A Plum Pudding, also known as Christmas Pudding

This pudding is really best when made several months in advance and allowed to mature. Traditionally, every pudding contained a silver sixpence. The finder of the sixpence was supposed to have good luck. Small coins can be put in the pudding. They are usually boiled first to clean and sterilise them, then wrapped in greaseproof (parchment) paper before putting in the pudding.

The pudding is called plum pudding or sometimes plum duff. The old term for currents and raisins was "plums".

The old style pudding, often seen in Victorian engravings, is a round ball. To make the pudding as a round ball you put it in a piece of cotton, make a ball of it and suspend it over a large steamer. It is easier to use a pudding bowl.

This is a comprehensive recipe explaining not only a list of ingredients, but how to obtain and make some ingredients. Please read it to the end to get a feel for what is involved and what you need to hunt down before you start.


Fruit Mixture (To be made 4 days ahead)
1 pound seedless raisins
1 1/2 pounds currents
2 cups chopped candied peel — See note at bottom on making peel
1 cup of blanched and chopped almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound finely chopped suet - powdery fine
1 1/4 cups brandy — Used 1/4 cup at a time. You may use rum instead of brandy

1 1/4 pounds (approximately) fresh bread crumbs — See note at bottom on making bread crumbs
1 cup orange, lemon or grapefruit juice
1 cup sherry
12 eggs, well beaten
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Making the Pudding

The candied peel and the blanched almonds can be chopped in a food processor, or chopped on a chopping board with a large chef's knife. The peel and the almonds can be purchased ready chopped, but the purchased peel tends to be bland and processed.

Blend the fruits, peel, spices and suet and place in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of brandy, cover tightly and refrigerate for 4 days, adding 1/4 cup of brandy each day.

If the bowl does not have a sealable lid, use a plastic wrap like Saran to cover.

Final Mix

Soak the bread crumbs in the juice and sherry. Combine the well-beaten eggs and sugar. Blend with the fruit mixture. Add salt and mix thoroughly.

Put the pudding in bowls — See note on bowls — filling them about 2/3 full. This recipe makes a lot of pudding, enough for about 6 bowls of pudding using Mason Cash size 36 16cm/6 1/4 Ins "pudding basins". Cover with foil and tie firmly with cotton string. It is advised to tie string across the top to provide a handle to aid lifting the bowls in and out of the steaming pot.

In a large pot such as a stock put put enough water to cover the bottom third of the pudding bowl. Steam for 7 hours, over a low heat and watch that the water does not all boil away. If needed, top up with boiling water from a kettle.

Eating the Pudding

To serve, steam again for 2-3 hours and unmold. Sprinkle with sugar; add heated brandy or rum. Ignite and bring to the table. One bowl of this pudding, is enough for four to six people, it is very rich and heavy. Serve with brandy butter, or heavy cream. See note below for brandy butter recipe.

Note on bowls

The pudding bowl or pudding basin is traditionally a white stoneware bowl such as the Mason Cash brand which can be purchased in specialty cookware stores, or online. You can also use bowls made of Pyrex or Pyrosil (Corningware).

Note on peel

Candied peel is used in many Christmas dishes, plum pudding, fruitcake, panforte, panetone etc. It can be bought in most grocery stores but often lacks flavour. It is easy to make and keeps relatively well. It can be eaten as is, or dipped in chocolate to make some nice candy. You can use any citrus fruit to make the peel, each having a different flavour.

Take the peel, slice it into lengths and put aside. If you want to reduce the flavour and bitterness a tad, first bring to a boil in water, drain and put aside.

In a saucepan add about a 1/4 cup of water and then sugar guessing about how much will cover the peel. You can add more sugar later. Set over a medium flame to melt the sugar, when it has melted and is no longer cloudy, add the peel and stir with a fork. Reduce the flame and cook until the peel becomes translucent.

When done, remove from heat and using a fork, lay on a wire cooling rack to cool and dry. Store in a jar or bowl in the refrigerator.

Note on Blanched Almonds

Blanched almonds are almonds that have had the husks (brown skin) removed. You can find almonds ready blanched, but blanching your own almonds is easy. Buy raw almonds, with the husk on. Drop them in a pan of boiling water and take off the heat. After a couple of minutes, drain. You should be able to squeeze the almonds and have the husks pop off.

Note on Suet

Suet is usually beef suet and is the hard fat that surrounds the kidneys. It can be difficult to find in the US, but an enquiry at a specialty butchers shop will usually get some, often on special order. It can be frozen. Besides being the best fat for plum pudding, it can also be used for suet pastry when making "steak and kidney pudding". For this recipe, the suet can be crumbled by hand, or grated on a hand grater. Chopping in a food processor can make the suet into a congealed mess if you are not careful.

Note on breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs can be bought at most supermarkets, but are cheap and easy to make. Day old bread can be bought, or the remains of old loaves saved. Do not use bread that has additives such as dried tomatoes, olives etc. You can dry the bread in a cool oven, or on a sunny windowsill. When dried, crush with a rolling pin, or in a food processor. A two pound fresh loaf will make about 1 1/2 pounds of dry bread crumbs.

Note on Brandy Butter

4 tablespoons of softened, unsalted butter
1/2 cup of powdered (confectioners) sugar
3 tablespoons of brandy or rum

Cream the butter until white. Gradually add the sugar and the brandy. Stand for some little time in a cold place to get really hard. The hot pudding will melt the butter.

Julian Macassey