The Original Victorian Christmas Pudding Recipe : ‘Food, Glorious, Food’: Cooking with Dickens

The Original Victorian Christmas Pudding Recipe : ‘Food, Glorious, Food’: Cooking with Dickens


Of course the pudding that we all
associate with Charles Dickens is the wonderful Christmas pudding.
Interestingly if you read ‘A Christmas Carol’ which is what made the Christmas
pudding famous you won’t find a mention of Christmas pudding – what you’ll find is
plum pudding. Now plum pudding is what everybody called this wonderful warm
celebratory dish and the Brits were incredibly proud of it some genius
discovered that if you got a cloth and greased it very well and poured what we
call plum potage in and bound it up and boiled it you got this lovely rich
round pudding. And that’s why when you see a picture of a plum pudding in a
Victorian story it’s probably like a cannonball. Dickens
took this idea of a celebration dish and he anchored it to the day to Christmas
Day itself. Two years after ‘A Christmas Carol’ was published in 1845, Eliza Acton who was a wonderful recipe writer gave the first recipe for what she called ‘Christmas pudding.’ And what’s really a nice little mystery is
that she calls it the author’s Christmas pudding. Now does she mean herself as the author or does she mean that it’s Dickens’s Christmas pudding? We’ll never
know but it’s a great recipe and we should make it. So let’s go! One of the
fantastic things about it is actually how easy it is. Most of the ingredients
are dry and all you do is simply mix them together so we’ll start off with 85
grams of plain flour, add one little pinch of salt and then add in all these
delicious things. Suet – now you can use vegetarian suet this happens to be beef
suet and quite honestly I think beef suet probably gives a slightly more kind
of toffeeish, slightly richer flavor – that’s 170 grams. This is 140 grams of
brown sugar and here is about a teaspoon of mixed spice if you don’t have mixed
spice you can just put cinnamon bit of nutmeg bit of allspice
– what you have really. 170 grams of breadcrumbs and then we’re going to put in the
plums. Now these look like raisins and these look like currants but it got its
name as plum pudding because in those days a plum was just a small rich dried
fruit. Plum pudding is not actually made from what we call plums today. I’ve put
in 170 grams of raisins, 170 grams of currants and here about 55 grams of cut
mixed peel. And the difficult bit just make sure they’re all nicely mixed up
together and one of the reasons you steam it for such a long time is that
you turn that sugar – all the lovely sugar brown sugar and all the sugar in the the
dried fruit it becomes really kind of caramelized and rich and that’s one of
the reasons you get that lovely toffee flavour in Christmas pud. Now Eliza
Acton puts a little bit of apple in her pudding which I think is nice it helps
to make it light. It doesn’t really matter exactly what size it is. This is quite a small one. Again make sure your apple is really well distributed. It all gets
bound together with three eggs. Give your eggs a good old beat and then give them
a treat – 140 milliliters of brandy combined well. Eggs and brandy go in and now
of course this is the bit that you need to do on stir up Sunday because this
year 2018 start sunday is the 25th of November 5 weeks before Christmas and
it’s a rather nice combination stir up Sunday of sort of folk lore and the
church the Book of Common Prayer because it’s taken from the the phrase stir up
our wills we beseech thee Oh Lord asking God to make you more kind
of redoubtable and people took the idea of stir up and added it by pudding and
also probably not very old but the idea of making a wish as you stir up your pudding.
And the next thing to do is grease your pudding basin of a litre and a half.
Put a tiny little circle of grease proof paper in the bottom of it which just
helps it turn out and then make sure you get it in and just pack it down because
it needs to be quite dense. You don’t want any air holes for heavy old mixtures it’s unlikely
and just really enjoy that smell like lovely smell of brandy and Christmas. So
here is going to be the first ever Christmas pudding. And what we need to do is cover it very tightly, very securely with a circle of grease proof
paper and again be grateful for grease proof paper and be grateful that we
don’t have to make everything with pudding cloths like our probably our great grandmothers did. You need to have a layer of paper, greaseproof paper in a layer of foil. Put a little tuck in both of them because when
the heat of the pudding expands it needs some air, some space to go and then this
is the fun bit slightly tricky bit. You have to make sure everything is really tightly
packed down like that and then you need two long pieces of string, kitchen
string. Find the lip of your bowl and put it tightly around so I’m going to
put one little half knot there and then I’m going to do another if I’m not at
this end there’s quite a long tail and you’ll see why in a second. If you can
get somebody else’s finger just in there to tie it that’s always a good thing.
Then the second piece of string do it the other way really think about making
it tight because that’s how you stop the water invading your pudding when you’re
cooking it and there we have two nice pieces of string that can become a handle
when you put your pudding into the pot and then you need to give it a boil. Give it a good old steam get
the water in about halfway up the pudding basin, put a lid on and you
probably need to give it between three and four hours – three and a half hours
because that lets all that sugar turn into that lovely dark toffee
taste. You need to cook it immediately, if you’re not going to eat it immediately store it
somewhere cool and dry and then when you reheat it just reheat it again in the
same way for about an hour or an hour and a half in boiling water. So our pudding has been boiling for about three and a half hours now it’s time to turn it out
and this is that lovely bit in ‘A Christmas Carol’ that you’ll probably
know really well where Mrs. Cratchit does one of the most wonderful things
she has since her marriage and she produces this gorgeous pudding. Now we
know she doesn’t have an oven she’s too poor to have an oven because she has to
send her goose to the bakers to be cooked and she did what a lot of poor
people did and they just made do so she boiled her pudding in the washing
copper and when she unpacks it there’s that smell of wash day and pudding all
in one go. And there’s our lovely pudding with of course a sprig of holly on top.
It’s lovely in ‘A Christmas Carol’ when Mrs. Cratchit comes in proudly
bearing her Christmas pudding and she’s poured brandy on it and it’s ignited but
she’s also got some Holly on top. Now obviously the holly wood burn and it’s
one of those rare instances when Dickens doesn’t get his domestic details quite
right but on the whole his knowledge of cooking and housekeeping, what went into
a Christmas pudding was pretty good for a Victorian man and of course we’re
indebted to Dickens for really making us feel that Christmas pudding belongs to
Christmas Day and it’s something that we can all share and all enjoy on the same
day together. If you’d like to find out more about how Charles Dickens
influenced our Christmas food and what he and his friends and family would have
had for Christmas at Victorian London come and see Food Glorious Food: Dinner
with Dickens. It’s an exhibition about food and dining in Dickens’s life. It’s
on at the Charles Dickens Museum in Doughty Street in London and it’s on
until the 22nd of April 2019.

2 thoughts on “The Original Victorian Christmas Pudding Recipe : ‘Food, Glorious, Food’: Cooking with Dickens

  1. I have loved Dickens all of my life since watching Alistair in that 1951 best version. but all recipes (But for Fanny Credcock's) Recipes have the batter so loose it cant's be molded into a Ball like the original one in the Book. how can I add something to make it mold without destroying the Taste?

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