This is an old family recipe, which came to us via my husband’s late grandmother. It made two, two pint puddings in its original form so I reduced the recipe as Christmas pudding is very rich and this would serve a huge number of people. The recipe below would still serve at least 12 people very generously. We have served 15 and still had leftovers!
As this recipe is from the Victorian era it does take a fair amount of time and effort. You need to start the night before to soak the fruit, and the pudding requires 8 hours of steaming (plus 4 more on the day you serve it). Christmas puddings were originally cooked in a cloth (which can make for a rather soggy pudding), so we now use a more modern method. You need one two pint (or two one pint) pudding bowls/basins, greaseproof or waxed paper, aluminum foil and string, along with two (heat proof) one pint pudding bowls or one two pint pudding bowl and a saucepan big enough to steam them in plus a small rack (or saucer placed upside down) to lift the pudding basin off the bottom of the pan.
Nana’s Christmas Pudding
(Makes two one pint puddings or one two pint pudding)
half a lemon, rind and juice
8 ounces currants*
8 ounces raisins*
8 ounces sultanas*
(*or use a total of 1½ pounds of mixed raisins and dried fruit)
3 ounces brandy
half an orange, juiced
8 ounces of suet
8 ounces brown sugar
8 ounces cooking apples, peeled and grated
4 ounces mixed peel (Also known as candied peel, this is widely available in the UK and Europe and available in the baking aisles of some North American grocery stores. You can also make your own.)
4 ounces flour
4 ounces fresh white breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon mixed spice
Mix lemon rind and juice, the orange juice and the brandy together. Add the currants, raisins and sultanas (or mixed dried fruit) in the brandy, lemon rind juice and orange juice overnight.
In the morning, grease the pudding basins with butter. Put the soaked fruit and any juice and liquor remaining into a very large bowl. Add the suet, sugar, apples, mixed peel, flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, salt and mixed spice. (All the ingredients should be included at this point.) Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Traditionally the whole family is supposed to help with this, and the children all take a turn as well. Everyone makes a secret wish as they take their turn to stir.
Fill the pudding basin(s) to about three quarters full with the pudding mixture.
To wrap the pudding for steaming lay a sheet of greaseproof paper slightly larger than your pudding basin on the counter. Then lay a sheet of aluminium foil over that. Pick up both and make a pleat down the centre. Put this on top of your pudding bowl and wrap round firmly. Then use a long piece of string to tie the paper and foil tightly round the bowl, leaving a couple of nice long ends of string. Bring the extra string back up over top of the bowl and tie it under the string on the other side to make a handle so you can get the pudding out of the steamer easily. Trim round the edges of the paper and foil with scissors to ensure that none of it drips into the water. Here is a video from the BBC showing how it is done.
The pudding needs to steam for eight hours. You need a steamer or saucepan which is much larger than the bowl itself for each pudding bowl. Place a rack (or small heatproof saucer upside down) on the bottom of each saucepan, and place your prepared pudding bowl on top of the saucer. Carefully fill the edges of the saucepan with boiling water from the kettle to about half way up the pudding bowl. Put the lid on the saucepan. Bring the water to a slow boil so the pudding can steam gradually. Steam for eight hours. You need to stay close by and top up the water very regularly so that the pudding does not boil dry.
After eight hours, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool down a bit before carefully removing the pudding from the saucepan using the string handle. It’s good to have a tea towel close by as the pudding bowl will be wet. Dry the bowl off, remove the paper, foil and string and sit the pudding in its bowl on a heat proof surface to cool down.
When the pudding and bowl are completely cool, tie a fresh piece of greaseproof paper and foil over them just as before, and store in a cool place away from draughts. (The top of a cupboard works well.)
On the day you serve the pudding, you will need to steam it again using the same method for at least two hours and up to four hours. Once the pudding has steamed, carefully remove the basin from the pan, dry it off and remove the paper, foil and string. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pudding basin.
Invert the pudding over a plate or cake stand, using an oven mitt to protect your hands and holding both the plate and pudding basin firmly. Shake the pudding basin slightly so that the pudding falls out on to the plate.
Traditionally the pudding is garnished with a sprig of holly, but if you do this be sure to remove it before serving as holly is poisonous. Take the pudding to the table.
To flame the pudding, put a small amount of brandy or vodka in a pitcher. Carefully pour a small amount of the alcohol from the pitcher over the pudding and light it with a match or lighter. Once the flame is burning, you will need to keep carefully adding more alcohol a bit at a time in order to prolong the display as much as possible. Take care not to burn yourself or anyone else!
Once the flames die down, allow the pudding to cool a bit before carefully removing the holly sprig (which will still be hot). At this point you will need a knife and a cake slice to carefully serve small slices of the pudding on to plates, offering custard with a bit of brandy added to it, brandy butter (also known as hard sauce) and/or cream to dress the pudding. To make hard sauce, simply beat together about half a cup of butter, a cup of confectioner’s sugar and a tablespoon or two of brandy until the mixture is lightly whipped.