This delicious Christmas tradition is a staple of the British holiday table.
Christmas pudding, also called plum pudding or figgy pudding, comes from England. Traditionally the Sunday before Advent (5 weeks before Christmas) the pudding is made, every member of the family takes a turn to stir the pudding and make a wish, this is known as “Stir up Sunday”.
After being steamed for approximately 8 hours the pudding then takes the 5 weeks to cure before the big day which is why there was so much liquor added to it. It is then steamed again for a few hours before serving.
Traditionally it is doused with brandy and set on fire with much ceremony. So when ready to serve typically a large spoonful of brandy is poured over the top of the pudding and immediately set light to using a safety lighter or long match. Brandy burns blue so it is best to darken the room first to see the flames. When the flames have died down it is ready to serve.
What to serve with your pudding?
There are various sauces that work well with the pudding, three are listed below, however cream or a simple vanilla ice cream works just as well too.
Custard is the perfect accompaniment for British puddings and desserts and is easy to make. You will never need to buy a jar or a packet mix again.
- 5 oz milk (preferably full fat, but 2% will work)
- 8 1/2 ounces heavy cream
- 2 oz superfine sugar (caster sugar)
- 6 large egg yolks (preferably free-range)
- 1 vanilla bean (split and seeds removed)
- Put the milk, cream, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and then turn the heat down to low.
- In a large heatproof bowl, add the remaining sugar and egg yolks and whip until light, creamy, and pale yellow in color.
- While continually whisking, slowly pour the warmed milk and cream into the egg mixture.
- Pass the custard sauce through a fine sieve, pour back into the saucepan, and add the vanilla bean seeds.
- Over a low heat, continually stir until the custard starts to thicken. It is important you do not try to speed up this process by turning up the heat because there is a risk of the sauce curdling, and burning.
- Once thickened, remove from the heat and pass through a sieve once again.
Rum or Brandy sauce
This boozy, rich sauce is a perfect balance for the pudding. It is a matter of taste whichever liquor you choose, both are equally delicious.
This sauce is easy to make and can be made a day or two in advance, refrigerated then reheated when the pudding is ready.
- 3 (or more) tablespoons dark rum or brandy
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1/3 cup butter
- 20 oz milk
- 1-tablespoon heavy cream.
- Put the butter (hold back 1 tbsp) in a saucepan with the flour.
- Pour in the milk and whisk everything together over a medium heat.
- As soon as it comes to a simmering point and has thickened, turn the heat down, stir in the sugar, and let the sauce cook for ten minutes.
- Add the Brandy or Rum, the remaining butter, and 1 tbsp cream.
Douglas Fir infused white sauce
An unusual yet delicious alternative to the traditional custard or Brandy sauce.
“This is a lovely, alcohol-free alternative to the traditional white sauce and adds a subtle pine taste. The Douglas Fir is a popular choice of Christmas tree in many households. It sounds unusual, but the tender tips of the fir infused in the sauce works really well” – Michael Wignall, two Michelin-starred chef.
- 50g of unsalted butter
- 50g of sieved plain flour
- 550ml of whole milk
- 50g castor sugar
- 50g of Douglas fir (use the lighter green, tender tips) – these will need to be foraged, and washed first.
- Pace the sugar, milk and Douglas fir into a pan and gently heat to a simmer.
- Take pan off the heat and cover with plastic wrap. After 5 minutes, taste the milk and leave to infuse until you have your desired flavor (the longer you leave, the stronger the taste of Douglas fir) recover with the wrap each time you test.
- When you have the required taste, strain the mixture through a fine sieve and set aside for your sauce.
- Take a different pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Keep stirring and cook for 2-3 minutes until a smooth roux is formed. Slowly add the infused milk to the butter and flour mixture, stir continuously to ensure that no lumps form.