My family has a tradition of making Christmas cake every year using my great grandma’s recipe. This year I wanted to try Christmas pudding, something we’ve never had growing up in my family. Since I didn’t have a family recipe I took my inspiration from history via technology finding a recipe for Empire Christmas Pudding. There are hundreds of recipes to choose from but this pudding seems anchored in history and it deserves to be brought forward to the future. The Empire pudding dates from 1926 and was put forth by the Empire Marketing board. It was conceived in order to get the British to buy exported products from across the British Empire. Ingredients from South Africa, Ceylon, Australia and Zanzibar. You really need ingredients from around the globe to make this pudding which is something we hardly give a second thought about today. This recipe seems relevant and completely within contemporary standards of global access to all of the required ingredients. Perhaps in the future this may not be the case. There is a good article on Empire puddings here which includes the original recipe.
I’ve made a few modifications to the recipe, scaling the recipe down to a reasonable size and adjusting the quantities slightly to fit metric measurements. I fiddled with the ingredients to replace some of the raisins with dried cherries and dried mission figs; partly because I thought these fruits would add to the pudding, and partly because I ran out of raisins. Therefore I’m calling this recipe Empire Christmas Pudding via the Commonwealth. I’ve listed the original fruits in the recipe below with my tweaks as a note.
There is a contemporary fear of using suet in puddings, at in my country. It is not a common item here. For a while I contemplated using butter after having a hard time sourcing any suet but I did in the end stick with it. Suet is best for steamed puddings because the fat has a higher melting point than butter giving the pudding time to set before the fat melts. Whereas butter would melt faster giving you an oily and heavy pudding, which is what this article proposes, and I tend to agree. Just make sure your suet is pure snow white and finely chopped. The first butcher I went to sold me fatty ground beef for suet, not at all suitable for puddings!
There are few things finer than a Christmas pudding steaming. I’ve yet to try the ones I’ve made but I can hardly wait to share them with family and friends. There is still plenty of time to make a pudding and I hope you’ll give this recipe a try.
Empire Pudding via the Commonwealth*
Makes 2 small puddings or 1 large
180 g currants
180 g sultanas * see note 1
180 g raisins
60 g grated apple
180 g fresh bread crumbs
180 g finely chopped suet * see note 2
75 g candied peel
90 g flour
90 g demerara sugar
2 large eggs
6 g cinnamon, ground
2 g cloves, ground
3 g nutmeg, grated
3 g pudding spice * see note 3
15 ml brandy
30 ml rum
250 ml stout beer
Note 1: I replaced some raisins and sultanas with 10 dried mission figs, thinly sliced, and 100 grams dried cherries. Chopped dried apricots would be nice as well.
Note 2: I think this pudding should be made with suet for a superior texture and flavor.
Note 3: I didn’t have any pudding spice so I used 1 gram each of ground ginger, allspice and ground cardamom.
Mix all the ingredients together.
Butter 2 pudding basins, line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper and butter that as well. Spoon the batter in the basins and smooth the top.
Cover the tops with a layer each of parchment and a top layer of aluminum foil. Add a pleat in these sheets so the pudding has room to steam and expand. Then secure these tightly with string and if you want add a string handle.
Steam on an inverted plate or steamer rack or use a canning rack. The goal is to keep the basin away from the harsh heat of the bottom. Fill the pot with water letting the water come halfway up the basin. Steam over simmering water for 2 to 3 hours for small puddings, 1 large pudding could take 4-6 hours until the top is springy and feels cooked. The clear glass basin was useful and helped in checking the colour of the pudding. The longer you steam it, the darker the colour will become.
Remove the puddings from the pot, remove the foil and paper lid and cool. The puddings may made ahead of time and frozen or refrigerated. Sprinkle refrigerated puddings with brandy every week and keep them tightly wrapped. Defrost frozen puddings overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. You can reheat them by steaming as before for 30 minutes – 1 hour