In Victorian England, the presentation of the plum pudding was often the highlight of Christmas day. The ritual usually began at the beginning of Advent when each member of the family took a turn at mixing the pudding and making a wish. A few trinkets or silver coins were usually tossed into the batter. (A silver coin promises wealth in the coming year, a thimble ensures thrift, an anchor assures safety, and a tiny wishbone brings good luck). The pudding mixture was then hung in a pudding sack for a few weeks. On Christmas Day the pudding was boiled for eight hours, until it was fully “plum” or swollen. Just prior to serving, the pudding was doused with brandy, lit on fire and carried to the table with great ceremony. (from Rick Stevens’ European Christmas).
English Plum Pudding Recipe via Epicurious
Fruit Mixture (To be made 4 days ahead)
- 1 pound seedless raisins
- 1 pound sultana raisins
- 1/2 pound currants
- 1 cup thinly sliced citron
- 1 cup chopped candied peel
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon mace
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound finely chopped suet – powdery fine
- 1 1/4 cups cognac
- 1 1/4 pounds (approximately) fresh bread crumbs
- 1 cup scalded milk
- 1 cup sherry or port
- 12 eggs, well beaten
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
Blend the fruits, citron, peel, spices and suet and place in a bowl or jar. Add 1/4 cup cognac, cover tightly and refrigerate for 4 days, adding 1/4 cup cognac each day.
Soak the bread crumbs in milk and sherry or port. Combine the well-beaten eggs and sugar. Blend with the fruit mixture. Add salt and mix thoroughly. Put the pudding in buttered bowls or tins, filling them about 2/3 full. Cover with foil and tie it firmly. Steam for 6-7 hours. Uncover and place in a 250°F. oven for 30 minutes. Add a dash of cognac to each pudding, cover with foil and keep in a cool place.
To use, steam again for 2-3 hours and unmold. Sprinkle with sugar; add heated cognac. Ignite and bring to the table. Serve with hard sauce or cognac sauce.