Every year in my memory we have ha a special Christmas Pudding. My mother always made it, with great tradition attached - everyone in the house at the time had to stir the mixture and make a wish. The pudding was always made about October, and was cooked in a calico pudding cloth. It was cooked in a big pan of boiling water for at least 4 hours on the day it was made, and then another 2 hours on Christmas Day. Silver coins (threepences, sixpences and one shillings) were added to the mixture before it was tied up in the cloth. When Australia changed to decimal currency our coins had less silver content and it wasn't safe to cook the new coins, so for some years we poked the coins in after the pudding had been dished up. Eventually I obtained a stash of old coins which were cooked in the pudding and then exchanged for 'real' money.
I first made this pudding when I was 14, after my parents had split up and Mum hadn't made the pudding. For the next few years my grandmother made a pudding for the family of each of her children. When she was no longer able to do it I took on the task for our branch of the family.
But the story of this particular pudding began long before my memories of it. I was originally given a handwritten copy of the recipe by my grandmother. When she died I inherited her old cookbooks, including one which I have every reason to believe belonged to her mother. It was a Methodist Ladies Recipe Book from 1906. There, in black and white was the exact same recipe, much used because it was very bespattered. I believe my great grandmother first made the pudding for her family. My grandmother certainly made it for her family. Then my mother made it for us. I made it for a number of years and now I have passed the role of pudding maker on to my daughter as my illness means I am unable to do it myself.
Here's the recipe!
Christmas Pudding Recipe
Cream 1lb. fresh butter with 1lb. sifted sugar, add 8 well-beaten eggs, and stir until the mixture is quite smooth. Have the following dry ingredients ready :- 1lb. raisins, 1lb. currants, ½ lb. sultanas, ¼ lb chopped almonds, ½ lb. finely cut lemon peel, 1lb. flour, ½lb. breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon mixed spice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ salt spoon of salt. Add these to the butter, sugar and eggs, and stir well until thoroughly mixed. A gill of brandy may be added. Boil for 8 hours.
[Points to remember: 1lb. = 454g ½ lb. = 227g ¼ lb. = 113g
Add the beaten eggs slowly – so the mixture doesn’t curdle, but it isn’t a catastrophe if it does.
Add the brandy to the fruit to soak over night.
Mix the flour into the fruit before adding to the egg and sugar mix.
No need for ½ lb. lemon peel – just a reasonable amount, or use some mixed peel, again, probably don’t need ½ lb.
Flour is Plain Flour.
Mixed Spice, not All Spice.
Good pinch of salt – you won’t have a salt spoon.
Everyone in the housed on the day you make it must stir the mixture and make a wish.
Must boil the pudding cloths (calico) before use – every time even if you re-use the cloths from year to year. Easier to just buy new cloths each year though. Throw out water used to boil cloth as it will have size in it from calico processing.
Flour the wet pudding cloth before adding the mixture – more rather than less is better. This keeps the water out of the pudding, but it also helps make the nice crust on the outside of the pudding.
Make two or three puddings from the mixture. Try to keep reasonably the same sizes.
Tie with string – nice and tight.
Water must be boiling when you put puddings into pot. Must stay boiling. If adding water it must be boiling water. Boil for 4 hours.
Hang puddings in laundry or somewhere where the air can get at it.
Check cloth occasionally as it is drying out to make sure it isn’t going mouldy around the tied up bit.
Boil again for at least two hours on Christmas Day – put into boiling water.