This Christmas Pudding recipe was published in 1926, and it is by Mrs Thomas Hardy, [Florence Emily Dugdale] Hardy’s second wife; it was submitted by her for publication in a charitable book published by her good friend, Dorothy Allhusen. As noted below Hardy himself did not like Christmas Pudding, but he always insisted it be made for those that did.
Thomas Hardy’s Christmas Pudding:
Although Christmas, and even Christmas Puddings, regularly featured in his writings, this recipe, and it’s title, is in slight jest: Thomas Hardy famously did not like Christmas Pudding, he even joked about it on his death bed … ‘Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited’, by Michael Millgate, (published in 2006) ‘Hardy roused himself sufficiently on Christmas Day  itself to scribble a pencilled note of thanks [to Gosse] and even to summon up a flash of humour that had so consistently marked their correspondence over the years: “I am in bed on my back, living on butter-broth & beef tea, the servants being much concerned at my not being able to eat any Christmas pudding, though I am rather relieved.”‘ 2 short weeks later Hardy died having never recovered.
His dislike of Christmas Pudding is further recorded in James Stevens-Cox’s work ‘Thomas Hardy: Materials’ (published in 1971) ‘The Christmas I was there Mrs. Hardy said Mr. Hardy did not like Christmas pudding, but I could make one. After dinner that Christmas the bell rang for me and Mr. Hardy said, “You did make the pudding didn’t you Annie?”‘
Thomas Hardy: (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) was an English novelist and poet. While during his lifetime he was known for novels such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd, which earned him a reputation as a great novelist. Considered a Victorian Realist, Hardy in his novels and poems examined the social constraints that were part of the Victorian status quo, suggesting these rules hinder the lives of all involved and ultimately lead to unhappiness.
Florence Emily Dugdale: (12 January 1879 – 17 October 1937) was a writer of children’s stories and the second wife of Thomas Hardy. Florence first met Thomas Hardy in 1905 aged 26. She became his passionate friend and helper, and eventually stopped teaching in 1908 – both to assist Hardy and begin her writing career. In 1912 she published her first book – The Book of Baby Birds – with Hardy’s contribution. In the same year, Hardy’s wife Emma died, and she moved in to Max Gate in 1913. In 1914 they married at St Andrew’s Church, Enfield, despite the 39 year age difference.
Max Gate: is the former home of Thomas Hardy and is located in Dorchester, Dorset, England. Hardy designed and lived in Max Gate from 1885 until his death in 1928. It was here that he wrote Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge, as well as much of his poetry. Max Gate is now owned by the National Trust.
The recipe comes from: ‘A Book Of Scents And Dishes’, by Dorothy Allhusen, printed in 1926. “[with] The suggestion of compiling such a book and devoting the proceeds of the sales to charity from Mrs Thomas Hardy [Florence Emily Dugdale] … charities in which I take a personal interest.” The weights and measures have been adapted for the modern kitchen and the method expanded to aid explanation.
Thomas Hardy’s Christmas Pudding Recipe
From Mrs Thomas Hardy, Max Gate, Dorchester, 1926
Makes 3 good puddings: reduce all quantities to just one-third to make 1 pudding in a 2 litre pudding basin.
- 1kg raisins
- 1kg currants
- 500g sultanas
- 725g breadcrumbs
- 250g flour
- 1kg suet (shredded)
- 125g blanched almonds cut fine
- 1 nutmeg (grated)
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 tsp salt
- rind of 2 lemons chopped fine
- juice of 2 lemons
- 500g soft brown sugar
- 500g mixed candied peel
- 12 eggs
- 250ml milk
- 200ml rum
- 200ml brandy
- 300ml of stout or ale
In a very large mixing bowl mix all the dry ingredients together.
In another large mixing bowl beat the eggs and then add all the liquor in and mix.
Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients from the other bowl in.
Thoroughly mix all together and then boil for 7 hours in well-buttered basins – see instructions below.
Spoon the mixture into the greased pudding basin, and pack it down a little, level the surface with the back of the spoon – the level of the pudding should be about 3cm (1.5 inches) below the top (or less) of the basin. I like to use an oven-proof clear glass pudding basin so that I can see what is going on during the steaming time and later on how it is maturing. Cut a round, large sheet of baking parchment (or greaseproof paper) and one of foil slightly bigger so they will come down at least 10 cm (4 inches) over the sides of the basin.
Lay the baking parchment on top of the foil and fold a large pleat down the centre of both (to allow for any pudding expansion). Lay the sheets over the top of the pudding basin (foil side up) and secure around the sides with string – wrap the string around the pudding basin several times tightly and tie the string off to make sure the foil top is secured down firmly and the pudding is sealed. Trim off any excess foil and paper if it is too long. You can even make a string handle by looping it over the top and tying it off under the string going around the basin.
Stand the pudding basin in a deep saucepan (which has a tight fitting lid) on an upturned heatproof plate (or metal bars etc.) to raise it off the bottom of the saucepan – add a little water under the plate to get rid of any air pockets. Pour in boiling water to come just under half way up the side of the pudding basin.
Keep the water at a medium simmer and a gentle bubble, cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for 7 or 8 hours, topping up with boiling water from time to time. It is important to keep checking the level of the water so that it does not run dry.
After the allotted time spent steaming remove the pudding basin from the steamer or saucepan and allow to cool. When cool take off and replace the foil and greaseproof paper top with some fresh sheets and re-secure and seal – before sealing drizzle over a little extra brandy. Store the pudding in its sealed pudding basin in a cool dark place until Christmas Day.
On Christmas Day you will need to reheat the Christmas Pudding by steaming as before for 2 to 3 hours. Then remove and uncover the pudding basin, carefully turn the Christmas Pudding out onto a serving plate.
To serve: If setting the pudding alight it is often best to use a metal tray or plate with a lip to sit the pudding on and contain the lighted brandy as it is poured over … add a small sprig of holly with berries into the top of the pudding and take the pudding to the table, (it is better to light the pudding at the table rather than carrying it in).
In a small saucepan warm some brandy and vodka, (the vodka ads a higher alcohol volume to increase the time of burning). Gently heat it through so that it is steaming. Using a lighted taper light the rising vapours in the saucepan, dim the lights and pour the lighted brandy and vodka over and around the pudding – it will only remain alight for a short time, then cut into the pudding.