A quest for Christmas pudding
December 21st, 2011
11:00 AM ET
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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.

And thus began my quest to find an honest, genuine Christmas pudding in the city of Atlanta. Internet recipes made it seem possible to create a Christmas pudding at home, but the need to soak, marinate and ferment the cake for at least four weeks meant that a December effort would not yield an authentic pudding in time for its namesake holiday.

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.

Christmas Pudding

1 cup suet, chopped or vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp molasses
1 cup water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp all spice powder
1 cup chopped nuts
3 cup self-rising flour
1 cup fresh white bread breadcrumbs
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup raisins
1 cup sultanas
1/2 orange – juice and zest separated
1/2 lemon – juice and zest separated
5 Tbsp brandy

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.

Is there a food that makes the holidays bright in your home? We want to hear all about it. Immortalize your food tradition in words, recipes, pictures or video, submit it as an iReport and we'll show off some of our favorites on CNN's Eatocracy food blog through the end of the holiday season.

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Filed under: Baked Goods • Christmas • Christmas • Holiday • Holidays • It's not the holidays without • Recipes


soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. jayman419

    How is choking half to death on a quarter supposed to be an auspicious start to the new year?

    December 23, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  2. Ann

    It's all about the brandy butter. Really, that's all you need to make. The pudding is just wasted space.

    December 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Frank Moore

      LOL! There's a pudding hater in every crowd. :-)

      December 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  3. IronCelt

    The British plum pudding sounds suspiciously similar to its American cousin, fruitcake. My great-grandmother made fruitcake that was doused in an "alternative liquid" because she was part of the Temperance Movement and abhorred liquor in all its forms.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  4. kithope

    Needs Brandy Hard Sauce.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  5. Martha C

    I'll be making a "Quick Pudding" for Christmas, the 7-cup Christmas Pudding listed on the BBC Good Food website. It's absolutely delicious and doesn't need suet (uses grated frozen butter). Thanks for the recipe, Frank. I'll try it next year when I hope to start earlier on my pud! Merry Christmas everyone!

    December 22, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  6. Frank Moore

    CNN still hasn't approved my post with my Grandmother's Plum Pudding recipe. For those who requested it, and any others interested. just send an e-mail to... tiofranco@gmail.com
    with the header... Plum Pudding Recipe
    and I'll e-mail a word .doc with the recipe.

    Merry Christmas everyone,
    - Frank Fisher Moore II

    December 22, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  7. MMMMMM

    your making me hungry with this talk about pudding

    December 22, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  8. Frank Moore

    BTW Folks... I posted my Grandmother's recipe earlier this evening. Evidently, it's not showing yet, as I have a notice saying it is... Awaiting Moderation.

    - Frank Fisher Moore II

    December 22, 2011 at 1:35 am |
  9. Frank Moore

    For Liese, Susan, Sharon, and anyone else who would like my Grandmother's Plum Pudding recipe. I have it condensed a bit for this venue. However, if you would like the Word .doc I put together a few years ago, feel free to send me an e-mail at: tiofranco@gmail.com with... Plum Pudding Recipe... in the Subject line, and I will send you a copy with more complete details. (Hope this all fits in one post)

    Ingredients

    1 Cup Beef Suet (Finely Ground)
    1 Cup Dark Molasses
    1 Cup Raisins
    1 Cup Currents
    1 Cup Walnuts (½ cup, rough chopped; ½ cup finely chopped)
    1 Cup Milk
    2 1/2 Cup Flour
    1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda (from a fresh box is best)
    1/2 tsp Cream of Tarter
    1 tsp Salt
    1 tsp Cinnamon
    1 tsp Cloves (ground)
    1/2 tsp Nutmeg
    1/4 tsp Ginger (Optional)

    Stir the Flour, Spices, Baking Soda & Cream of Tarter in a large mixing bowl.
    Add the Raisins, Currents, Walnuts, & Suet and stir to coat (not an essential step)
    Add Molasses & Milk and mix thoroughly. A large wooden spoon is good, but Hands are best! Do not use an electric mixer, as the batter to too thick.

    Pour batter into a Crock or Loaf Pan, allowing 1/2 to 1 inch for rising.
    Place pudding in a Kettle of gently Steaming water, making sure that the container is above the level of the water. You should start with about 1 – 2 inches of simmering water in the Kettle.

