Tag Archives: dried fruit

Christmas Dinner Prep Nov. 2, 2017. Time to Soak the Dried Fruit for the Christmas Pudding. Please make this. It is easy and amazing, and…there is still time!

Christmas Pudding has the reputation for being stodgy, heavy and full of unappealing dried fruit, and in general, it is true. When I was growing up I tasted many truly terrible puddings. We would be dragged to relatives houses over Christmas and sure enough a cup of tea with a slice of pudding would be set in front of me. There were the aridly dry ones that would crumble in your mouth and I would need to drink two or more cups of tea to help wash them down. Next most awful were the  puddings that were chock full of candied mixed fruit peel. The luminous artificial dye in the peel would run into the cake part and the taste was tinny and chewy in a very unpleasant way. Horrible pudding memories!

https://i1.wp.com/cookingisfun.ie/sites/default/files/Mini%20Christmas%20pudding.jpg

This lovely pudding was made by Darina Allen, an amazing Irish chef, food writer and founder of the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland

I steered clear of making Christmas pudding for years, but, when one year I decided to try my hand at making one, I realized that Christmas pudding didn’t have to be heavy, stodgy and unpleasant. My pudding was rich and intensely flavorful but with a wonderful sticky pudding moisture that was addictive. Yes I am praising my own pudding, but my effort came with lots of help from taking a large portion of my mother’s Christmas spirit and combining it with the things I liked and a hefty dose of advice from various cookbooks and cooking gurus. 

Pedro Ximénez Sherry (sweet sherry is used to soak the dried fruit for your pudding)

My pudding is a little different every year and the main difference is I change the liquor I used to soak the dried fruit and, I change-up the dried fruit I use. I have used conventional fruits like currents and prunes to things like dried blueberries and figs in my pudding. This year I want to try a sherry that Nigella Lawson swears by for her pudding and use dried cherries as one of my fruits. I also think I want to add something from the chocolate family, be it cocoa powder or actual dark chocolate pieces…I haven’t decided yet.

soaking fruit for christmas pudding

I don’t always use sherry to soak my fruit. One year I used rum and it was amazing too (so don’t run out and buy sherry if you have something else that might work in your liquor cabinet that has sweet notes)

Today all I am going to do is get my fruit soaking for a few day (up to a week), in some delicious sweet sherry and make my mind up over the next few days.

If you are going to try your hand at this pudding along with me, you will also need to soak your fruit. For this stage you will need:

  • 1 cup Good Quality Sweet Sherry. If you know nothing about sherry, just get a recommendation from where you buy it. (I am using Nigella Lawson’s recommendation of Pedro Ximenez Sherry. She waxed on about it, so I believe it must be good. It is also used by Darina Allen for her pudding so I don’t think you can go wrong here. It is expensive though…close to $30 for a bottle, so if you plan on buying this, just know that it is great for sipping and can be added to plenty of other desserts).
  • 3 1/2 cups GOOD QUALITY dried fruit (choose 3 or 4 that you like…such as: currants, golden raisins, dried cherries, dried blueberries, figs (chopped), prunes (Chopped).

Method for Soaking Fruit:

Put fruit in a bowl and add the sherry. Stir. Cover and place on a shelf or cupboard somewhere for a few days. Give the mixture a quick stir every day (if you remember).

Dried Fruit for Pudding

This year I am using currants, dried cherries and dried blueberries

IN A FEW DAYS YOU CAN MAKE THE PUDDING!

*And if you are just discovering this recipe or feel in the mood to try this, you will also need a Pudding Basin*

 

 

 

 

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS PUDDING! (fabulous recipe right here)

I was a bit late getting my Christmas pudding made this year but I blame it all on my trying not to succumb to the onslaught of commercial holiday bombardiers that began their advertising attacks the middle of October for crying out loud!

The  Christmas tree At Rockerfeller Plaza - dreamy

This year’s Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center – Dreamy

I denied everyone in the house the permission to talk about what they wanted for Christmas, to sing Christmas carols in the car or do anything that remotely felt Christmassy until December 1st. All of this blatant disregard for the Holidays was my way of slowing everything down and trying against all odds to focus on the actual moments of my life as they unfolded.

dessert would not be complete without Christmas Crackers!

Dessert would not be complete without Christmas Crackers!

This however resulted in my forgetting to get my christmas pudding made 6 weeks before I paraded it to our table in a blaze of festive flame and fanfare. Oh well, it will have two weeks less time to cure but I don’t suppose anyone will really notice the difference or scowl at me after the feast I will have laid before them. And it is still not too late for you to try your hand at Christmas Pudding too. It is a complete cinch to make – all you need that might take a bit of hunting for if you live in the United States is a Pudding Bowl.

