When I was a little girl in Ireland I loved when my mom set our Christmas pudding alight. Our annual pyrotechnic show was achieved quite simply, using a candle, a metal spoon, a dollop of brandy and one piping hot plum pudding.
Lighting a plum pudding is accomplished using brandy, whiskey or rum. I like brandy best. For me, the residual cognac flavor on top of the pudding is decadent.
I know I should be using Irish whiskey – I am Irish after all. However, an old family legend claims I might be a 31st cousin of the Hennessy who left Ireland and started the famous cognac brand. The connection is through my County Limerick born granny.
And that’s my brandy loving excuse – there’s a slight possibility my affinity for cognac may be hereditary, but that’s a story for another day.
So let’s get back to lighting this pudding with my favorite spirit, brandy.
Choose a large metal spoon. Not your best spoon please. The candle may cause the bottom of the spoon to turn black. This carbonation is easily scrubbed away afterwards.
Add enough brandy to fill the spoon three-quarter ways full. Leave a small gap between the top of the brandy and the rim of the spoon.
Warning! Do not use a plastic spoon. It will melt.
Hold the spoon over a lighted candle flame. Hold it for a few minutes until the brandy heats up. If you wish to speed up this process you can pre-heat the spoon in a cup of hot water, but make sure to dry it completely before adding the brandy.
Once the brandy is hot it will start to steam and convection currents will be visible in the golden liquid.
To set it alight, you simply tip the top of the spoon into the candle flame and the booze will alight, burning with a bluish flame.
Move the flaming spoon over the pudding and pour it on top.
Now the pudding must be piping hot. This will not work with a cold pudding.
Ensure you have removed any decorative toppings from the pudding, before setting it on fire. Melted plastic or singed holly does not add anything to a plum pudding’s flavor.
Move the spoon away from the flames.
You can have a cup of water ready to quench the flaming spoon if you wish, but I just blow on it to stop it burning.
Turn out the lights and admire the bright blue flames of your Christmas light show.
The alcohol will burn off the top of the pudding, so once it stops flaming you’re ready to serve your traditional Christmas treat.
Remember you choose to light your pudding at your own risk. This technique is probably not endorsed by any fire department anywhere. So take care when working with open flames. Feel free to have a fire extinguisher at the ready, especially for any enormous puddings. 🙂 🙂
Wishing you all happy pudding lighting experiments this Christmas.
Nollaig Shona Daoibh
Here are some more of my Irish Christmas Recipes: