Tradition: Christmas Pudding

December 26, 2011

Steamed pudding in its mold.

I cringe a little bit when I hear myself say, “I’d like to start a new tradition,”  well aware that an act doesn’t become tradition until it is repeated so many times it is unnatural not to do it. My Grandma Dorothy upheld her family’s special-occasion tradition of serving czernina, the Borusheski version of the Polish duck soup, using the same green plastic teacup year after year as a soup ladle. My dad has maintained his father’s tradition of making the Hungarian káposztája, stuffed cabbage leaves, every New Year’s Day. J and I have a few traditions of our own, but starting a new tradition is tricky business: Sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t. And there are few things lamer than hearing yourself say, “What ever happened to that tradition?”

Last year I did start what I hope will become a long-standing tradition: Christmas pudding. The recipe I use comes from Nigella Lawson’s book Feast. I first tasted “figgy pudding” when a  former co-worker brought one to a holiday potluck, and immediately I knew I must try this recipe. Sweet, but not too much so. Dense, sticky and rich with layers of flavor. Is that chocolate? Is it a cake? Is it a fruitcake?  And that dollop of rum butter? Oh man.

My copy of "Feast." I wrote that this will be a yearly tradition, so it must be so.

So the weekend after Thanksgiving, I make the puddings. I follow Nigella’s recipe faithfully, though it could be easily tinkered with. And because I don’t have a traditional pudding-steaming vessel  I divide mine into four or five smaller glass containers with covers.  The smaller portions make easy gifting and are easily stackable in the refrigerator. I skip the addition of the coins and tokens, which signify good luck, mostly because of laziness. Instead I send our good wishes along to everyone who enjoys the dish.

Nigella Lawson’s Nonconformist Christmas Pudding

2 cups dried mission figs

1 cup dried blueberries

1 1/2 cups currants (or dried cranberries, in a pinch)

3/4 cup Kahlua

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup ground almonds

2 cups breadcrumbs

1/2 cup cocoa

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 apples

3 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 tablespoon pie spice

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup vodka

Generously butter the steaming vessel(s) and lids.

Grind the figs in a food processor and put them in a saucepan with the blueberries, currants and Kahlua. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Cut the butter on top of the simmering fruit and put the lid on, leaving it to simmer and melt for another 10 minutes.

Put the breadcrumbs, ground almonds, cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda and brown sugar into a large bowl.

Peel, quarter and core the apples and, as Nigella says,  “bung” them in the still-figgy food processor until finely chopped. Add them to the bowl of dry ingredients along with the buttery dried fruit mixture. In the same unwashed food processor, break the eggs and add the sour cream, vanilla and spices. Process to mix and pour into the pudding, scraping the sides to get all the leftover bits. Mix well with a spoon, and pour into the prepared steaming vessels.  If you’re using covered glass containers as I do, be sure not to overfill, as the pudding expands as it steams.

Now for the steaming: Because I make several smaller puddings, I arrange mine in a large canning pot, resting them on the rack. Cover and steam for four hours, checking the water level periodically. After four hours, turn off the heat and allow them to cool in the pan. Transfer the puddings to the refrigerator. (Some people allow them sit on the kitchen counter.) The more time you allow them to mature the better, which is why these are traditionally prepared toward the end of November. (That lazy Thanksgiving weekend, therefore, is the perfect time.)

The day you want to eat the pudding, steam it for another 1 1/2 to four hours — the longer it steams, the richer it will be. (A friend of mine steamed hers in a crock pot — a great tip.) Unmold the pudding by inverting it onto a plate, and stick a sprig of holly on top. In a saucepan, warm the vodka and strike a match to light it and pour over the pudding. “Then,” Nigella writes, “in absolute discordance with all possible health and safety initiatives, bearing it aloft make a dash for the dining table so everyone can see this fabulous, flickering spectacle.”

Makes me smile every time I read it.

Serve with rum butter.

Rum Butter

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2  teaspoon vanilla extract (my addition to the recipe. Optional)

3-plus tablespoons good-quality rum (to taste)

Put the sugar in the food processor and process to remove any lumps. Add the softened butter and cream it with the sugar. Scrape down the sides, add the ground almonds and process again. With the motor running, add the vanilla and the rum to taste. Taste as you go along. I prefer more rum in my butter, but some might find my preference too strong for their liking.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Tradition: Christmas Pudding”

  1. Julia said

    I was treated to a serving of R’s Christmas pudding—and was ready with the fire extinguisher if needed for the flaming vodka. Twas not needed and enjoyed the Christmas pudding immensely. Thank you for all your hard work in bringing and making this tradition (and pudding) for all of us to enjoy. I wish I would have remembered to snap a photo of the pudding on fire, or at least of our plates. I guess I had figgy pudding brain.

  2. Lizbeth said

    It was so much much fun to sit back and watch all this happen. It was a Christmas and Christmas pudding I won’t soon forget. Thanks for making it possible. Yes, remember to put a lid on a flame.

  3. Dale said

    Damn, not only did I miss seeing all of you but the pudding sounds fantastic and Lou said it was.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: