It’s that time of year again! Time to make Christmas puddings, so their wonderful flavors and spices mature to perfection before Christmas Day. This is a traditional dessert, served on Christmas Day in most Irish and British households, and made four to six weeks before Christmas.
This practice originated in medieval England, when it was often referred to as plum pudding. Old recipes call for a mixture of dried fruits and sweet spices, very luxurious ingredients in olden times.
In early November grocery stores display all the key ingredients for Christmas delicacies – raisins, cherries, dates, cranberries and brown sugar. Making Christmas puddings was an annual tradition I remember fondly. Each year growing up n Ireland, my Mom and I reviewed our family recipe in early November. Together we shopped for the long list of Christmas pudding ingredients. This year, as I renew old family traditions, my four year-old little girl helped me to make our puddings. I tried to get the boys involved, but I may as well have asked them to watch paint dry.
This is my Mom’s old recipe, tweaked a little, to give it an American spin. Currants are small dried raisin-like berries used in Ireland, but I have never been able to find them on this side of the Atlantic. I substitute dried wild blueberries instead and throw in some dried cranberries for additional American flavor.
Here is my Irish American fusion version of Christmas pudding. Making it is a lengthy process, but well worth the effort. The pudding is delicious.
The ingredient list is extensive, as you can see from the picture above. In years gone by, the expense of the required ingredients, ensured plum pudding was reserved for such a special occasion as Christmas.
- 1/2 cup orange marmalade (with large chunks of peel)
- 1/2 cup dried pineapple (chopped in small pieces)
- 1 and 1/2 cups raisins
- 1 and 1/2 cups golden raisins
- 1 cup dried wild blueberries
- 1/2 cup marishcino cherries (halved with stems removed)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup dates (chopped)
- 1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)
- 1/2 cup almonds (slivered)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 and 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 green apple (peeled and grated)
- 1 carrot (peeled and grated)
- 8oz melted butter (2 sticks)
- 1 lemon (juice and grated rind)
- 1 orange (juice and grated peel)
- 4 eggs (whisked)
- 2fl oz brandy
- 1 cup Guinness stout (8 fluid ounces)
Traditional pudding recipes call for mixed peel, which is a mixture of candied orange, lemon and lime peels. The mixed peel available at our local grocery, uses many artificial food colorings and flavors, which I am not very fond of. Instead I create my own substitute using dried pineapple and marmalade.
First I dice two dried pineapple rings into small pieces.
Next I add a 1/2 cup of orange marmalade. Be sure to pick a marmalade with large chunks of peel.
Next I mix the pineapple and marmalade together and set it aside for about 1 hour before I make my puddings. This allows the pineapple time to soak up some of the sugary, orange marmalade flavors. If you wish you can use 1 cup of mixed peel instead of this marmalade and dried pineapple mix.
Next comes the fun part – mixing all the different dried fruits together. Shades of gold, red, tan, brown, and black bespeckle the mixing bowl, in a fitting fall color fiesta. Add the raisins, golden raisins and dried wild blueberries to a large mixing bowl.
Next come the chopped dates and cranberries.
Chopped walnuts and slivered almonds are the nuts I choose, but if you wish to further Americanize this pudding, you could substitute chopped pecans for one of these nut varieties. Glace cherries can be used, but I chose maraschino cherries, without any red dyes added. Remove the stems and halve the cherries.
Toss the fruit and nuts to the mixing bowl. I love to admire this colorful mound of goodness piling high in my bowl.
Next add the brown sugar and mix through the fruit. If you like a darker pudding, use dark brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of treacle or molasses (added to the beaten eggs a little later). I use regular light brown sugar and skip the treacle. I don’t like my pudding to be too rich and dark. I like to be able to see and appreciate the different types and colors of dried fruit used, when the pudding is sliced for serving.
Add the breadcrumbs.
Mix the crumbs through the fruit and nut mixture.
Next comes time to prepare the flour and spices. Look at the lovely autumn spice shades in the picture above. I use pumpkin pie spice as a substitute for Irish mixed spice, together with cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves. Sieve the flour, salt and spices together.
Add the flour and spice mixture to the fruit, nuts and breadcrumbs.
Mix the flour through the mixture to fully coat the fruit.
Grate the orange and lemon peel, green apple and carrot.
Mix them through the pudding mixture.
Melt two sticks of butter. The microwave melts two sticks in 45 seconds to 1 minute depending on your microwave’s power. Add the melted butter and mix into all the ingredients. Traditional pudding recipes call for suet or lard to be used. I just cannot bring myself to add such artery clogging, saturated fat to this delicacy. Instead I just increased how much butter I used (still not low-fat, but at least a little better than lard, in my mind).
Juice the lemon and orange and add to four eggs in a separate mixing bowl.
Add the brandy to the eggs and juice and whisk them all together. If you like a darker pudding add 2 tablespoons of molasses or treacle to the eggs at this point.
Add the pineapple/marmalade mixture to the eggs. I find this makes the marmalade a little less sticky and easier to mix throughout the pudding.
Pour the flavored egg mixture into the fruit mix and use a big spoon to combine all the ingredients together.
Now comes time for the most important ingredient of all, making this recipe truly Irish. Good, Irish stout adds an extra depth of flavor and richness to an Irish Christmas pudding.
Mix everything together, ensuring no pockets of dry ingredients remain. The mixture is quite wet at this point, but don’t worry. The puddings are not ready for steaming just yet. To ensure the flavors meld and develop, and to allow the fruit time to expand in its cognac and Guinness bath, it is best to allow the mixture rest for at least 12 hours prior to cooking.
The final step for today, is to cover up the mixing bowl and set it aside overnight. If you are worried about raw eggs, you can keep the mixture in the refrigerator. However, I find that the dried fruit absorbs the liquids better at room temperature, so I put mine high up on a kitchen cabinet. Cooking involves steaming for many hours, leaving little chance for any bugs to survive.
Preparing your pudding for steaming takes some time, and requires some age-old tips, I will share in a separate post. So put your pudding mixture aside to mature, and come back the next day to steam it.
Part-two of this Christmas Pudding tutorial is dedicated to step-by-step instructions for steaming the pudding in a crockpot. Simply click here to link to the cooking instruction post:
Here is a printable version of the complete recipe.
Slan agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
P.S. This recipe will turn out fine even if it isn’t made weeks before Christmas. Advance cooking is the traditional way of allowing time for the flavors to mature. The difference between an aged and a new pudding would probably only be detected by a seasoned Christmas-pudding-eating palate.