In the middle of last week my little advent calendar reminded me that I hadn't yet made my Christmas puddings. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to do them until yesterday, eight doors late. Officially, Christmas puddings should be made on "Stir-up Sunday" (the final Sunday before Advent begins. By making your puds this early in the month it gives the flavours chance to mature and deepen (much like a good fruit cake) but I like to think a homemade pudding, made even a week or so late, is still preferable to a the shop bought one. Seriously, if you look at your average supermarket pudding they look like canon balls. Heavy, un-naturally black and always in those red-plastic pots - what's that about? Making one yourself is really simple and if you are looking for home-made gift ideas who wouldn't be happy to receive a little muslin-wrapped bundle of fruity delight?
This recipe makes enough for two 2 litre puddings. I was trying to make lots of little ones to give as presents but after my newly-purchased set of molds met an unfortunate end (note to self: stop swinging your shopping bags when walking on tarmac) I made four 0.5 litre puds instead. I was going to use my slow cooker to steam them, but with a stereotyped lack of spacial awareness, I underestimated how much room the puddings would need so I ended up doing them in batches in my largest saucepan.
- Seive the flour, salt and spices into a large bowl.
- Add breadcrumbs, suet, sugar and fruit - mix well.
- Add grated apple, carrot, rind and juice of the lemon and orange , treacle, eggs and spout. Mix very well together.
- Make a wish!
- Leave for several hours or overnight.
- When you are ready to make the puds, stir the mixture again and put it in your greased basins. Cover the top with two layers of greased proof paper. Make a pleat in the paper so that there is room for the pudding to expand. Add a layer of foil and secure tightly.
- Stand the pudding on an upturned saucer, I used a cookie cutter, in a pan and pour boiling water into the pan so it is half way up the side of the pudding basin.
- Steam as follows: 1l basin - 8 hours, 600ml - 6 hours, 300ml - 4 hours.
- Do not let the puddings boil dry - top up the water as necessary. The puddings are done when a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Remove the grease proof paper and the foil and leave them to cool. Once they are cool add a circle of grease proof paper and re-wrap with foil. Store the puds in a cool place until you are ready to eat them.
- When it comes to Christmas day, re-steam the puddings. 3 hours for the large puds, 2 hours for the smaller puds and 1.5 hours for the micro puddings.
- Set aflame (vodka produces the best flame) and serve with brandy butter (recipe will follow).