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.
Ingredients for Christmas Pudding:
Here you’ll find a quick list of what you’ll need for this recipe. Check out the printable recipe at the bottom of this post for US and Metric equivalent versions of the recipe. There you can choose the measurement system that works best for you.
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.
- golden raisins
- dried wild blueberries
- marishcino cherries (halved with stems removed)
- dried cranberries
- dates (chopped)
- orange marmalade (with large chunks of peel)
- dried pineapple (chopped in small pieces)
- walnuts (chopped)
- almonds (slivered)
- brown sugar
- all-purpose flour
- mixed spice or pumpkin pie spice
- ground cloves
- green apple (peeled and grated)
- carrot (peeled and grated)
- melted butter
- lemon (juice and grated rind)
- orange (juice and grated peel)
- eggs (whisked)
- Guinness stout (8 fluid ounces)
Directions for Christmas Pudding:
Here you’ll find step-by-step photographic instructions to help you recreate this recipe successfully. There are plenty of tips included along the way.
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. If you would prefer an authentic Irish festive flavor then I do recommend making your own homemade mixed spice.
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.
For anyone interested in setting their Christmas pudding alight, here’s my simple tutorial for setting a pudding ablaze.
Here is a printable version of the complete recipe.
Christmas or Plum Pudding
- 1½ cups raisins
- 1½ cups golden raisins
- 1 cup dried wild blueberries use currants instead if available
- ½ cup marishcino cherries glacé cherries can be used - halve the cherries.
- ½ cup orange marmalade with large chunks of peel
- ½ cup dried pineapple chopped in small pieces
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup dates chopped
- ½ cup walnuts chopped
- ½ cup almonds slivered
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2½ cups breadcrumbs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or mixed spice if available
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 large apple Granny Smith - peeled and grated
- 1 large carrot peeled and grated
- 8 ounces butter 2 sticks melted
- 1 lemon juice and grated zest
- 1 orange juice and grated zest
- 4 large eggs whisked
- 2 fluid ounces brandy or whiskey
- 1 cup Guinness Stout
- Chop the dried pineapple into small pieces and mix into the marmalade. Cover and let stand for 1 hour before mixing the pudding.
- Add the raisins, golden raisins, dried wild blueberries, dried cranberries, and chopped dates to a large mixing bowl. Remove the stems from the maraschino cherries, cut into halves, and add to the fruit in the bowl.
- Add the chopped walnuts and slivered almonds to the mixing bowl.
- Add the brown sugar and bread crumbs and mix well.
- Sieve the flour, salt and spices, then stir into the prepared fruit and nuts.
- Add the grated apple and carrot, the grated lemon and orange peel.
- Pour the melted butter over the fruit mixture and combine well together.
- Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. Add the fruit juices and brandy and whisk again. Add the marmalade and pineapple mixture to the eggs. Mix together well before adding the egg mixture to the prepared fruit and nuts in the large bowl. Mix well together.
- Pour the Guinness stout over the fruit mixture and combine together gently, but thoroughly, mixing the stout throughout the pudding mixture.
- Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Leave the mixture for at least 12 hours before cooking, to allow the flavors time to blend.
- Brush the inside of two glass pudding bowls, that can withstand boiling temperatures, with melted butter. This recipe makes one 1 and 1/2 quart size pudding, and one larger 2 and 1/2 quart size.
- Place approximately two-thirds of the pudding mixture in the larger bowl, and the remainder in the smaller glass steaming bowl.
- Cover the bowls with a large piece of parchment paper, with a fold creased into the center. Secure around the rim of the bowl with cotton thread. Cover the entire bowl and parchment paper cover in aluminum foil.
- Using cotton twine or thread create a handle around the prepared bowl for ease of lifting in and out of a crockpot. Place the bowl in a crockpot large enough for the pudding bowl to stand a minimum of a 1/2-inch away from the walls of the crockpot basin.
- Add water to the crockpot to cover three-quarters of the height of the pudding bowl. Cook on high power for 1 hour, then reduce to low heat for an additional 5 hours for the smaller pudding and 6 hours for the larger pudding.
- Remove the bowl from the crockpot and allow to cool for two hours before unwrapping the pudding.
- Place a plate under the cooking bowl, turn it over, and allow gravity loosen the pudding onto the plate. Wrap the pudding in aluminum foil when fully cooled. Store in an air-tight container for 4 to 6 weeks prior to eating. To reheat the pudding, place back into a steaming bowl. Prepare the bowl as outlined above and res-team on high for 1½ hours in a crockpot.
- Serve in slices with egg custard or whipped cream, or brandy butter.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
This recipe will turn out fine even if it isn’t made weeks before Christmas. Advanced 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.
Purchasing Ready-Made Christmas Puddings In America:
A quick disclosure note: The link below is an affiliate link and I will receive a commission if you choose to make purchases using this link. Thanks in advance if you do utilize this link for your Irish shopping.
Over the past few months I have received many e-mails from readers requesting information on where to purchase Irish food items in the United States. And so for anyone in America interested in purchasing pre-made plum puddings or Christmas puddings and other Irish food treats check out the Food Ireland website. They have a wonderful selection of Irish goodies which can be shipped throughout the United States.
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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