The odd thing about a plum pudding is that it contains no plums at all. Yet it is so sweet that I don’t think the Victorian Englishmen could have chosen a better name for it.
The pudding began as a festive gruel in the middle ages. Yet the Victorians, with their ingenuity, invented the method of steaming the pudding in a basin.
The entire family would gather together to engage in pudding making festivities on a certain day called Stir-up Sunday. Here, each member of the house would take a turn to stir the plum pudding while making a wish. The lead cook would then put into the pudding batter either a ring or a coin or a thimble. The person who bit into the ring was, according to tradition, destined for marriage, the person who bit into the coin was likewise destined for wealth, and the person who bit into the thimble was destined for a happy, but single, life.
So how do we make one of these anyway?
Well, in modern times we might skip the Stir-up Sunday rituals, the coins and rings and all that, but we surely want the joy that comes from the pudding. So let’s make it!
To make it, you need the following ingredients (this recipe comes courtesy of Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions by Sarah Ban Breathnach):
2 ounces candied lemon peel
2 cups raisins
2 cups currants
1/2 cup almonds, blanched and chopped
2 small nutmegs grated (1 teaspoon nutmeg)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated almonds
12 ounces fresh brown bread crumbs
1 pound fresh suet, finely shredded
8 ounces dark brown sugar
8 eggs, beaten
1 wineglass brandy (4 ounces)
1 wineglass sherry (4 ounces)
Enough milk to mix (approx. 1/2 cup)
So how do we use all of these ingredients to make a pudding. Well, we first suggest we coarsely chop the candied fruit peel, raisins, currants, and almonds – mixing all of this with the spices.
We then blend all of this in a large bowl with flour, salt, and the ground almonds. Then work in the bread crumbs, suet, and sugar with your hands, mixing thoroughly. After this, add eggs (which you should have beaten lightly), to the mixture. Then add the allotted amounts of brandy, sherry, and milk to the mixture, until it becomes a soft paste. Refrigerate the mixture.
The next morning, pour the mixture into a well buttered pudding basin, cover the basin with greased paper and cloth, and tie it tightly around the rim of the basin.
Then you will want to set the basing in a large roasting pan, which is itself filled to the sides with water. And you will steam the pudding ofr 8 hours.
After this, you will remove the cloths and cover the pudding with fresh ground paper and muslin. You will want to store it for a month in a cool, dark place, and steam it for an additional 2 hours on Christmas day. After this, you will want to unmold the pudding.
To serve, add a sprig of holly to he pudding, cover it with brandy, and bring it to the table flaming. You will of course want to add a topping to the pudding. Most will probably choose whipped cream, but I recommend brandy butter. Or you could use both!