Time for Christmas

My kids insist on getting our tree at the same tree farm every year – the tree selection grows more dismal by the year but who am I to deprive these kids who cling to the comfort of tradition.

I do love this Holiday though and I’ll admit that it was really difficult not to get sucked in, so I am very glad that it is now December and I can look forward to getting our tree and dreaming about all the yummy food I am going to cook and the joy this season ⛄️🌲⛄️🌲brings🌲⛄️🌲⛄️

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You will need:

1 cup mixture dark raisins, golden raisins & dried cranberries

1/3 cup dried cherries

1/3 cup chopped dried prunes (pitted)

1/3 cup chopped dried dates – pitted (I used medjool dates which have a wonderful flavor)

3/4 cup rum or brandy (I used Bacardi Gold, but any rum will do)

1/2 cup self-raising flour

3/4 cup fine white bread crumbs

1/2 cup, plus 2 tbs vegetable shortening

1 medium apple, peeled and grated

1/2 cup, plus 2 tbs dark brown sugar

zest of 1 orange

1/2 tsp all-spice

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup vodka or brandy (to flambe before serving)

decoration for the top (holly, berries or some non-flammable ornament)

Equipment: 1 pudding bowl or mold to hold about 4 cups of batter.

Method:

1 – Soak fruit in rum or brandy in a covered container overnight, or up to a week.

soak fruit overnight in rum

soak fruit overnight in rum

2 – In a big bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients (except the vodka or brandy) together and then mix fruit into batter.

Mix batter, add fruit

Mix batter, add fruit

3 – Turn pudding into greased bowl or mold and place a piece of parchment over the top, before putting on the lid.

 5 – Cover the whole bowl in tin foil and set in a saucepan of gently boiling water (the water should come halfway up the bowl. Put lid on pot and cook, checking every now and then to see if water needs to be topped up, for 3 1/2 hours.

6 – Remove from pot and allow to cool before removing the tin foil. Leave in the container in a cool dark place (not the fridge) for 3 to 5 weeks. *Some people add a little more alcohol to the pudding every week or so, and you can do this if you like (I don’t as I’m not a big fan of alco-tasting desserts)

christmas-pudding-recipe - Picture of Christmas Pudding

On the day you are serving: re-steam the pudding (wrap in foil again) for another 3 hours. If you want to flambe the pudding for presentation purposes, put the brandy or vodka into a pot and place it on medium heat. Just before it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and set it alight. Immediately pour the flaming liquid over the pudding and serve. Serve warm with custard, brandy butter or fresh cream (recipe for custard and brandy butter will be posted before Christmas!)

I am hoping to get to skate ar rockefellow Cwnter this year under the looming twinklng Chrsitma Tree - it's a bit of a tacky dream but

❄️I am hoping to get to skate at  Rockefeller Center this year under the looming twinkling Christmas Tree – it’s a bit of a tacky dream but I just can’t help myself!❄

 

Time to Make The Christmas Pudding!

vintage christmas postcard

There is no getting away from the fact that Christmas is definitely coming! Everywhere I turn I am bombarded with reminders, starting with the twinkle-y sea of every iconic symbol of Christmas covering the entire lawn of my neighbour’s house, and ending with even the meat in the grocery store bound up in shiny cellophane and strung with red ribbons like some special present to be placed under the tree. To mention everything in-between would be an exercise in how poetic and tacky I could be at the same time. I may write something about this a little later, but for now I am really excited to talk about Christmas Pudding and share the recipe

I love any holiday or celebration that involves food, and Christmas dinner is the ultimate feast as far as I’m concerned. So yes, even though this one meal is one month away, I am already planning the menu and soaking the dried fruit for my Christmas pudding as we speak.

soaking the fruit, an important step in making a great pudding

Depending on what part of the world you are reading my blog from, you are either salivating at the thought of a slice of warm fruity pudding smothered in equally warm custard or brandy butter, or, you are puzzled as to why I would make a pudding a month before eating it! If the former, I suggest you get started, if the latter, it’s time to be exposed to a deliciousness enjoyed on Christmas day in most Irish and English households (and I suspect in strongly transplanted countries like Australia, India and North America).

Well, this deeply rich, dense steamed pudding, bejeweled with all sorts of dried fruits, came into its own in Victorian England (although apparently has existed in less evolved forms from the 15th century). It is traditionally made about 5 weeks before Christmas and used to be the highlight of the Christmas feast eaten on December 25th. In the early 19th century the most precious ingredients were spices and fruits, and this pudding was deemed special enough to have it all. The fruit most commonly used was raisins, but today people like to add their own particular favorites.

