitute. To incorporate the butter in the mixture, melt it in a microwave or saucepan, and pour into your mixing bowl.
- It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver 3d piece (the threepence), or a sixpence. However this practice fell away once real silver coins were not available, as it was believed that alloy coins would taint the pudding.
- Once turned out of its basin, the Christmas pudding is traditionally decorated with a spray of holly, then dowsed in brandy, flamed, and brought to the table ceremonially - where it should be greeted with a round of applause. It is best eaten with brandy butter, cream (lemon cream is excellent) or custard. Christmas puddings have very good keeping properties and many families keep one back from Christmas to be eaten at another celebration later in the year.