MY CHRISTMAS PUDDING
My Christmas Pudding Recipe was passed on to me by my Mother. She had it from her older sister who had it from her Mother-in-law who said it was an old family recipe. All of which takes it back a bit!
When she married, my Mother acquired several sisters-in-law for whom she made Christmas Puddings every year as well as two or three for us. The one we actually ate at Christmas had always been made the previous year. They improve with age and kept well in the cool larder traditionally on a north-facing side of the house. So our recipe had generous quantities of ingredients, some in pounds rather than ounces!
Figgy Puddings, Plum Puddings, Christmas Puddings were all the same in Dickens' day, "plum" is simply an old word for "fruit".
We needed currants, sultanas, raisins, candied peel. There are two kinds of raisins, the ones one finds in supermarkets today, and the extra large raisins which had the grape pips still in them. Today they are stoned and easy to use, but that was not always so........... We had a pound or two of these succulent raisins, and every single one had to have the pips removed.....by hand. It was a long and sticky job. My Mother did most of it, but my Father and I certainly lent a hand. Then came the suet: smooth, creamy suet still encased in a fine transparent skin. I loved removing the skin, the suet was so firm, dry and easy to handle. Then came the grating of the suet.....not quite so much fun as no one wanted scraped fingers etc.etc. Candied peel was available neatly chopped up, but Mother always insisted that it was better to buy whole caps i.e. the peel of half an orange, half a lemon, or half a beautiful green cap from some other citrus fruit (my favourite). Sometimes. there were hard chunks of sugar inside the caps which had to be removed before the caps were sliced and diced. It all took time but the house was filled with a rich, fruity aroma .
Eventually, all the ingredients were together in a vast bowl. Now came the stirring: always to be done clockwise never the other way (bad luck). This probably had some connection with the old saying that one should never go round a church widdershins (anti-clockwise). It was most important that everyone in the house stirred the pudding and made a wish. Finally, into the basins which were covered and tied with greaseproof paper, then with a cloth tied tightly round the top of the basin with the ends tied together making a loop to lift the puddings out when done. These puddings were boiled for eight hours by which time they were almost black, moist and absolutely delicious. A hot plate, warm brandy ready to be poured over, a lighted match and in came the pudding with little blue flames running over and around it. We liked it best with good Double Cream over each portion......there was already plenty of brandy in and over it.
No other recipe tastes quite right to me however good it may be. I continued where my Mother left off and cousins have the same recipe so we are never deprived after our turkey. When I make puddings, they have to LOOK right, sometimes I just know that a little more fruit is needed so I add another handful of currants or raisins or sultanas. When it looks right, it smells right and the job is done for another year.