Eliza Acton’s Christmas pudding

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This is the best Christmas pud recipe ever, from Eliza Acton’s classic book “Modern Cookery” of 1845: “a remarkably light small rich pudding”.

Serves 4 generously.

You will need a 1.2litre ceramic pudding bowl, or two x 600ml – or individual bowls, if you prefer, as in the picture.
You’ll also need some greaseproof paper, foil and kitchen string. (You can use plastic bowls with lids, but the old-fashioned way with greaseproof paper and foil produces a darker and more attractive pud.) For presents, wrap in fresh muslin and decorate with ribbons, as shown.

Pudding ingredients

75g each of plain flour and fresh white breadcrumbs

175g suet (vegetable suet if preferred)

175g each of raisins and sultanas (washed if necessary)

110g Cox-type apple (say one large apple), peeled, cored and chopped fairly small

150g soft dark brown sugar

50g candied peel (washed if very sticky)

generous teaspoon of mixed spice (or ! tsp nutmeg and ! tsp mace) pinch of salt

small wineglass cognac (but ordinary brandy will do – or a liqueur such as Cointreau)

3 eggs, beaten lightly

 

Use a large mixing bowl. Simply mix everything together in the order given, adding each ingredient in turn. Stir very thoroughly – and don’t forget to make a wish!

If you like, you can add a 5p coin, wrapped tightly in greaseproof paper. Pack the mixture firmly into the pudding bowl or bowls, but don’t fill right to the top – leave about 5mm space, then cover the pudding layer with greaseproof paper.

If using plastic bowls, clip on the lid/s now. If using ceramic bowls, put on a lid of foil and tie a string handle around the top of the bowl so that you can lift it in and out of the pan.

Put the pudding/s in a saucepan of boiling water, to come 2/3 of the way up the sides of the bowl. Turn down the heat, put a lid on the saucepan and simmer for about 3 hours for big puds; 1 ! hours for mini-puds.

Check that the water levels stay just right – not too low (won’t cook properly) and not too high (the fat from the pudding will escape). They’re cooked when nicely dark. Store in a cool dark cupboard till Christmas, then replace the foil and reboil for about an hour for large puds, ! hour for mini-puds.

Serve hot with cream.

Traditionally you should make this on Stir-Up Sunday, the last Sunday in November, to give your puds time to mature, and bake your Christmas cake on the same day. But a week or two later is fine.

© Jane Chittenden

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