Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Forgot the Plums in my Plum Pudding

Today I have my own little baking show!

It's time to drag out the old family recipe and present PLUM PUDDING aka Christmas Pudding.
If you're a Downton Abbey fan, you might have seen the Crawleys enjoying one during the Christmas special. It's been awhile, but I have also had the pleasure of seeing one set on fire. As I'm the only one in my family left who enjoys them, there hasn't been much call for flaming the brandy sauce.

I can't promise where this recipe came from but it's the one my grandmother made and perhaps she got that from her mother who was from Lancastershire, England.
Yes, steamed puddings are a staple from the UK, like shortbreads and Christmas crackers.

Wait. Notice a theme here? Plum Pudding doesn't look like a pudding, nor does it have plums in it. Shortbread is a cookie not a bread, and Christmas crackers aren't edible at all.

I'll give you the recipe in steps with photos. Cool, huh?


4 slices of white or wheat bread torn into pieces
1 cup milk
SOAK BREAD IN MILK and set aside.

Forgot to mention the importance of watching British Costume Dramas.

In another bowl, STIR TOGETHER, (then put aside):
2 beaten eggs,
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup orange juice
¾ cup  Crisco  (originally “finely chopped suet”)
1 tsp vanilla
(I used an elec.mixer to incorporate the Crisco. It’s okay if it’s chunky)

It's okay. Chunks are okay.

In a big bowl: SIFT TOGETHER:
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon each: baking soda, cloves
2 cups raisins (regular and golden is nice)
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup glazed fruit (that fruitcake stuff)
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
(the recipe is forgiving so you change the amounts of fruits and nuts)

the flour, seasonings, soda, nuts and fruits


Here's the three bowls prior to mixing.

Batter in the greased can. Ready to be steamed.

POUR into a well-greased METAL coffee can or 2 qt mold

Now comes the fun part. Cover the coffee can with aluminum foil and wrap it on well and tie around it with string. Place the coffee can inside a big pot on top of a small heat proof rack and add water to the pot until the water level is at least one third to halfway up the pot. Do not get water in the coffee can. If your coffee can wants to float, you have too much water! The idea is you are creating a little steam bath for your pudding-in-a-can.
The can is on a rack, and water is about halfway up the can.

Cover the entire big pot with a lid and turn on burner. You want the water to be very hot, turn it down after it starts to boil and you will let it cook for 3-3.5 hrs. Add water as needed if it evaporates.
IT will look like a very moist bread when cooked- solid but moist.
3.5 hrs of bubbling and steaming!
Cool 10 minutes and then try to remove from the can. Put a plate on top and flip. It should slide right out. (if you used a coffee can that curves in at the top—barrel shape—or has a big lip at the top, you are out of luck.)
The sauce is ready and the pudding is ready to come out of the can
Slice as you see fit. Best eaten warm or re-warmed with a nice amount of sauce soaked in.

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 cups of water, ¼ cup of butter and 2 tablespoons of nutmeg. Warm it up to a boil or until it begins to thicken. It will continue to thicken as it cools and will be a nice clear brown sauce.
You can add brandy flavoring or brandy when it has cooled, if desired. NOTE: Don’t let the paper hats from your Christmas Crackers catch on fire. If you'd like to try a lemon sauce instead, don't add nutmeg and start with a few tablespoons of lemon juice.


  1. It's a work day for me. I'll stop in when I can. Enjoy! I also have a video of my steaming process up on FB. I couldn't get it to load here. It has a special treat at the end, if you can bring yourself to watch water boil...

  2. That's quite a process. Made me tired just reading it! I can see where that would be a family tradition. I think I'd better stick with cookies.

    1. it's easy. Give me this any day over Pumpkin Roll.

  3. Yummy! I've never had plum pudding! This will be fun to try.

    1. let me know what you think if you try it. As a fan of mincemeat pie and fruitcake, I am probably not a good judge. I grew up on them all as part of Christmas. Never met a dessert I didn't like!

  4. Wow, what a process. But a very Christmassy tradition. :D

  5. Really the mixing takes about 10 minutes and you're done and it's in the can. You don't have to watch it while steaming - only check once in awhile to see if it needs water. I didn't add any when I did it this time.
    The sauce is quick and I never have problem getting the pudding out of the can.

    To me, making cut out cookies and decorating them is a bigger chore!

  6. Love the post! Plum pudding is a staple in a good Regency Christmas story. They'd mix up the pudding in the autumn and let it ferment for a while, and the whole household would take a turn stirring it and making a wish. (Good story fodder, eh?) I would never have been so bold as to try to make a pudding for myself, but you've made it look totally do-able. (I'm with you on the roll-out cookies. I hate rolling them out. Everything sticks.)

    Thank you, Deb. How fun! I'd like to be there with you, watching a nice costume drama and eating pudding.

    Oh!!! World Market is selling Downton Abbey Plum Puddings! And other Downton Abbey things, like wine. Alas, the Crawleys won't see a pence of the profits. :)

  7. Yes, for all the baking tasks that come along, plum pudding is really no more difficult and it's less risky than pie crust.
    If you're like me, the crust never rolls out the same way twice. Good thing I 'm not a pro. I tried blending my pie crust in the food processor at Thanksgiving and it didn't work at all. Got too stiff too fast and I had a hard time getting it big enough to fit the pie plates.

    the idea of the plum pudding batter sitting for a long time is strange to me. it does have eggs in it.
    I'm going to learn a new method this winter of using a cloth bag rather than a can. The real molds aren't cheap. that's probably why we always used a tin coffee can. BUT they are so hard to find these days. everything is plastic!

    Susie, I don't know if you saw my FB post of boiling water, but I found it very funny that the video included the actor speaking (from my DVD)

    1. No I didn't see the post! I'll have to go search for it.

      Pie crust = pillsbury. I don't make them from scratch. Ugh.


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