Friday 29 November 2013

Christmas Pudding

Well, as some may have noticed, it has been a while since I posted because there was, you know, THANKSGIVING to prepare.  It was an epic feast, a result of many, many hours of labour, but it went off without a hitch in the end.  I can't promise to give a full posting on it as there was just too much work in too little time to take photos, but hopefully I'll put together a general summary soon. Maybe.

In the meantime, we had our own little stir-up Sunday here.  What is this "Stir-up Sunday" you ask? Well, in theory it is the Sunday roughly a month before Christmas when you stir up and make your Christmas cake and Christmas pudding.  This gives the flavours time to mature and develop (assisted by ample quantities of booze) before you eat them at Christmas.

My husband is a big fan of Christmas pudding, and enjoy it as well.   Growing up as a child of Australian parents, we used to have to go to our local gourmet specialist to find a "plum pudding" for Christmas. It came in a tiny plastic tub and rather than steam it, we microwaved it in a fraction of the time. This resulted in a heavy, sometimes chewy pudding that we thought tasted good.

Turns out the real thing is a whole lot better. When you steam it, the pudding turns out much lighter as is never anything remotely approaching chewy. And of course when you make it yourself you get to choose which fruits go into it.  I tend to stick to the traditional currant heavy list given by Delia Smith, only adding a few cherries for texture and colour, but there are many variations that aren't so medieval in their make-up of fruits and spices; things like apricots and dried tropical fruits are all tried out in various internet recipes you can sift through.

The only issue I had was that I only had only one pot big enough to steam a pudding.  Every year I make the same mistake in that I forget what a large recipe it is, big enough to fill three of my pudding bowls.  Since the steaming takes 6 hours, I ended up cooking one a day for three straight days.

My first step, before I even got to the stage in the photo below, was to soak the dried fruit in some alcohol for flavour.  I tend to use brandy for this, but rum or whisky are good too.  They steeped for a week in it.  This is an unnecessary first step (it's not included in Delia's instructions) but I know of various grannies who swear by it, so I decided to follow their advice.  Many grannies soak the fruit for months, even over a year this way, but I just did a week.  I meant to only do a day, but then I kept forgetting to get the other ingredients I needed, so it became a week.

So in the bowl with the booze were currants, raisins, sultanas, cherries, and my personal favourite (though many hate it, I know) candied citrus peel.  So basically three types of dried grapes and a dash of candied fruit.  Someday I am going to add prunes so that it is, in fact, a form of plum pudding, just not this year.  I meant to get the suet from a supplier at the farmers market, but I phoned too late for them to have it ready and had to use the supermarket shelf variety instead.  I did eventually get suet from him and it's now sitting in my freezer until I need it...probably not until November next year.

Once again, Robert helped me look for ingredients...

First in the bowl went the self raising flour and breadcrumbs.

Then on went the white pet food...I mean, the suet.

The recipe asked for 225 grams, but the pack only had 200 grams.  I did not want to buy 2 packs just for 25 grams, so I put in a bit of butter instead.

Then in went some mixed spice, ground nutmeg, and cinnamon

Yes, I'm using the Calpol spoon again.

Next was just a tiny bit of brown sugar.  Just a pound.  

My mother likes to quote how many calories are in a slice of christmas pudding.  If you care how many calories are in a slice, you probably shouldn't be having dessert in the first place.  Just a thought.

Then it all gets mixed up.

Boozy fruit, you are next...

In it goes!  This is when I usually realize I need to find the biggest bowl available in my flat, as my normal mixing bowls are not nearly huge enough.

There we are, a nice, happy, fruity mess.

Oh, crumbs, ALMONDS, I nearly forgot the almonds!!  Nobody will care that they aren't chopped...

And one apple peeled and chopped.  Well, two different random varieties of apple as I only had tiny apples in the fruit bowl.  I love how the flesh of one of them is stained pink when you bite into it.  I forget their name, but aren't they pretty?

I then used my brand new Pampered Chef zester to add some orange zest.  I have never been to one of their parties, but my sister-in-law has hosted this kitchenware company's fetes so got some credit.  She doesn't cook, so she asked me if I would like anything. My answer was a resounding yes.

Some lemon zest went in too.

Then I beat up some eggs

And added some stout.  Guinness was on offer, so Guinness it was this year.

And in went some dark rum too.  Yes, there is lots of alcohol in this recipe. Don't worry, it all *hic* cooks off.

Then once that is all mixed together, you pour it onto the dry ingredients and stir like mad.

Mmm, a big gloopy mess.  I then covered it and let it sit out overnight.

The next day, I split it between three bowls, covered each in a square of greaseproof paper, tied it on with a rubber band, then wrapped each in a muslin cloth.  Those old baby muslin squares have come in handy!

Then the lid went on and they were steamed for 6 hours apiece. If you are doing this, do not leave your spouse in charge of keeping an eye on the water level, as they might just go out and forget about the pudding, let the water run out, and smoke the pudding. So I hear.

Once they were cooled, I took off the cloth and greaseproof paper and replaced them with fresh layers, but first I had a peek inside.

It may not look terribly appetising, but it should be good next month once we've steamed it again, removed it, put it on a plate, added holly, set it alight with flaming alcohol, and served it with brandy butter.

Oh - and we only need one of the three that I made, so anyone who wants one, let me know!

A smaller version of the recipe I roughly followed is online here:

I'll add my own take on it sometime soon.

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