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Kitchen Index Irish Kitchen Library

Preparing the Puddings
by Bridget Haggerty

At our house, my mother served three different kinds of Christmas pudding. Not all at the same time, mind you. If we could afford it, which was seldom in my memory, she’d begin making an incredibly rich version weeks before the big day; when times were lean, which was often, we had a much simpler dessert which could be made on Christmas Eve, or even on Christmas. Then, there were the really hard years, when we had a commercially-made travesty that came in a tin...

Mum would send word to her family that we were struggling. Just before Christmas, a box would arrive and inside would be tinned Christmas pud as well as a plucked goose and fresh butter. The goose and butter were expected; they were sent every year. But, oh, what a let down to see that little square cardboard box with the round tin inside.

As with most kids, we were oblivious to budgets and bills, but Christmas pud from the relatives told us that we’d be disappointed if we asked Santa for something as big as a bike or a doll house. That said, my mother was a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist. She stretched every penny so we’d have a Christmas celebration with all of the trimmings, including a sprig of holly on top of the pud - no matter which version was served.

These days, commercially-made puddings are far better than they were in the 1950s; but, I still get a twinge when I see them on the shelf at the grocery store. Another disappointment on seeing that tin was realizing that we wouldn’t be helping mum with the preparations. No need to. So, that meant we’d miss the stirring in of each ingredient and then the excitement of watching her drop a threepenny bit into the mixture; we’d miss the tantalizing aroma as the pudding steamed on the stove, and then later, at the Christmas feast, we’d also miss the anticipation of wondering who would find the threepenny bit.

Regretfully, I wasn’t very good about writing down my mother’s recipes; the closest reference I’ve found to a pudding that sounds like the simpler one she used to make is in Kevin Danaher’s book, The Year in Ireland. He writes that in Co. Wexford, “Cutlin Pudding” was made on Christmas Eve. Thick porridge made from wheaten meal, sugar, dried fruit and spices were mixed together; the mixture was then gathered into a ball, wrapped in a greased cloth and dropped into boiling water. For how long, I can’t say, but I should imagine it would be for at least two to three hours. (I’d welcome any feedback from experienced steamed pudding makers!)

My mother’s best pudding recipe implied a no-expenses celebration, and for us kids, when we saw what she was up to, visions of bicycles and doll houses danced in our heads!

Several months before preparation day, she’d take a little of her housekeeping money and purchase one or more ingredients. She timed it all out so that everything was set to go about six weeks before the big feast. And then the day would come when she’d announce that it was time to make the pudding. Out would come this vast array of fruits, spices, eggs, even bottles of beer and liquor! Just to be extra nice to Dad, because, after all it was Christmas, she always made the pudding when he was home so he could judge whether or not the mixture had exactly the right “balance”.

I’ve read a good many recipes and the one that follows appears to come closest to what I remember. Truth is, I haven’t tried it. Regretfully, my family prefers trifle, pies, or a Christmas cake to pudding. I will also confess that in a fit of nostalgia, I’ve served the tinned version. Even flamed with brandy and then presented with a fresh sprig of holly, it’s a distant runner-up to my mother’s recipe - rich or simple.

Uncle Arthur’s Christmas Pudding
Originally called Mr. Guinness’s Christmas Pudding, this is a recipe that appears in Georgina Campbell’s Classic Irish Recipes cookbook; she got it from “Uncle Arthur”, the affectionate name for the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. Since Christmas is a time for family, I thought that, in this case, Uncle Arthur would be appropriate.

5 cups fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 3/4 cups currants
1 3/4 cups raisins, chopped
1 3/4 cups golden raisins
2 ounces chopped mixed peel
10 ounces shredded suet
1/2 level teaspoon salt
2 to 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup skimmed or low-fat milk
1 cup Guinness (If you’re in Ireland, use Guinness Extra)

1. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Stir in lemon juice, eggs, milk and Guinness and mix well.
3. Generously grease two 2 1/2 pint pudding bowls and line each on bottom with wax paper.
4. Turn mixture into bowls. Cover tightly with several layers of wax paper and foil and leave over night.
5. Place in boiling water and steam for about 7 1/2 hours. Top up with boiling water as needed and be certain not to let the puddings go off the boil.
6. Remove from boiling water and allow to cool. When cool, re-cover the puddings and store in a cool, dry place.
7.When needed for a meal, steam for another 2 to 3 hours and serve with Whiskey Sauce. (recipe follows)
Makes two puddings; each serves 6 to 8.

Irish Whiskey Sauce
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Irish Whiskey to taste (rum or brandy may be substituted)

1. Melt the butter, stir in the flour and cook over low heat for a minute or two.
2. Boil the milk in a separate pan.
3. Gradually add the milk to the butter and flour mixture.
4. Simmer for a few minutes, then sweeten to taste with the sugar
5. Flavor with Irish Whiskey.

Note: My friend and Irish Tips guru, Ruth Mark made this recipe last Christmas. She was concerned about how the puddings might turn out because she didn't make them until right before Christmas. No need to worry - she said that they were delicious! If you'd like to visit Ruth's site, please click here: Irish Life Tips
For another Recipe for Christmas Pudding please click Christmas Pudding2
Resources: Christmas pudding recipe from Classic Irish Recipes by Georgina Campbell ©1991

Photo Credit & Recipe: RTE

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Thu, Jul 9, 2015

"...the freshest of food and
the oldest of drink"
- Irish Proverb

Darina Allen has reissued "A Simply Delicious Christmas". It's a chatty cookbook, annotated with brief childhood tales of making the pudding and suggestions for how best to enjoy the food. But it's also filled with smart tips, such as a guide to the recipes indicating how long before the holidays each dish can be prepared, and suggestions for edible gifts, from truffles to jams. The range of recipes is impressive, with alternate versions of several recipes provided to accommodate fussier eaters. All the traditional favorites are here, along with many new ideas for fabulous holiday entertaining.
Review by Deirdre McFadden.
Click here for Delicious Christmas

The New Irish Table
by Margaret Johnson

Margaret Johnson’s love of Ireland permeates page after glorious page of mouthwatering Irish dishes, from Smoked Salmon Chowder to Raspberry Buttermilk Tarts. Lavish color photographs of the food, the landscapes, and the people are woven through the text, making The New Irish Table the next best thing to sitting down to dinner in Ireland itself.
Click here for New Irish Table.


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