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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Stir-up Sunday – time to make a start on Christmas pud!

THIS lovely Christmas pudding is my mum’s recipe; it is full of fruit and nothing like the rather cakey or pasty commercial varieties.

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Mum’s Very Fruity Christmas Pudding: This Sunday is the traditional day to make your pudding and to get each member of the family to give it a stir and make three wishes.

It means Christmas to me as much as carol singers, reindeers and falling snow, and was a part of my childhood just as it is now a part of my children’s Christmas. I hope it gets passed down to the next generation as it was passed down to me.

It is easy to do – just an assembly job, really, but it does take a long time to cook as it is best to do this in a steamer. You can always fill the time with some Christmas present wrapping or card writing!

This Sunday is Stir up Sunday, the traditional day to make your pudding and to get each member of the family to give it a stir and make three wishes. This is a handy tradition as it is quite a heavy mix – more so if you are making some smaller pudding alongside to give to friends and family.

Traditionally you put charms or coins into the pudding which could be quite hazardous. I recall having some very small charms that we put in, wrapped in foil – over the years they seem to have gone missing. I wonder where..?

Some sort of Christmas pudding has been eaten right from the start of written history, from the savoury version, made with suet and meat, to plum puddings made with exotic spices and sugar. We are lucky that we don’t have to stone the fruit, clean it of grit, scrape the suet off the kidney, prepare a boiling cloth with muslin, flour and butter nor heat up a great copper for the cooking!

These early puddings were always made round rather than our more familiar pudding shaped. Later on it became the tradition to add alcohol, which meant it would store for much longer.

Lots of symbolism surrounds this special dessert, from using 12 ingredients to represent the Apostles to wealthy families making 13 puddings but giving the last one away to a tramp or letting it go mouldy to remember the fallen Judas. The sprig of holly on top was said to represent the crown of thorns and protection against evil.

Nowadays we usually serve the pudding hot with a white sauce flavoured with rum or brandy, lemon sauce, butter or the Cumberland hard butter sauce. This is a mix of butter, rum, sugar and spices.

It was not traditionally a Christmas food but as it was served to celebrate the birth of a baby it is easy to see how it came to be associated with Christmas. I am, I realise, treading on dangerous ground here writing about local customs but please get in touch if you want to share your local traditions.

Left-over pudding is good re-heated in the microwave and it freezes well so that you can enjoy it when you are not so full up of food after all the feasting.

Best made a few weeks before Christmas but it will keep for up to six months.

Serves 10-12

INGREDIENTS:

50g blanched almonds

1 eating apple i.e. Cox’s

160g fresh white breadcrumbs

50g Plain white flour

160g shredded suet

175g light muscovado sugar

175g large raisins

175g sultanas

175g currants

50g cut mixed peel

½ tsp. mixed spice/ ½ teasp freshly grated nutmeg

1 lemon – grate the rind first and then juice

2 large eggs

2 tbsp. brandy or sherry

A little milk (if necessary)

TO FLAME THE PUDDING: Approx. ½ ladle of brandy

METHOD:

1. Grease a 1.5 ltr basin – if you are not sure about the size of your bowl, fill it up with water and then pour the water into a measuring jug. Put a circle of greaseproof paper in the bottom which will help to turn the pudding out easily. Prepare a steamer with foil and greaseproof paper (see panel).

2. Chop up the almonds. Peel and grate apple. Put in a large bowl with all the other ingredients.

3. Mix thoroughly – make sure you get some help with this. Leave to stand for a couple of hours if you have time. Fill your greased bowl – there should be some space between the top of the pudding and the edge of the bowl but it doesn’t rise very much. Press down well. Cover with the prepared paper, tie up securely and cover over with the foil.

4. Place in a large pan with a lid (or a steamer if you have one) – if you put a saucer or a small plate on the bottom it will cut down on the rattling. Steam for 5 hours.

5. Keep topping up the steamer with boiling water when necessary. You are best to set a timer to check it every 30 minutes or so or you might forget and the pudding can burn.

6. Remove from the pan. Leave to cool and then replace the greaseproof and foil/string etc. Store in the fridge or a cool place.

7. On Christmas Day, steam pudding for about 1½ hours.

8. When ready to serve, invert the pudding onto a large warmed plate – with a lip to take the brandy if you are going to flame it.

9. HOW TO FLAME – heat half a ladle full of brandy over a gas flame. When it is hot carefully light it with a match and then pour over the pudding. The flames will eventually die out and the pudding with have a lovely flavour. Wait for the pudding to cool for a few minutes and then serve with a brandy or rum white sauce, rum butter or cream

TO MAKE THE BRANDY/RUM SAUCE:

INGREDIENTS:

600ml milk

2tbsp. corn flour

1½ tbsp. sugar (or more to taste)

2 tbsp. brandy or rum

METHOD:

1. Make a white sauce either in a pan or the microwave.

2. Add the sugar and rum and pour into a warm jug.

1. Take a large piece of greaseproof paper and a large sheet of thick foil.

2. Fold a pleat across each. There should be enough paper/foil to cover the top of the bowl to hang down about 4cm all the way around.

3. Place the paper over the bowl and then scrunch up under the rim of the basin and then repeat with the foil.

4. Tie securely with string-it is helpful to have another pair of hands to do this. It is also handy to make a couple of loops with the string on each side to help you lift out of the water when it is cooked.

LOOKING for an unusual Christmas get together with family and friends, work colleagues or interest group? Bookings are now being taken for day or evening sessions at Woodend Cookery.

Enjoy the festive atmosphere, beautiful decorations, log fires and good food. Pick up hints and tips plus some delicious festive recipes to take home. All sessions include welcome refreshments, cookery demonstration, lunch/dinner and a complimentary glass of wine. Choose a date to suit you during November-December. Groups must be a minimum of 8 people – get in touch for more details:

BY POST: Woodend Cookery, Woodend House, Woodend, Egremont, Cumbria CA22 2TA

BY PHONE: 01946 813017

EMAIL: gmjakobson@sky.com

ONLINE: www.woodendcookery.co.uk

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