Tested by and buddy

Our best results making plum pudding have been using the recipe from Time-Life International series, Cooking of the British Isles, in combination  with directions in The Joy of Cooking.  A three-day process: day one--mix ingredients and place in refrigerator overnight; days two and three--steam puddings. Cutting back on the amount you make will cut that down to a two-day process, obviously.   While you do not have to hang over the puddings most of this time, I do suggest planning to do it when you will be around to monitor, especially gas flames adjusted to their lowest point for simmering the puddings.)

PLUM PUDDING   (a.k.a. Christmas pudding)  
(If you want to make enough to be able to share with friends, give away as gifts, etc., consider doubling the recipe below.  A double recipe fills all 3 large plus 1 medium and 1 small steamer plus 2 small stainless steel bowls     or     fills 5 large molds plus 1 small steamer.  Can cook on two different days if you have a shortage of cooktop area, just cover uncooked portion well and put into refrigerator for a day or two.  It takes me two days of steaming to do whole double batch but additional puddings are usually worth it.)

To make four, one-quart puddings--
1  cups dried currants
2 cups seedless raisins
2 cups white raisins
 cup finely chopped candied mixed fruit peel
 cup finely chopped candied cherries
1 cup blanched slivered almonds
1 medium-sized tart cooking apple, peeled, quartered, cored and coarsely chopped
1 small carrot, scraped and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely grated orange peel
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
 pound finely chopped beef suet
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups fresh soft crumbs, pulverized in a blender
1 cup dark-brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
1 cup brandy
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
cup fresh lemon juice
cup brandy, for flaming (optional)

First day:
In a large, deep bowl, combine the currants, seedless raisins, white raisins, candied fruit peel, cherries, almonds, apple, carrot, orange and lemon peel, and beef suet, tossing them about with a spoon or your hands until well mixed.  Stir in the flour, bread crumbs, brown sugar, allspice and salt. 
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until frothy.  Stir in the 1 cup of brandy, the orange and lemon juice, and pour this mixture over the fruit mixture.  Knead vigorously with both hands, then beat with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are blended.  Drape a dampened kitchen towel over the bowl and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
Second day:
Prepare pudding molds:  Lightly grease/butter interiors, including tops, and sprinkle sugar over, just as you might dust a buttered cake pan with flour if making a regular cake. (This dusting of sugar is necessary to facilitate the flaming of the pudding at the time of serving. Be sure to butter and sugar top of mold as well as base.) Spoon the mixture into the molds, filling them to within 2 inches of their tops, i.e. no more than two-thirds full.
If your pudding molds do not have covers, cover each mold with an appropriately sized piece of buttered and sugared aluminum foil.  Turn the edges down and press the foil tightly around the sides to secure it. 
Drape a dampened kitchen towel over each mold and tie it in place around the sides with a long piece of kitchen cord.  Bring two opposite corners of the towel up to the top and knot them in the center of the mold; then bring up the remaining two corners and knot them similarly.
The slow, six-to-eight-hour cooking process is necessary so that all the suet melts before the flour particles burst.  If the pudding cooks too fast and the flour grains burst before the fat melts, the pudding will be close and hard.

First, the method described in Time-Life’s  “Cooking of the British Isles”--

Use one-quart English pudding basins or plain molds, filling them to within two inches of their tops. Place the molds in a large pot and pour in enough boiling water to come about one half of the way up their sides.  Bring the water to a boil over high heat, cover the pot tightly, reduce the heat to its lowest point (on an electric stove, reduce heat to halfway between low and medium low) and steam the puddings for 8 hours.  As the water in the steamer boils away, replenish it with additional boiling water.

Second, the method described in my mid-sixties edition of “The Joy of Cooking”--

Containers should be only 2/3 full.  Place molds on a trivet in a heavy kettle over 1 inch of boiling water.  Cover kettle closely.  Use high heat at first, then, as the steam begins to escape, low heat for rest of cooking.

True steamed puddings need complete circulation of steam, so do not expect good results if you use a greased double boiler!  (Note, however, a double boiler is okay when you reheat the pudding prior to serving.)

Always before unmolding, take the lid from the mold and allow the pudding to rest long enough to let excess steam escape, then the pudding will be less apt to crack in unmolding.  But also, be sure to unmold before the puddings are too cool or they will stick to the molds.

Run a knife around the inside edges of the mold and place an inverted serving plate over it.  Grasping the mold and plate firmly together, turn them over.  The pudding should slide out easily. 

Wrap individual, unmolded puddings in cheesecloth soaked in brandy and refrigerate until ready to reheat for serving.

To serve, place the wrapped pudding in a double boiler (okay for reheating to serve though not for initial steaming)  or steamer over (not in) gently boiling water, i.e. over simmering water.  Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and steam for at least 2 hours; we have done this as much as 4 hours, when dinner and dessert are delayed or difficult to time.   

If you would like to set the pudding aflame before you serve it, warm the 1/2 cup of brandy in a small saucepan over low heat, ignite it with a match and pour it flaming over the pudding.

Christmas pudding is traditionally accompanied by hard sauce or brandy butter, see below.
(See also recipes in dessert sauce section of “Home Cookin’”.)

HARD SAUCE  (adapted from "The Joy of Cooking")

Sift:                              1 cup confectioners' sugar
Beat until soft:               5 tablespoons butter
Add the sugar gradually.  Beat these ingredients until they are well blended. 
Add:                             1/8 teaspoon salt
                                    1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon brandy or rum
Beat in:                         (1 egg or 1/4 cup cream) (optional)

When the sauce is very smooth, chill thoroughly.


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened                           3 tablespoons brandy
1/2 cup superfine (Bar) sugar                                          1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients in a bowl, and beat with an electric beater until the mixture is smooth and well blended.    Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or until firm.

These recipes have been kitchen tested.

You can find this and related recipes by tapping here on the Home Cookin' index.


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