This is a recipe for a traditional Regency Plum Pudding, served on Christmas Day after dinner, (or on 12th Night) from William Kitchiner and his 1827 cook-book, ‘The Cook’s Oracle’. This Plum Pudding, or Christmas Pudding as it became known, can be made up just a couple of days in advance of Christmas, and then be reheated; this recipe will make the classic Regency/Victorian pudding often written about, and famously depicted by Charles Dickens in his 1843 work, ‘A Christmas Carol’.
“Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like washing-day! That was the cloth … Mrs. Cratchet entered: flushed, but smiling proudly: with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top. Oh what a wonderful pudding!” A Christmas Carol 1843.
There are two methods given for cooking this pudding, (Kitchiner uses both of them in his pudding recipes below). The first method is boiling the pudding in a pudding cloth, (this can be very successful if done correctly) the second method is boiling/steaming the pudding in a pudding basin (fool-proof method).
Plum Pudding Recipe From 1827
You will need a large square muslin cloth (clean and washed) or a 1.2 litre pudding basin lightly buttered. This pudding can be made several days or even a week or two in advance.
- 170g shredded suet
- 170g raisins
- 225g currants
- 85g bread crumbs
- 85g plain Flour
- 3 eggs
- 10 shavings of grated nutmeg.
- 1/4 tsp ground mace
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp sea salt.
- 300ml milk (or a little less)
- 115g brown sugar (demerara)
- 30g Candied lemon peel
- 15g Citron peel
Plum Pudding Sauce Ingredients:
- 100ml sherry
- 50ml brandy
- 2 tsp of brown sugar (demerara)
- 250g butter
- 1/2 lemon (zest only)
- grated nutmeg over the top
- 50ml brandy
- a twig of holly with berries.
In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs and spice well together, mix in the milk a little at a time, then add the rest of the ingredients, including the suet, and stir thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave for two hours (or overnight). Uncover the bowl, mix thoroughly once more, if the pudding mixture is a little wet add in some more plain flour and stir – then either boil the pudding in a cloth or in a pudding basin – both methods are given below.
Boiling In A Cloth:
Traditionally you would take a very large square piece of clean and washed muslin cloth, dip it into a bowl of hot water and then ring it out so that it is still damp. Flour it all over with plain flour, spread it out flat, then re-flour the central area – add the Plum Pudding mixture into the centre – make sure the pudding mixture is not too wet, firm it up with some extra plain flour if needed.
Gather up the four corners of the cloth, tightly twist them to seal and very tightly pack the pudding mixture down into the center of the cloth, making a round ‘cannon-ball’ shape. Tie a double tight loop of string (use some butchers string) around the gathered corners to hold the pudding together.
To keep the round shape the pudding should be boiled suspended by a string so that it does not touch the bottom of the saucepan. Choose a large enough pan (ideally a very tall pan) that will hold the pudding easily, leaving a good 2.5cm space around, below and a large gap above the pudding when suspended. Tie the pudding to a long handled wooden spoon (or similar) so that it spans the saucepan with ease, while suspending the pudding by the string into the pan.
Pour in enough boiling water to cover the pudding when suspended.
Cover the saucepan with a double sheet of foil and put the lid on. Boil it like this for 5 hours – check every hour or so to make sure the water has not boiled dry, top it up with boiling water from the kettle when it needs it – the water should always just cover the pudding.
If not serving straight away: Drain off the water and leave the pudding suspended until fully cold. Over-wrap with grease-proof paper then foil and store in the refrigerator until needed. To reheat take off the paper and foil, suspend the pudding from the spoon once more on a shorter string, with less water in the pan, and steam above gently simmering water once more for 2 to 3 hours until completely heated through.
Boiling In A Pudding Basin:
Spoon the mixture into a 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 then 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 to raise it off the bottom – 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 7 or 8 hours, if not serving right away, allow to cool and replace the foil and paper top on the pudding basin, store in the fridge until needed, then gently steam once more for 2 to 3 hours to heat right through.
