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No Christmas feast is complete without a slice of rich and fruity Christmas pudding. Not only is it super-easy to make from basic store cupboard ingredients, it can be made well in advance, and stored for up to a year!
English Christmas Pudding
In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered – flushed, but smiling proudly – with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quarter of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens,1843
Ask any English personto name traditional Christmas fare, and they’ll almost certainly say Christmaspudding. Some (hello!) might even arguethat it’s not a proper Christmas dinner without the pudding.
Of course, there aresome misguided folks (hello, amato mio!),who claim not to enjoy the cosy and comforting deliciousness of the ‘speckledcannon-ball’. To them, fie I say, fie!
Humbugs, one and all – Christmas pudding is beyond delicious! How could anyone not love that comforting concoction of fruit, spices, and rich, dark pudding, served warm and drizzled with cream?
Gran’s Christmas Pudding
The Christmas puddings of my childhood were magical, and, to my young eyes, looked just like something from a Dickens novel. They were always served flaming and topped with a sprig of holly, thus giving credence to my grandfather’s favourite mantra, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”!
When we were ready for the pudding, my grandparents would disappear off into the kitchen, where, one assumes, Granddad would ignite the brandy. I always imagined that festive pyromania was Granddad’s special Christmas job!
A few minutes later,he and Gran would then re-enter the dining room, carrying the flaming Christmaspudding between them, singing,
We all love figgy pudding,
We all love figgy pudding,
We all love figgy pudding…
…And we have it right here!
Yes, they changed the final line, and without fail, would burst into fits of laughter as they finished the carol. My grandparents had a wonderful sense of humour!
Mix the Pudding, Make a Wish!
My special Christmas job was to mix the Christmas pudding. I loved the times when my grandmother let me cook with her, and none more so than in preparation for Christmas.
December hailed the start of our festive preparations, and by the time the decorations went up during the weekend before Christmas Day, we were all set for the big day.
As well as Christmas pudding, we (and by ‘we’, I actually mean, Gran with a little bit of help – or possibly hindrance – from me) had made Christmas cake, Dundee cake, shortbread, and mincemeat.
My gran also made her own marzipan, and a couple of days before Christmas, we’d sit at the kitchen table, making marzipan fruits. I suspect the reality of how they looked is far less perfect than I remember!
As tradition dictates, once I’d thoroughly mixed all the Christmas pudding ingredients together (along with a silver sixpence, which, rather miraculously, always seemed to end up on my plate!), we all took a turn in stirring the mixture, making a wish as we did so. After that, Gran would cover the mixing bowl with a clean, damp tea towel, and put it in the pantry overnight. The next day, I’d give it another stir, and then it was put into a pudding basin lined with muslin, tied off at the top, and thence into the boiling pan for the best part of the day.
After a few hours, the smell coming from the kitchen was so tummy-rumbling delicious. To this day, it’s Gran’s kitchen I am transported to when I cook my own Christmas puddings!
Plum Duff, Plum Pudding…
These are also namesfor Christmas pudding, yet neither contain plums! Between the middle of the17th century, up until around the 19th, in England, the ‘plums’ in plum puddingand plum cakes were actually raisins.
Prior to this, raisins were called ‘resons‘; I don’t know why this name fell out of favour, and why resons became known as plums. I’m guessing though, that ‘raisin’ was reinstated during the 19th century as part of the Victorian fondness for embracing and resurrecting the past (e.g. Gothic architecture, Latin, tartan, etc.).
I can say with all certainty though, that plum pudding as we know it has been around since at least 1714. I have many old cookbooks with recipes for ‘plumb-pudding‘, and they’re really not that different from today’s Christmas pud.
Christmas Pudding Recipe
As far as I know, the first time it’s referred to as Christmas pudding is by Eliza Acton, in her 1845 book, ‘Modern cookery, in all its branches; reduced to a system of easy practice for the use of private families.’ Pre-dating Mrs Beeton by a couple of decades, Eliza’s book makes for fascinating reading. There are plenty of copies available to read via the Wayback Machine.
Contrary to thepopular Christmas carol, figgy pudding is actually nothing like Christmaspudding, and only appears in the song, I suspect, because it scans better thanplum pudding!
In the 1390 recipe collection, The Forme of Cury, there’s a recipe for ‘fygey‘ pudding, which is a boiled dish of ground blanched almonds mixed with water, wine, dried fruit, spices, and honey:
Take Almaende blanched; grynde hem and drawe hem up with watr and wyne; quartr figs hole raisons. Cast þerto powdor gingr and hony clarified; seeþ it wel and salt it, and seve forth.
There is a laterrecipe, from a 15th century herbal (a collection of recipes and generalremedies), which bears slightly more resemblance to the Christmas pudding weall know and love today. It’s possible that ‘our’ beloved English Christmaspudding is an evolution of the following receipt. (Nota typo – receipt is the old-fashioned word for recipe!)
