I love this time of year, always have! All the smells, sounds and sights which go along with Christmas. When I was small, I knew it was getting near when I would go stay at my grandparents.
My ‘little’ Grandma, as she was affectionately called, would be busy scurrying around the kitchen of her bungalow, preparing all sorts of festive treats. See had quite a task cooking up around 10 individual Christmas puddings for her sons and their families.
They would be wrapped in traditional muslin cloth, tied with string, and steamed in multiple saucepans. The smell of spice and fruit would fill the air as steam rose high over our heads. This was a yearly ritual for my Grandmother and she would prepare a feast of iced Christmas cakes, mince pies and sausage rolls to delight guests over the festive period.
Since then I try recreate the same scenes, in my own kitchen, although not to the same scale. I only need prepare one family Christmas pudding and maybe a mince pie of two.
My son Charlie, who is almost seven, shares in my passion for cooking and baking. So naturally, I involve him in creating the baked goods for Christmas.
Making your own Christmas pudding is time consuming but well worth it. I prepare a traditional recipe including booze and suet, but you can tailor yours to suit by using vegetarian suet and admitting the alcohol. I personally don’t add any nuts but they could be included.
I start by purchasing all the ingredients and individually weighing them out. The night before you want to cook the pud, presoak all the ingredients in the brandy and stout. This gives time for the flavours to infuse. It’s common to get everyone to give it a good stir for luck.
Charlie certainly likes to pour in the fruit to the mixing bowl and stirs the big wooden spoon, maybe a little too much.
After at least 12 hours the pudding can be steamed in a pudding basin over hot water. It isn’t necessary to have any special steamer or equipment as long as the basin is elevated. I stand mine on a jam jar lid, which does the job perfectly. The pudding can then be stored for as long as you like and needs a little further steaming on the big day before it can be enjoyed.
‘Little’ Grandma’s Christmas Pudding Recipe
4 oz suet
2 oz self-raising flour
4 oz breadcrumbs
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
8 oz soft dark brown sugar
4 oz sultanas
4 oz raisins
10 oz currants
1 oz mixed candied peel
1 small cooking apple, peeled and finely chopped
zest small orange
2 tbsp brandy
150 ml stout
Start the day before you want to steam the pudding. Take a large mixing bowl, add the suet, flour, breadcrumbs, spices and sugar and mix. Mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, apple and orange and lemon zest.
Measure out the brandy and stout. To this add the eggs and beat together. Pour this liquid into the large mixing bowl over the other ingredients. Mix thoroughly, cover the bowl and leave overnight.
After at least 12 hours, pack the mixture into a basin and cover with baking parchment, tied with string (don’t forget to make a string handle).
Steam the pudding for 8 hours, topping up the water as you go along.
Once steamed, let it cool and replace the paper and string. Wrap foil over the top of the basin and store in a cool, dry place until Christmas Day.
On Christmas day steam for 2 and 3/4 hours, serve, and then enjoy!