In our family, it has always been one person's task to produce the Christmas Puddings for the remainder. Now obviously, when we lived in Germany, it was a tad tricky for my Nanna to get a pudding to us for Christmas - so generally, we came back to England for Christmas and got our pudding that way. However, for the years when we couldn't return to England, my Nanna sent her recipe to my Mum so that she could make the same pudding. We really aren't sure where Nanna got her recipe from, as she was separated from her parents due to emigration to Canada. It is possible that she could have asked her Mum for her recipe and received it by post during this time, or alternatively, she could have picked up a recipe from just about anywhere. Unfortunately, she has been gone these last twenty years or so and we can't ask her.
|Nanna's Christmas Pudding recipe, written on Air Mail paper, having been sent to my Mum in Germany.|
As the years went by and my Nanna became less able to do the serious arm-work of stirring the puddings, my Mum took on the job. The recipe remained the same for a number of years, until the awareness of health issues began to make themselves felt in changes to the old familiar recipe. Things like using a sunflower margarine instead of suet, for instance. Also, people's tastes began to change and we all agreed that we really didn't like the candied citrus peel, so marmalade began to be used instead.
|Mum's trusted slow-cooker recipe|
Then the recipe evolved a little further, in that the slow cooker had been introduced and made it so much easier to cook the puddings. Far better to be able to steam them in the slow cooker, where it was unlikely to run out of water, than on the hob where you had to keep checking the water levels and couldn't leave the process alone for longer than half an hour.
This year, for the first year ever and following my Mum's comments that, last year, the making of the puddings was rather more taxing than ever before, I managed to convince her to hand the mantle over to me.
Doing a quick calculation on my fingers, it seems to me that the original recipe (still in my Nanna's own handwriting from where she sent it to my Mum all those years ago) has to be in excess of 100 years old. Knowing how - over the years - the recipe has evolved, made me want to add my little adjustment to it. My additional fingerprint in the ingredients. I love the thought that the puddings now have all our fingerprints - my Nanna, my Mum and myself - involved in the recipe.
I must admit that I threw all notions of making the puddings healthier, straight out of the window. Well, you eat Christmas Pudding just once a year (unless you cook one for Easter, which does happen!), so to have a richly indulgent Christmas Pudding is entirely right and proper.
So, my puddings were made with 100% butter. Changes to the recipe also included adding some Medjool dates - we'd found some at a local greengrocer and I'd been sent some even nicer ones to sample. They were so juicy and delicious, it just made sense to include them. I also steeped the fruit in non-alcoholic Ginger cordial from The Dorset Ginger Company before mixing. This plumped up the fruit and added a lovely warmth to the base pudding flavour. However, the biggest change to the puddings was that I didn't use flour in the recipe at all. The mix was made with 100% breadcrumbs, a mix of 60% white bread/40% wholemeal, which made a huge difference to the texture of the puddings.
Now I know how much difference it made, because I made a small tester pudding too! Well, when it's your first go, it pays to be on the cautious side.
|So cute - so yummy! All glamorous photographs will have to wait until Christmas!|
I steamed the puddings individually in the slow cooker, each for 12 hours. The buttery, spicy juices overflowed slightly as the puddings cooked and the house was filled with gorgeous smells that tantalised in a most promising fashion.
The time came to try the tester pudding and my heart was in my mouth as I turned the ramekin upside down into the bowl. Would it come out in one piece, would it pour out disgustingly, or would it be like concrete? No! The pudding was light textured - definitely not one that would stick your teeth together, as so many of them do. With juicy fruit, lovely spicing with the warmth from the ginger, the occasional flavour bomb in the shape of a whole cherry which seemed to have sucked up the Guinness stout and spiced rum into its hollow interior, soft prune, sticky date, earthy nuttiness and the richness of butter - it is a triumph.
I cannot begin to tell you, how relieved and happy I am that the puddings have turned out so well. Perhaps you can imagine! After all, I had 100 years of successful Christmas Pudding making behind me to live up to. That's fairly heavy responsibility, for someone about to change the recipe.
