How to make a traditional Christmas Pudding in a Pudding Cloth
The damp fug of a pudding gently boiling in a old kitchen. The rattling of the saucer I put in to let me know all is still good. The air getting colder. To me these are all signs of Christmas coming up and although it might seem early to some, now is the time I get on with the pudding.
Do try the pudding below. I think it add something to do it traditionally. It is extra work. I would be easier in a pudding basin. But for me preparing the cloth, laying in the pudding mixture, tying it up tight and letting it fall into the hot water, releasing those spicy aromas, is what makes Christmas special, even though, as I write this it’s only October!
Cooking in and old Regency kitchen is something I have never wanted to keep just to myself. It used to be just me. Down here in the basement, in this huge space where you can feel the spirits of the people who used to toil making exactly the same recipes I make today. It’s an experience that has to be shared.
If you’d like to join me and make Christmas puddings and Mincemeat in this fabulous space the link is here.
85 grams (3oz) plain flour
85 grams (3oz) fine, lightly grated breadcrumbs
170 grams (6oz) beef kidney suet chopped small or vegetable suet
170 grams (6oz) raisins
170 grams (6oz) currants
113 grams (4oz) minced apples
141 grams (5oz) sugar, I used dark brown sugar to darken the colour of pudding and add extra taste
56 grams (2oz) candied orange-rind
Half a teaspoon of grated nutmeg
Half a teaspoon of mace
A small glass of brandy
3 whole eggs
I do like to soak my fruit in brandy first. It’s not mentioned in the original recipe but I think it makes sense. The soothing act of stirring dried fruit every morning knowing that the fruit will find its way into the pudding is one of life’s small pleasures.
Empty your soaked fruit into a mixing bowl and add the flour, the fine and lightly grated breadcrumbs, the suet, the apples, the sugar, the candied orange-rind, the nutmeg, mace and salt and the 3 whole eggs. Mix and beat these ingredients well together.
Put a big pan of water onto boil and place a china plate on the bottom (this prevents the pudding from burning on the bottom). The clattering of the saucer in the pan also helps you to hear that the pudding is staying on the boil, an important part of the cooking process.
Drop your pudding cloth into the water. Let it boil for 20 minutes. Take the cloth out of the water and wring the excess moisture out. I put on rubber gloves for this because the cloth is very hot.
Lay your cloth on the work surface and generously flour the wet cloth with plain flour (this will forms a protective pudding skin).Drape the wet and floured cloth over a pudding bowl or a mixing bowl and pile the prepared pudding mixture into the centre and flour the top of it before you again gather up the corners of the cloth tautly and tie the pudding off very tightly with real ‘string’ (not twine it will break).
Wrap the string doubled around and around a number of times tying knots as you go making sure at the end you leave a large ‘handle’ of string tied at the top to lift it up and to hang it from. Lower gently into half a very large boiler of boiling water. Add extra water to ensure the pudding is completely covered and place the lid on the boiler.
Keep checking and add more boiling water from a kettle kept at the ready, if required throughout the cooking process. It needs 3,5 hours to cook on the day it is made.
Traditionally the boiled pudding would have been patted dry and hung up in a cool pantry or larder. A fridge is probably better in our modern times.
The pudding will need boiling again for a further 2 hours on the day it is served.
Lift out into a bowl if possible and carefully remove the string and open the calico out. Place a large plate that has been rinsed in cold water on the top and invert it. The moisture will help you ease the pudding into the centre of the serving plate.
Eliza Acton recommends serving this pudding with German wine or punch sauce.