As with the recipeabove, figs are boiled in wine, and mixed with spices and raisins; however, inthis recipe, in between these steps, the softened figs, along with stale bread,are made into a rough paste. Once everything is mixed together, it’s boiled,and then decorated with pomegranate seeds when served. I imagine it would besomething like a cross between bread pudding and a less sweet Christmaspudding.
Nym figes, & boille hem in wyn, & bray hem in a morter with lied bred; tempre hit vp with goud wyn / boille it / do therto good spicere, & hole resons / dresse hit / florisshe it a-boue with pomme-garnetes.
Vegan Christmas pudding ingredients
To make my vegan Christmas pudding, you’ll need:
- spelt flour
- vegetable suet
- demerara sugar
- mixture of dried fruits (e.g. raisins, sultanas, currants)
- grated carrot
- oranges – juice and zest
- ground flax
- alcohol-free stout
- salt, mixed spice
How to make Christmas Pudding
You’ll need to start this pudding the day before you plan to steam it; however, it can be made up to a year in advance!
- Simply place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and mix together, making sure everything is thoroughly incorporated. Cover, and leave overnight.
- Next day, give the mixture another stir – ensuring that everyone in the family has a turn and makes a wish!
- Pack into greased basins, and leave a couple of centimetres’ room at the top (that’s about an inch!).
- Cover with a circle of baking parchment, pressing down to make sure it makes contact with the Christmas pudding mix, then cover the top of the basin with a double layer of parchment and foil. Secure tightly with twine or a large, thick elastic band.
- Place the pudding basin into a large pan, and fill with water so it comes halfway up the basin. Put the lid on the pan.
- Bring the water to the boil, and then reduce the heat to low, so that the water remains gently simmering. Steam the Christmas pudding for 4 hours, topping up the water as and when needed.
- Once steamed, carefully remove the basin from the pan. If not serving straight away, set aside to cool, then replace all the parchment and foil with fresh. Keep in a cool room until needed, then re-heat by steaming for 1 hour.
To Serve Christmas Pudding
Remove the parchment and foil, then gently slide a palette knife around the inside of the basin to release the warm Christmas pudding. Turn out onto a plate.
If you’re keeping things traditional, place a sprig of holly on top of the pudding, and then warm a few tablespoons of brandy in a ladle over a flame. Once the brandy is hot, carefully set light to it (long matches are ideal for this), and then pour over the Christmas Pudding. Once the brandy has burned itself out, serve the pudding.
Because several familymembers, including amato mio, areteetotal or too young to have alcohol, I don’t bother with the flaming brandystep, and just serve the Christmas pudding as it is.
Accompaniments for Vegan Christmas Pudding
It’s traditional toeat Christmas pudding with brandy or rum butter, brandy or rum sauce, orcustard. All of these can easily be made vegan, and plant-based creams arewidely available, too, for those of us who prefer something less rich. Vegansquirty creams also work well, and are fun for the kids!
Storing Christmas Pudding
As I mentioned earlier, Christmas pudding can be stored in a cool place for up to a year. Make sure it’s well-wrapped so that no air can get in.
Tips for making Christmas Pudding
- Although I use non-alcoholic stout for this pudding, you can use one with alcohol if you want. Chocolate stout works very well; it doesn’t taste of chocolate but does have a rich, deep taste.
- Instead of stout, I sometimes use cold strong tea. See my tea loaf recipe for details.
- If flax (linseed) doesn’t agree with you, use ground chia instead. Same quantity as flax.
- If you don’t have a pudding basin with a vented base, you’ll need to use trivet or an upturned saucer to stand the basin on. Failing that, take a length of aluminium foil, scrunch it up, and then form into a thick plate shape. Place in the bottom of the pan, and nestle the basin on top.
- This recipe makes 2 x size 42 (650ml) Christmas puddings, steamed individually; however, if you want to make a larger pudding (size 30), you’ll need to steam the pudding for 6 hours, instead of 4.
- Top up the steaming pan with boiling water from the kettle. Cold water will increase steaming time.
- The flavour of Christmas pudding matures as it’s stored, so for a lighter flavour, serve on the day of cooking, or within a week. I prefer to let it mature for longer, though!
- If you don’t want to re-heat by steaming, you can microwave each slice for a few seconds. Don’t try to heat the whole pudding in the micro!
- Leftovers can be reheated by steaming, in the microwave, or wrapped in foil in the oven.
Gluten-Free Christmas Pudding
To make this Christmas Pudding gluten-free, simply swap the breadcrumbs and flour for your favourite gluten-free alternatives, and add a pinch of baking powder too. If you can’t find gluten-free stout, use strong tea instead.
Lastly, some vegetable suet contains wheat flour, so do check the label. Vegan suet tends to be gluten-free. (The point of the flour is to stop the pellets smooshing together.) My favoured ones are from:
Buy Wholefoods Online
Why not try these other vegan Christmas recipes?
You’ll love this vegan Christmas pudding
- easy to make
- utterly delicious
Serve this Christmas pudding warm with some non-dairy cream, brandy or rum butter, brandy sauce, or even custard! The most important accompaniment for Christmas pudding, though, is being surrounded by the love of your family and friends!