    Steam for at least 2 1/2 Hours, checking occasionally to make certain there is sufficient water to keep the kettle from going dry. Since the cooking temperature never gets above ~230°F, there is NO danger of overcooking. If uncertain as to whether the pudding is done, leave it steaming an additional ½ – 1 hour.

    Following steaming, allow the pudding to cool. Unmold, as you would a cake

    Serving

    Cut slices about 1/2 – 1 inch thick. If you have a mind to, drizzle each slice with some Frangelico or Amaretto. Place in a slotted steaming basket and steam until hot. (Again… it can never get overcooked). You can also Pan Fry the slices in a little butter. If you fry, add the liqueur afterward. But PLEASE…
    Do Not Microwave!!! Tried this a long time ago. It gets gummy & rubbery, and is REALLY NASTY.

    When ready to serve, top with a generous Dollop of Hard Sauce!!!

    December 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  10. Michael

    WARNING – apart from the hazards to teeth and particularly tooth fillings, any coins in a Christmas pudding need to be made from silver – not the common nickel, copper or zinc modern coins. Anything other than actual silver coins would impart nasty, very reactive, metalic componds to the dish.
    Yes, it is traditional, but only with real silver coins. I believe pre-decimal coins (like the sixpence) would suit, but you won't find many of them in North America.

    December 21, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  11. Sharon Stephens

    Frank – Do you also have a recipie for black bun to serve on Hogmanay? Would love to have that as well. Some of the recipies I've seen do not seem true. Thanks

    December 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Frank Moore

      Sharon, I'm sorry to say that I don't have either of the recipes you asked about. My Grandmother's family, (Craig) were not big on sweets, cookies or pastries. Gingerbread cookies and frozen custard are about the only other sweet recipes I have from her.
      They sound intriguing though. I'll have to do some research on those. Good luck to you and have a wonderful Christmas.

      December 21, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  12. neepsandtats

    Goodwood's British Market is a great online resource for UK-based items (www.goodwoods.com). I live in the Knoxville TN area, and our World Market (aka Cost Plus) carries Walker's individual-sized puddings, for around $5. What's harder than sourcing Christmas pudding, is British-style Christmas cake. Amazon.com came through for us this year, thankfully – it's good stuff, nothing like the American version, I assure ya. [Full disclosure: I'm an American, married to a Brit]
    Happy holidays, CNN staff & readers!

    December 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  13. actorsdiet

    i made an "americanized" figgy pudding cookie that has been a huge hit at all the holiday parties:

    http://theactorsdiet.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/bring-us-some-figgy-pudding-cookies/

    December 21, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  14. Kathy

    I live in Norcross and have several British friends, so Taste of Britian is a regular shopping spot for a dinner party. My Brit friends were very surprised when I served them Yorkshire Pudding and sticky pudding. LOVE that store! Always something new for this Yank to try.

    December 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  15. Sunflower

    "pudding" without milk.....Hmmmm... Interesting.

    December 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Frank Moore

      Yep. Anothe difference between the Brits and the Scots. Scots' Plum Pudding uses milk, and NO eggs!

      December 21, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  16. Jon Harpool

    I agree with Mr. Moore. Forget the citron and use suet. I searched the internet and dozens of cookbooks from the 1800s and 1900s to arrive at my Plum Pudding recipe and everyone in my house loves it. A word of caution about the suet – ask for baking suet and get it fresh from your butcher. Don't use the stuff they sell for bird food. The recipe in this article will take about a 6 cup mold with some left over. Make the whole thing.

    December 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Frank Moore

      John – I thoroughly agree. Firm, clean white, suet, is vital. It's worth it, even if you have to pay for it.

      December 21, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  17. dragonwife1

    Is it just me, or do the recipe directions seem to be missing a few sentences? "Mix the zests, juice and sugar first – alternating between dry and wet ingredients in a buttered pudding basin." Huh?? Shouldn't there be something about mixing dry ingredients together, maybe a few more details? How big of a pudding mold does it require? I'd like to try this, sounds tasty, but I don't want to be floundering around with a gooey mess at the end, or trying to fit 8 cups of batter into a 6-cup mold.

    December 21, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  18. Frank Moore

    PS – The only traditional topping for Plum Pudding is, Hard Sauce. It's equal weights of Butter and Confectioner's (or Powdered) Sugar. Whip until fully incorporated and then add small measures of Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or similar liqueur.

