With Christmas coming up we've been rifling through our books pulling out a select few festive recipes, starting with this 1868 recipe for a good old fashioned Christmas Pudding.
While sweet and savoury puddings have been eaten on Christmas Day for centuries, like a lot of Christmastime traditions that remain today, Christmas Puddings as we generally know them were popularised in Britain during the 19th Century. Quoting Wikipedia directly: 'It was not until the 1830s that the cannonball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly, made a definite appearance, becoming more and more associated with Christmas. The East Sussex cook Eliza Acton was the first to refer to it as "Christmas Pudding" in her bestselling 1845 book Modern Cookery for Private Families.'
The dark, rich Christmas Puddings that we're familiar with now were often a part of the Victorian Christmas spread, but they were not Christmas Puddings. They were Plum Puddings. Here's a pic from our copy of Warne's Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book (1868) showing a model Plum Pudding:
While Plum Puddings and Christmas Puddings may be one and the same thing now, in the 1800s they were two different things. Christmas Puddings were like this:
We used a recipe from the same book to bring this Christmas Pud back into the kitchen. It's golden with deep specks of dried fruit, lighter (which probably went down well after a really heavy Christmas dinner), often decorated with a sprig of holly and, at least according to this recipe, either served with burning brandy or arrowroot sauce. We went for the brandy.
We both adore our plum puddings and wouldn't give them up for the world, but after trying the original Christmas Pudding we believe that it needs a come back. It's gorgeous in it's own right and might be a winner for those out there who find plum puddings a little too heavy and intense (children in particular might be more likely to manage this, maybe with a little custard - a spotted dick type affair).
One thing we were unable to reproduce exactly was the size of the pudding. Victorian puddings were truly massive things that would feed more than 20 people; you’d be lucky to find a pudding basin and steaming equipment large enough for it. Being aware of this, we halved all of the ingredient amounts given and still ended up with enough pudding mixture to fill three standard sized 12cm pudding basins with a little extra left over (around 13 servings). The amounts listed below and in the video are the amounts that we used. If you want just enough mixture to fill one 12cm pudding basin, divide these amounts by 3 and steam for the same amount of time. If, in future, you wish to make a true Victorian-scale Christmas Pudding and have a pudding basin and steaming equipment large enough for it, multiply these amounts by 2 and steam for around 6 hours.
Original Recipes: 'Christmas Pudding' (Book 1, 1868)
Speed: 10 mins to make, 2 hrs 15 mins to steam, depending on size Serves: 4, depending on size
½ pint of milk
170g mixed citrus peel
1 small nutmeg
Plain flour (we used 2 tbsp.)
1 glass of brandy
1. In a large bowl, mix together the raisins, currants, sultanas, citrus peel, suet and breadcrumbs. Then, grate into this half of the nutmeg.
2. Crack the eggs into a smaller bowl and beat them up very well. Then add them to the pudding mixture with the brandy and the milk, stirring until everything is well combined.
3. Have a buttered pudding basin ready (or more than one!) and pour the mixture in. You can fill this quite well; the pudding will rise, but not by much.
4. Take a clean piece of cloth and coat one side with flour, rubbing it in to the cloth quite well. Make a fold in the middle and place flour-side-down on top of the pudding. Tie this around the rim with a piece of string. If necessary, trim off any excess cloth and string.
5. If making an average sized pudding (12cm pudding basin), steam for 2 ½ hours. Any larger than this, steam for longer in accordance with the size of your basin.
6. When done, turn your pudding out onto the plate or serving dish and either serve with burning brandy poured over it or arrowroot sauce. We served ours with burning brandy (Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge), but if you'd prefer arrowroot sauce, here's the recipe for it from the very same book:
Rub very smoothly a dessertspoonful of arrowroot in a little water, or in a glass of white wine, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, add two dessertspoonfuls of icing sugar, and pour in gradually half a pint of water. Stir it very quickly over a medium heat until it boils and serve hot over your pudding. 'This sauce may be flavoured with anything you prefer.'
Original Recipe for 'Christmas Pudding'
'BOOK 1': Warne’s Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book (1868)
Compiled and Edited By: Mary Jewry
Publisher: Fredrick Warne & Co. (Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London, England, U.K.), printers: Savill, Edwards and Co. Printers (Chandos Street, Covent Garden, London, England, U.K.)