The luscious, dark, tangy, sweet, and often intoxicating first bite of Christmas pudding is a special reminder of the holiday season for those of British origin. A bonus for those unfamiliar with the aged, steamed cake filled with fruit, liquor, and nuts is the opportunity to douse it with brandy butter and set it aflame.
It has been almost two years since I last laid eyes on a Christmas pudding, and in planning this year’s holiday festivities, I knew it had to be an integral part of our celebration. My husband, however - a Florida native with childhood memories of Jell-O brand products - couldn’t conceive of pudding as something special. Indeed, from an American perspective, tapioca and chocolate pudding is generally the domain of the cafeteria. I had to broaden his dessert horizons.
Since Atlanta is the most populous city in Georgia and home to the largest concentration of non-Americans, I reasonably figured that at least some of these internationals were, like me, from a Christmas pudding eating nation. It turns out that although they might be, they unfortunately do not share my enthusiasm for this particular holiday indulgence.
Four well-recognized local bakeries politely told me they don’t make Christmas puddings. They must be busy meeting demand for red velvet cupcakes. Some Google sleuthing and telephone follow-up resulted in two possible far-away sources: Whole Foods (nee Harry’s Farmer’s Market) in Alpharetta, and Taste of Britain in Norcross. At Whole Foods, the puzzled grocery manager pointed me toward panettone. Panettone, a sweet Italian loaf, is assuredly not Christmas pudding.
Taste of Britain came through, though. Not only did they stock real Christmas pudding - they had a display of different varieties and sizes. Further, they were all aged and ready for consumption this season. Upon getting home, I tore it open and though it resembled my distant memory of Christmas pudding at Sind Club in Karachi, it was decidedly drier and sweeter.
I know I can make a better pudding, and I am going to show Americans – including my husband – that this colonial tradition bears saving. To that end, a good friend originally from the U.K. shared with me his recipe. Next year, we start Christmas pudding preparations in October.
1 cup suet, chopped or vegetable shortening
Mix the zests, juice and sugar first – alternating between dry and wet ingredients in a buttered pudding basin. While mixing drop a few silver coins; these are supposed to be lucky to those who find them in their serving.
Steam pudding basin with all its contents for 3 hours until the ingredients come together and form a cohesive almost clean mixture. Once the pudding is steamed cover with foil and store in a cool dry place until you are ready to eat.
The longer the pudding sits the better it will taste.
To serve, re-heat the pudding in an oven for 10-15 minutes at 350°F.
Serve with vanilla custard or store-bought brandy butter.
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