    - Frank Fisher Moore II

    December 21, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  19. Frank Moore

    I'm really tired of all the nonsense about "Christmas Pudding" being somekind of British invention. As with Scones, "Plum Pudding", as it is rightfully known, if of Scot's origin! The Brits stole it from the Scots, just like they did with Scones, and just about everything else they could plunder from Scotland.

    A *real* Plum Pudding doesn't have the citrons, zests, and the other nasty stuff the Brits decided to toss in. Only raisins, currents, and walnut. Addtionally, *only" suet can be used for shortening. Use vegetable shortening... even if it's frozen... and your pudding will turn out like crap!
    Only firm white suet has a high enough melting point to allow the pudding to raise properly before melting.

    I've been using my Paternal Grandmother's (Jean Craig) recipe for over 40 years, and the recipe goes back to at least the early 18th Century in the Craig family.

    If you've never had a genuine, original, Scot's, Plum Pudding... or genuine, original, Scot's, Scones... I highly suggest that you do. Both are far superior to the ersatz British imitations.

    - Frank Fisher Moore II

    December 21, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Liese

      Willing to share your recipe?

      December 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • Susan

      Please share your recipe. My mother is a Scot (Byrnes) – I'd love to make this for her next year.

      December 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Frank Moore

      I post the recipe here when I get home in few hours. I know the recipe by heart, but don't want to make any mistakes.

      December 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • lwg

      Scotland,Wales, Northern Ireland, and England comprise Britain.

      December 21, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
      • Frank Moore

        No... They do not. Britain = England. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, are part of the UK, not Britain.
        Scotland is now semi-Autonomous, as it has it's own Parliament.

        December 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
      • AJH

        UK full name is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

        Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales.

        December 21, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
      • Frank Moore

        "Great Britain" is NOT the same thing as "Britain". Good Lord, do we REALLY need a History lesson here?! Britain, comes from the Latin... Britannia... which was the name of the Roman province. Britannia consisted solely are of the area which is now England. It did NOT include Wales, or Scotland, which HISTORICALLY, were independent Nations, until well after the Norman invasion of England. ERGO...

        Britain = England.

        Furthermore, you're incorrect about the UK. Northern Ireland as never a Kingdom. The term "United Kingdom" originally referred to the Union of Britain and Scotland. Each of which had been independent Kingdoms for centuries. On top of that...
        The Brits are Anglo-Saxon/Norman. The Welsh and Scots are Celts. Only the original "Britons" of England were Celts. Most of the Britons fled during the Ango-Saxon invasions of the 5th Century. They went to the coast of France, and settled in what is now... Brittany.
        No Welshman or Scot is ever going to say they're British, or live in Britain.

        Now...
        I'm not going to continue this irrelevant Troll debate. Read history!!

        December 22, 2011 at 1:31 am |
      • Newt

        This is a food blog. Please do not politicize it ... unless you're going to invoke the Equal Time Rule on the political blog and talk about food.

        December 22, 2011 at 7:35 am |
      • P.J.

        This is not about politics, it's about correcting misconceptions and erroneous information. That is always appropriate. Go Frank!

        December 22, 2011 at 10:00 am |
      • Frank Moore

        Thanks for understanding, PJ! :-)

        December 22, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Sharon Stephens

      Frank – Do you also have a recipie for black bun to serve on Hogmanay? Would love to have that as well. Some of the recipies I've seen do not seem true. BTW...Completely agree with you about the Hard Sauce and it is always best when made from scratch.

      December 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Sharon Stephens

      Frank – One more favor? Do you have a recipie for Hogmanay "three-cornered" biscuits. The one I have looks more for scones than biscuits. I am using the UK name for biscuits, which the US calls cookies. If you also care to share the scone recipie as well, I'll make sure to send a toast your way on Christmas Day!

      December 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
      • Frank Moore

        Sharon, I'm sorry to say that I don't have either of the recipes you asked about. My Grandmother's family, (Craig) were not big on sweets, cookies or pastries. Gingerbread cookies and frozen custard are about the only other sweet recipes I have from her.
        They sound intriguing though. I'll have to do some research on those. Good luck to you and have a wonderful Christmas.

        December 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Frank Moore

      LOL! Well said, Mr. Gingrich. ;-)

      December 22, 2011 at 9:22 am |
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