For many of us, we hold tight to holiday traditions, embracing every candy-cane-dusted cookie or rum-soaked punch, because they are simple to remember and easy to replicate. They offer us a link to the memories of Christmas past with little effort and big impact. But there is a forgotten element of the Christmas menu that tugs at nostalgic taste buds and blankets your kitchen with the unmistakable aroma of the holidays: Christmas pudding. Sometimes called plum pudding, this love letter to Christmas cooking is steamed in a bowl, steeped in deep, rich flavors.
You'd be forgiven to think this is similar to fruit cake; while it has similarities, it's altogether different. Both include dried fruit, nuts, and spices, but the fruit cake is made with a butter batter that is often dense, solid, and dry like pound cake, whereas a Christmas pudding is suet-based, giving it a rich, moist, and crumbly texture. Further, fruit cake is served with a sweet icing, and Christmas pudding is bathed in rum, set alight, and topped with a brandy butter. To handle a Christmas pudding takes two hands -- they are solid cakes, dense with ingredients and made all the more heavy by the steaming process that brings it all together.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to Christmas pudding. Traditionally, the Sunday before Advent is a day dedicated to the holiday kitchen, and more specifically Christmas pudding. It sparks the holiday season and fills the house with scents of mixed spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and candied peel. The lingering aromas of citrus and spice only intensify as the pudding steeps, and then reaches its peak when the pudding is steamed. For those who can muster the strength to store these puddings until Christmas, there are great rewards, but for some, it's impossible to resist digging into that first pudding still steaming from its water bath.
Get my recipe for my family Christmas Pudding.