The recipe for this pudding varies greatly from household to household, region to region, and like every Italian “Mama” who is adamant that the best red sauce must have onions, (or absolutely not have onions), the serious pudding makers have strong opinions too! I am more the go-with-the-flow type and use what I like, and what is available in my supermarket on the day I take upon myself to buy the ingredients.

Rum-soaked fruit

The one step that is of the utmost importance is to let the dried fruits soak in alcohol before being mixed into the batter. Then the pudding needs to be steamed for hours, stored for a month, and then steamed again before finally being served. The reason that this pudding is worth all the trouble is to witness it’s grand entrance to the dinner table. It is served flambeed in alcohol amidst the hopefully cheering and applauding guests. There is nothing like a little indoor fire to get the party started.

 I am not a culinary traditionalist by any stretch, and my sinful admission is that I hardly ever make a Christmas pudding! My Christmas desserts have ranged from trifles to cheesecake, to a wild assortment of handmade chocolates. My problem is I never remember in time enough to let the pudding age before it is eaten. The only reason I remembered in sufficient time this year is because I was thinking about my mother’s traditional dessert for this special day, a christmas cake (next year perhaps?) while also walking by a shelf with a bottle of rum on it collecting dust, which she gave me several years earlier.

Christmas table (at my friend Tom’s last year)

She brought it over on one of her visits and we never opened it. When she died I swore to only break the seal if it was for a special reason, and, as I was thinking of how she went “all out” for Christmas I decided it was time to use it as a loving remembrance. That’s when dried fruit soaked in alcohol popped into my head, followed by the thought of a flaming Christmas pudding.

This pudding is a snap to make and you can pretty much bind any kind of fruit into bread crumbs, flour and eggs and it will work. The only inconvenience is that it steams for hours so you are more or less held captive in your kitchen and surrounding area until it is done (great time to read, or clean the bathrooms!).

I encourage you write down my list of ingredients below (take note of the bowl you will need for the pudding to cook in) and make this wonderful fruity, festive dessert for the big day next month. I will be sure to post pictures of my pudding (in full flame) soon after Christmas!

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*The pudding needs to be steamed in a “pudding basin” which is essentially a strong plastic bowl with a fitted lid, or a thin metal “plum pudding mold” which also has a lid. (I could not for the life of me find a pudding bowl anywhere close to me, and in fact got lots of funny looks from shop assistants when I asked. I did manage to find a metal mold which I have never used before, but am confident it will do the job. do not use a mold with a hole in the center.)*

my new metal pudding steamer

*One more point: If you do not want to flambe your pudding, that is totally fine. The process has nothing to do with flavor. It’s all about being dramatic!*

You will need:

1 cup mixture dark raisins, golden raisins & dried cranberries

1/3 cup dried cherries

1/3 cup chopped dried prunes (pitted)

1/3 cup chopped dried dates (pitted)

3/4 cup rum or brandy (I used Bacardi Gold, but any rum will do)

1/2 cup self-raising flour

3/4 cup fine white bread crumbs

1/2 cup, plus 2 tbs vegetable shortening

1 medium apple, peeled and grated

1/2 cup, plus 2 tbs dark brown sugar

zest of 1 orange or lemon (or some of both)

1/2 tsp all-spice

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup vodka or brandy (to flambe before serving)

decoration for the top (holly, berries or some non-flammable ornament)

Equipment: 1 pudding bowl or mold (see note above in red ) to hold about 4 cups of batter.

Method:

1 – Soak fruit in rum or brandy in a covered container overnight, or up to a week.

mix batter

2 – In a big bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients (except the vodka or brandy) together.

add fruit to batter

3 – Add the fruit and mix well.

cover with wax paper

4 – Turn pudding into greased bowl or mold and place a piece of parchment over the top, before putting on the lid.

cover entire bowl with foil

5 – Cover the whole bowl in tin foil and set in a saucepan of gently boiling water (the water should come halfway up the bowl. Put lid on pot and cook, checking every now and then to see if water needs to be topped up, for 3 1/2 hours.

6 – Remove from pot and allow to cool before removing the tin foil. Leave in the container in a cool dark place (not the fridge) for 3 to 5 weeks. *Some people add a little more alcohol to the pudding every week or so, and you can do this if you like (I don’t as I’m not a big fan of alco-tasting desserts)

christmas-pudding-recipe - Picture of Christmas Pudding

On the day you are serving: re-steam the pudding (wrap in foil again) for another 3 hours. If you want to flambe the pudding for presentation purposes, put the brandy or vodka into a pot and place it on medium heat. Just before it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and set it alight. Immediately pour the flaming liquid over the pudding and serve. Serve warm with custard, brandy butter or fresh cream (recipe for custard and brandy butter will be posted before Christmas!)