Flame On! Christmas Pudding.

Growing up, my family spent a surprising number of Christmases in England. Ok, no, actually it’s really not all that surprising (Dad’s a Brit, we have tons of family there, I actually lived there for a while, we are all avowed Anglophiles), but it is telling–for a tribe famed for our lack of sentimentality, we seem to have an awful lot of traditions from the homeland, particularly where the holidays are concerned.  The Sister Unit’s personal favorite is the Christmas Cracker–for her, it’s just not Christmas without a paper crown and a terrible, terrible joke. For me, however, it’s spicy, boozy Christmas pudding. It’s just not Christmas unless I’m setting something on fire. Intentionally.

pudding2

My obsession with Christmas pudding is kind of ironic, for several reasons. 1. We didn’t actually eat it during most of those holidays in England; most of the family doesn’t like it very much. 2. As a result, we don’t actually have a traditional recipe that we use, which means I only actually have it every few Christmases. 3. We don’t actually have a recipe at all. Or, rather, we didn’t, until Mr. X came to visit me last year.

pudding1

Mr. X is the kind of guy everybody needs in their lives–funny, smart, kind, and a whiz in the kitchen. If I didn’t adore his ladyfriend M so much, I’d be tempted to keep him for myself. Since such is not to be, I count myself very lucky to have him in my circle of friends (doubly lucky, actually, because it means I get BOTH of them), not least because thanks to Mr. X, I now have a totally kickass pudding recipe in my repertoire. A tradition in X’s family, he passed it on to me last year, and I have big plans to make it a tradition in mine.

Believe me when I tell you that this stuff is *good*.

A few words of advice: first, don’t candy the orange peel yourself. Just don’t do it, unless you really want to spend fifteen hours in your kitchen. Second, invest in a good kitchen scale. Third, he’s totally not kidding about the bottle of Bulleit in the recipe. You will need to babysit this business for nearly 8 hours while it steams, and you’ll have to entertain yourself somehow. Fourth, when setting it alight on Christmas day, you will need less brandy than you think–too heavy a hand, and you risk actually incinerating the cake. Which would be a tragic, tragic waste. Fifth: it must be stirred widdershins. Don’t ask, don’t fight back, just do it. Trust me.

The recipe below is copied verbatim from what X sent me; I couldn’t improve upon it if I tried.

(Slightly adapted from) Grandma Pat’s Christmas Pudding Recipe

600 g dried vine fruits  - sultanas, raisins, currants, peel, apricots, etc.
150ml brandy
Zest and a dribble of juice from 1/2 lemon
Zest and juice 1 orange (blood orange is good)
75ml of strong ale or stout (drink the rest whilst stirring)
75g fresh breadcrumbs
75g plain flour
A tiny pinch of salt
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp marmalade
50g chopped/flaked almonds
200g muscovado sugar
100g soft butter
2 large eggs
A silver dollar to place in the pud (just before serving) and really bugger up your dental plan ;)
A bottle of Bulleit Bourbon to drink whilst the damn thing cooks.

Marinate the fruit overnight with the brandy and orange juice and zest in a container with a lid.

Mix everything together in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth (IMPORTANT: stir the mixture widdershins)

Butter a pudding basin and line the bottom of the basin with a buttered piece of foil or greaseproof paper.

Spoon in the mixture and cover with another piece of buttered foil, with a pleat in it to allow for expansion, make sure this foil goes over the top of the basin and far enough down the sides to tie it in place with some string.Make a string handle so that it easier to lift in and out of the pan.

Put a metal jam-jar lid or tart tin in the bottom of a large pan, put the basin on top and pour in boiling water to come a third of the way up the sides.

Bring to the boil and then simmer for 6 – 8 hours, remembering to top up with hot water every hour or so to stop it boiling dry. This boiling will make it dark so don’t cheat and stop half way ;)

Allow to cool and then replace the foil on the top of the basin.

Keep for up to 2 months in a fridge until Christmas day then reheat in the same way for about one and a half hours until piping hot, then serve with spirit poured over and set light accompany with lashings of clotted cream or apple brandy butter if dairy products are nationally lacking.

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