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Bring me a Figgy Pudding

Christmas carols and holiday stories are full of references to Christmas puddings. These are not the flavored custards American think of when they hear pudding, but sweet and spicy concoctions that can be made weeks ahead of time.

Chanukah and Christmas are right around the bend and the days are as short as they come, and jovial visits with family and friends are central as we seek out the comfort of companionship with loved ones. Traditions are enjoyed together as we bring heart warming songs, foods, spirits and revelry to every gathering.

Heritage and history in these traditions give us a sense that we are connected to our pasts, to each other and to the future. Culinary Currents this week brings one of those traditions, a classic Christmas pudding, to the table.

Across the United Kingdom, various steamed puddings are at the heart of sweet offerings during the holiday season. This recipe is representative of the finest of traditions, right down to presenting it ablaze with brandy.

Watch the videos in the gallery above and follow the directions below to learn how to make Christmas pudding at home. 

Gary Acheson and his family are well connected to their European roots: Daphne, his wife, gave us a great recipe for the Greek staple, , earlier this year. Only twenty years ago, Gary came to the U.S. from his native Ireland. Upon the arrival of his first Christmas stateside, Gary was aghast to realize he did not possess the family recipe for Christmas pudding.

These were the days where a phone call was the fastest way to solve a problem, so Gary quickly dialed his mom’s number. Delighted to provide a bit of home to her boy, she dictated the recipe over the phone and it is that very recipe Gary uses to this day.

Handwritten on yellowed paper, the recipe bears the signs of a family cooking together. Check marks, spots, and wrinkles bear testament to the annual production of the “Christmas Pud”.

You might be thinking, “Isn’t it too early to make Christmas dessert?”  Fear not: this culinary treasure can actually be made weeks or months in advance. Weekly “feeding” of brandy enhances and deepens the sweet and spicy flavors of the pudding. See the video in the gallery above for more on that.

Also in the gallery, step-by-step photos guide us through the simple recipe and the secrets to making it the best it can be, like using buttered brown paper and the steaming process.

Family cooking is important to the Acheson/Lagios clan and, just like Daphne’s Spanakopita, Gary’s Christmas pudding holds a high place at holiday gatherings.

A Christmas Pudding

Ingredients: 

  • 12 oz. currants
  • 8 oz. raisins
  • 8 oz. sultanas
  • 2 oz. mixed cut peel
  • 1 oz. blanched almonds
  • 7 oz. melted margarine
  • 6 oz. plain sifted flour
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 oz. fresh breadcrumbs
  • 7 oz. dark brown sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • rind and juice of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 1 quarter pint Guinness
  • 1 quarter gill brandy

Directions: 

  • Combine ingredients in mixing bowl
  • Pour into cooking bowls
  • Steam covered in cooking bowls for three hours
  • Store in cool dark place 
  • Feed occasionally with brandy (see video)
  • Heat by steaming and put to table under flaming brandy
  • Serve with fresh whipped cream

Next in Culinary Currents, we get a primer in party planning and celebrating the season with Brianna Anthony and Jenna Monroe. Bringing their closest friends together each year to share some holiday joy has become an annual event and the planning usually starts while the weather is still warm. 

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Jonathan Markham December 13, 2011 at 08:29 PM
As an Englishman Christmas is not complete without Christmas pudding!! They are amazing I even managed to find suet at Draegers in San Mateo. My sister and her family will be visiting from the UK so we will be sure to set one ablaze on Christmas day

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