So, if you haven't yet made your Christmas Puddings and are looking for a richly indulgent, light textured pud with the wisdom of ages woven through its recipe, you can't go far wrong with this one.
HEIRLOOM CHRISTMAS PUDDING (makes 2 medium sized puddings - and a tester!)
200ml ginger cordial with 100ml hot water
50g medjool dates, pitted and sliced into chunks
150g glace cherries, approx half of them sliced in two, the remainder left whole
50g orange marmalade
zest of half a lemon
20g blanched almonds, roughly chopped
20g hazelnuts, roughly chopped
20g walnuts, roughly chopped
50g ground almonds
half a tsp freshly grated nutmeg
half a tsp (generous) ground mixed spice
half a tsp (generous) ground cinnamon
quarter tsp sea salt
65g soft brown sugar
1 (generous) tbsp black treacle
450g softened butter
375g fresh breadcrumbs (60% white/40% wholemeal)
6 large eggs, beaten
4 tbsp spiced rum
170ml (approx) Guinness Foreign Extra Stout.
1. Place the raisins, currants and sultanas into a very large bowl. Mix the ginger cordial with the hot water and pour over the fruit. Cover with cling film and leave for 30 minutes in a warm room.
2. Uncover the fruit and give them a stir. Next, add the dates, cherries, lemon zest, marmalade, almonds (both chopped and ground), walnuts, hazelnuts, nutmeg, mixed spice, cinnamon and salt. Give everything a good stir to mix the spices through evenly.
3. Next, add the soft brown sugar and the treacle and stir again, until the treacle has been mixed through thoroughly.
4. Add the softened butter. Put your spoon to one side, make sure your hands are spotlessly clean, your sleeves are rolled up - and scrunch the butter into the fruit mixture with your fingers. Once it is evenly spread, add one third of the breadcrumbs and scrunch again to incorporate them into the mix. Repeat until all the breadcrumbs are included and the butter is evenly spread.
5. Add the beaten eggs. You can go back to using a spoon if you like - but I found using my hands to be so much easier, as you can feel the texture of the mix. Continue to mix until the eggs are completely combined.
6. Add the rum and half the stout. Stir well to combine. Now how much of the remainder of the stout you include, depends entirely upon how wet the mix is by now. The end result you are after, is thick enough to clump together on a spoon, but wet enough to be able to drop easily from the spoon, if turned. So continue to add the stout until the correct texture has been reached.
7. Using a little additional butter, grease your two pudding basins liberally - and a tester ramekin if you're using one.
8. Divide the mixture between the two basins, pressing down as you go, to make sure they are completely full. Try to leave a quarter of an inch (at least) lip around the top of the basin, to allow for expansion during cooking.
9. Take a square of greaseproof paper and fold a pleat into the centre. Place the pleat over the middle of the basin and fold the sides roughly over the edges.
10. Fold a doubled piece of silver foil with a pleat and place this over the greaseproof, smoothing it down over the sides.
|Words fail - see picture!|
11. Take a piece of string and lay it across the top of the pleat, making sure you have enough spare to tie it either side - this will form a handle which will make removing the basin from the slow cooker, a lot easier.
12. Place a large piece of string below the lip of the basin and knot it, pulling tight so that the greaseproof and foil are held tightly to the basin and the single piece of string has either end caught under the tightening string. Knot it securely.
13. Tie the ends of the "handle" to the tightening string, remembering to leave room to get a finger underneath!
14. You should now have a made Christmas Pudding, all ready to go into the slow cooker for the next 12 hours. The tester pudding will need to have something to sit on in the cooker, to prevent it from submerging and it can be cooked alongside one of the larger puddings. The water level needs to be a good third of the way up the larger pudding basin - and start off with boiling water, as this saves the slow cooker from having to do the heating of it.
Before being cooked, the puddings will last for a few days in the fridge. However, once cooked, remove the greaseproof/silver foil combo and replace with a clean version. The pudding can now be kept in a cool, dark place for as long as you need it to be. I have known puddings be left for some 2 years or more and still come out looking and tasting perfect.