Make the Plum Pudding Sauce: In a bowl soften the butter then mix in the grated lemon zest, sugar, brandy and sherry – once fully mixed grate a few shavings of nutmeg over the top.
Once boiled or steamed remove the pudding from the cloth, or carefully tip out the pudding from the pudding basin, out onto a large plate. Just before serving – pour over 50ml of warm brandy, you heated gently in a saucepan, make a small hole in the top of the pudding, and secure the holly twig with berries. Carefully set light to the brandy on the pudding and serve to the table.
Use a knife to cut the pudding and then a spoon to spoon the pudding into bowls – serve with a little of the Pudding Sauce.
Boiling the pudding in a pudding cloth will make a round pudding, the typical cannon-ball shape Dickens describes, and Kitchiner has some excellent advice on how to boil a pudding in a pudding cloth.
Original Plum Pudding 1827 Recipe
From ‘The Cook’s Oracle’ by William Kitchiner published 1827
Plum Puddings, when boiled, if hung up in a cool place in the cloth they are boiled in, will keep good some months: when wanted, take them out of the cloth, and put them into a clean cloth, and as soon as warmed through—they are ready.
Be sure the water boils before you put in the Pudding. —set your stewpan on a trivet over the fire, and keep it steadily boiling all the time—if set upon the fire the Pudding often burns.
Be scrupulously careful that your Pudding Cloth is perfectly sweet and clean, wash it without any Soap—unless very greasy—then rinse it thoroughly in clean water after. Immediately before you use it dip it in Boiling Water, squeeze it dry, and dredge it with Flour. When Puddings are boiled in a cloth, it should be just dipped in a Basin of cold water, before you untie the Pudding Cloth, as that will prevent it from sticking.
Puddings are best, when mixed an hour or two before they are boiled,—the ingredients by that means amalgamate, and the whole becomes richer and fuller of flavour, especially if the various articles be Thoroughly well stirred together.
Suet chopped fine, six ounces. Malaga raisins, stoned, six ounces. Currants nicely washed and picked, eight ounces. Bread crumbs, three ounces. Flour,- three ounces. Eggs, three. Sixth of a nutmeg. Small blade of mace, same quantity of cinnamon, pounded as fine as possible. Half a tea-spoonful of Salt. Half a pint of milk, or rather less. Sugar, four ounces : to which may be added, Candied lemon, one ounce. Citron, half an ounce.
Beat the eggs and spice well together, mix the milk with them by degrees, then the rest of the ingredients; dip a fine close linen cloth into boiling water, and put it in a hair sieve; flour it a little and tie it up close; put it into a saucepan containing six quarts of boiling water: keep a kettle of boiling water alongside of it, and.fill up your pot as it wastes; be sure to keep it boiling six hours at least.
Beat up the yolks and whites of three Eggs, strain them through a sieve, (So keep out the treddles), and gradually add to them about a quarter pint of Milk,—stir these well together,—rub together in a mortar two ounces of moist Sugar, and as much grated Nutmeg as will lie on a sixpence, —stir these into the Eggs and Milk,—then put in four ounces of Flour, and beat it into a smooth Batter,—by degrees stir into it seven ounces of Suet (minced as fine as possible), and three ounces of Bread-crumbs— a little grated Lemon Peel may be added—mix all thoroughly together at least half an hour before you put the pudding into the pot; put it into an earthenware pudding mould, that you have well buttered, tie a pudding cloth over it very tight, put it into boiling water, and boil it three hours. Half a pound of Muscatel Raisins cut in half, and added to the above, will make a most admirable Plum Pudding.
Plum Pudding Sauce.
A glass of Sherry, half a glass of Brandy, (or Cherry-Bounce or Curacoa, or Essence of Punch) and two tea-spoonsful of pounded lump sugar, a very little grated Lemon Peel is sometimes added, in a quarter of a pint of Thick Melted butter: grate Nutmeg on the top.