Why go to the trouble of making Plum Pudding? It calls for innumerable ingredients - takes about 5 days from start to finish ... Tradition!!! And besides that, it's good ...
I haven't made it in a very long time and couldn't remember the recipe your great great grandmother used - but this is as close as to the original as I can remember. I'll make some adjustments as I go along with testing this recipe ...
So .... on the last Sunday before Advent -
“Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of Thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
10 eggs (5 eggs)
1 (1/2) cup white flour
4 (2) teaspoon cinnamon
1(1/2) teaspoons allspice
0.5 (0.25) teaspoons nutmeg
1 (1/2) teaspoon cloves
1 grated apple
1 (1/2) pound brown sugar (I used Dark)
1 pear, peeled and grated (left out for 1 pudding)
Rind and juice of an orange and a lemon
3 (1.5) pounds raisins,(4 12 oz boxes) use some currants, some yellow, some sultanas. The more variety in fruits, the better the pudding. In this version, I used some dried blueberries, apricots, and dates as well
8 (4) ounces candied cherries or natural dried cherries (or a mixture of both)
24 (12) ounces bread crumbs - fresh bread crumbs - grate 1.5 pounds bread!
12 (6) ounces whatever - dried cherries, blueberries, apricots, dates ....
Christian Brothers Brandy
1 (1/2) pound lard or finely minced suet if preferred (I used lard rather than suet - because I couldn't find any suet and it seemed lard was the fat with the highest melting point)
2014 Update - I am now using half unsalted butter and half lard - a bit richer taste)
I don't have any measure for the Guinness because some fresh breadcrumbs and even some of the fruit can be drier than others - make sure to have at least 24 oz on hand so you don't have to run out for more ,,,
Steaming for 12 hours is just a kind of estimate - it could take from 6 - 12 hours. When you have it all mixed up and ready to go, it will be a brownish color - when it is done the pudding will be almost black. So when it changes color and bounces back when you poke it - it's done!!
Why does it get blackish? Leprechauns .... or caramelization of the sugars ....
*** 68 oz of dried fruit/4.25 lbs.
Mix all the fruits with 1/3 cup brandy and let it all sit overnight. Add another 1/3 cup brandy the next day, and another 1/3 on the next morning.
Freeze the lard and grate into the breadcrumbs and flour, add sugar and spices and mix. In a separate bowl mix the eggs. When the eggs have been well stirred, add them to the bowl with the dry ingredients - then add the fruits. Mix all together very well. Add 1 cup Guiness. The batter should be a bit loose, thicker than a cake mix, thinner than bread dough. If it’s dry like bread dough, add more Guinness. Your great great grandmother would grease a big square of unbleached muslin and pour the pudding into this, tying off the top with string. Heat-proof bowls are a good substitute for the cloth bag method...and much easier. Grease the bowl with butter, and fill to within an inch or so of the bowl rim and use a lid for steaming. Sealing the top of the bowl with foil will work if there is no lid for the bowl. Fill the pot in which you are steaming the pudding to about an inch below the top of the pudding bowl and gently boil for at least 12 hours. Depending on the size of the bowls used, you should get 2 puddings.
When the pudding has cooled, remove it from the bowl ( According to Grandma - her grandmother always said a Hail Mary before attempting this - so it wouldn't crack when she was getting the pudding out, So far it's worked for me - but I also ask for a bit of help from your great great grandmother as well), dribble brandy (or any other whiskey-type stuff) over the top of it, letting as much sink in as possible. Seal the pudding in plastic wrap or in muslin or cheesecloth and then plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. (Don’t let the aluminum touch the pudding as there is a reaction that dulls the foil and I suspect this is not good for the pudding or the people eating it.)
Let it sit for as long as possible before serving. Three or four months is not too long. Occasionally dribble the pudding with a shot of the spirit of your choice: brandy, whiskey, bourbon, etc.
The pudding should be steamed again for an hour before serving. Remove the wrapping, return the pudding to the original bowl, and steam again for an hour. Turn it out on a heat-proof serving plate and proceed to the lighting process that follows the brandy butter recipe.
Brandy Butter (Hard Sauce)
1 stick butter, unsalted
1.5 cups confectioner's sugar
3 tsps brandy (or whiskey, Irish or otherwise)
Soften butter. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until it’s fluffy. Slowly add an equal amount or more of confectioner’s sugar. You will see that the mixture changes texture. Slowly add the brandy after this textural change in the sugar/butter blend. Beat further until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Spoon the brandy butter into serving dishes and chill until firm.
I added a little bit of grated orange peel and a dash of nutmeg (2013).
Garnish everything with Holly if you have it.
To light the plum pudding, sprinkle a little sugar over the pudding and pour a generous cup of warm Christian Brothers Brandy on top. It should light pretty easily and the blue flames will creep up the sides.
Douse the lights in the dining room to bring in the pudding to the acclaim of all at the table. Don’t be disappointed if the flame is out quickly. That’s how it goes - there were some years we could't get it to light at all - but it still tastes the same ...