The Aperitif Guy
6:31 AM 13th November 2019
The end of November is the time to make your Christmas puddings. They need a few weeks for the flavours to come together and mellow. Traditionally, the collect in the Book of Common Prayer for the last Sunday before Advent served as a reminder:
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
With all this talk of stirring and fruit, the Sunday became known as “Stir-up Sunday” and this was the day the cook would make puddings for the festive season.
I always make my own puddings. Once you've had a home-made one, you'll never buy a mass-produced one again, and you'll never imagine them to be heavy, either. Christmas puddings are only heavy when they're made under pressure and can't rise properly. This is why your shop-bought one - cooked in a sealed bowl, in an industrial-sized pressure cooker, then rapidly cooled to make room for another few thousand - feels like a lead brick on your stomach. A pudding needs to steam for several hours, so it isn't particularly economical to make just one. I've bought a big steamer that will hold 10 puddings of differing sizes and increase the quantities in my recipe to make for all the family.
My Christmas pudding recipe
You'll need to make the pudding mix a day early. Resting it overnight allows the fruit to absorb some of the liquid, softening it and keeping the pudding light. I've experimented with different combinations of fruit over the years, and this is the one I've found to taste best. As you can see from the picture, it's very popular. I'm afraid I usually use imperial measures for baking, by the way: I was taught by my grandmother, and she’d never heard of grammes and litres. You’ll have to do your own conversion if you need it.
2oz self-raising flour.
4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon ground, mixed spice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
a good pinch of ground cinnamon
8oz dark muscovado sugar
2oz ready-to-eat apricots, chopped
4oz chopped dates
4oz dried figs, chopped
1oz chopped stem ginger
1oz chopped mixed nuts
1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and grated
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 orange
2 medium eggs
¼ pint strong dark ale (I use Theakston's Old Peculier)
a generous glass of dark rum
Sift the four & spices together into your largest bowl. Add the other dry ingredients and fruits. Beat the eggs with the rum and the ale, then stir this mix into the other ingredients in the bowl. At this point, it's traditional to pass the bowl around the family and for everyone to stir in their wishes. I don't see any reason to break that tradition: I think it's a lovely one. Cover the bowl and leave overnight.
The following day, butter your pudding bowls and prepare paper & foil covers for them. You'll need bowls for a total of 2 to 2½ pints of mixture, a piece of parchment or buttered greaseproof paper for each bowl and a piece of foil for each. The papers and foils need a 1" pleat in them, to allow for expansion in the pudding as it cooks. If you are going to put coins, rings or other trinkets in the pudding, you must wrap them carefully in greaseproof paper before, to prevent the silver or nickel reacting with the acid ingredients in the pudding.
Fill each bowl to about 1" below the rim, place first the paper cover then the foil on it and tie them as tightly as you can with string. Plastic bowls are less environmentally-friendly, but are easier to cover as they come with a lid. Simply place a sheet of parchment or buttered greaseproof between the lid and the bowl when you clip it down. Place your pudding in a steamer or on a trivet in a pan of simmering water (it mustn't come more than half way up the pudding bowl) and cook for 7 hours.
When cooked, remove from the steamer or pan. Untie the string and remove the foil and papers, then sprinkle the surface with a little rum. Leave to cool and re-cover with clean papers & foils when completely cold. Store in a cool, dark place until Christmas.
On Christmas day, reheat the pudding by steaming for a couple of hours. I prefer to serve my pudding with rum Chantilly cream, as it's lighter than the more traditional rum sauce or brandy butter.
Rum Chantilly cream
½ pint double cream
A measure of dark rum
1 tablespoon icing sugar
Put the ingredients together in a bowl and whip until it starts to thicken. Be careful not to over-whip it, as it could split. It should form soft peaks that hold their shape when the whisk is removed. Transfer to a serving dish and spoon a dollop onto each helping of hot pudding.
For more ideas on Christmas baking, entertaining and fine hospitality, go to my blog, blog.theaperitifguy.co.uk
or follow me on Twitter, @AperitifGuy