Each year for most of my childhood, my Grandma would send us a homemade steamed Christmas pudding from the other side of the country. It came nestled in amongst gifts and sweets, and seemed exceptionally special and exotic — something we wouldn’t even know how to attempt to make ourselves. We relied on her to send the real thing, and rationed it over the course of the holiday, topped with gobs of the requisite “hard sauce” — a butter/sugar mixture stiffer than icing.
The trick, I think, is in the steaming, a cooking method hardly bothered with anymore. How do you steam a pudding, anyway? Why wouldn’t you just throw it into the oven?
Steaming is a classic cooking method for Christmas puddings, and — perhaps surprisingly — doesn’t require special equipment. To steam a large(ish) pudding you need only wad up balls of tin foil and put them in the bottom of a pot with a few inches of water, then set the pudding on top of it. You don’t need a fancy pudding mold, either — a glass or stainless steel bowl, ring cake pan or Bundt pan will do.
Now that I have no one to ship me annual puddings, I’ve decided to make them myself and was surprised at how easy it was. There’s no reason not to carry on the tradition.
Traditional Steamed Christmas Pudding
Adapted from Leeza at AllRecipes.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup all-fruit mincemeat
1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. Bird’s custard powder
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 1/2 cups milk
grated zest of an orange (optional)
Stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, butter, mincemeat, cranberry sauce and pumpkin. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Pour into a metal baking pan or pudding mold (even a Bundt pan will do) that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.
Put a few inches of water into a large pot (or one that will accommodate the mold) and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and crunch up a few balls of tin foil. Put them on the bottom of the pot and the mold on top of it. Cover with a tight lid or more tin foil. Steam for 2 1/2 hours.
When firm, cool the pudding for about 10 minutes and then unmold. To make the sauce, bring all ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking until bubbly and thick. Serve alongside the pudding. Serves 10 or more.
Photo credit: istockphoto/MarkSwallow