Steam for 6 hours

Does anyone actually make their own Christmas pudding these days apart from Jill Archer on the Archers?  I can’t imagine why even she still does it, considering she is supposed to be 89… and I’m sure ‘the supermarket’ in Borchester must sell them or, if she wanted a superior version, she could pop into Underwood’s food hall.  Basically it’s just a device to get Josh and Ben into the kitchen on Stir Up Sunday, isn’t it, with an ensuing conversation that will move the plot line along ever so slightly?

I do remember my Mum making her own puddings when I was a child.  What a fiddle it all seemed, but I admit it was fun when we all got to have a stir of the mixture.  I don’t have her recipe to hand, but I do have her mother’s recipe book.  Granny’s recipe for Christmas Pudding involves 10oz each of brown sugar, self raising flour, bread crumbs, suet, raisins, sultanas and currants, plus 5oz mixed peel, 2oz almonds, the grated rind of 1 lemon, nutmeg, salt, 6 eggs and 4 tablespoons of rum.  Her notes underneath indicate that in 1976 (when she was 88) she made half quantity.

On a card in my own recipe book I have my mother-in-law’s Christmas Pudding instructions.   The standard quantities there are 8oz, but there are other variations such as 2 grated carrots and the addition of brandy as well as rum.  The recipe instructs you to leave the mixed ingredients to stand overnight before putting into pudding basins and steaming for 6 hours.  6 hours!!  Goodness, that would need to be a day when you weren’t going anywhere, to be able to constantly check it wasn’t boiling dry.  And what a lot of fuel!  And then you’ve got to steam it for another 2 hours or so on Christmas Day.

Amongst my recipe book collection I also have Jennifer Aldridge’s Archers’ Cookbook, published in 1994.  I expect I found it in a charity shop somewhere.  Anyway, there it is in black and white – Jill Archer’s Christmas Pudding recipe!  She too goes for 8oz for most ingredients, but adds 4 chopped apples, glace cherries and the juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon, but only 2 eggs.  And in addition to the rum, she apparently uses 1 ½pt of ‘old ale’.  The instructions suggest steaming for up to 10 hours, with the advice that “the longer the steaming the darker the pudding will be”.

Apparently Jill’s recipe was handed down from the Forrest family but has been improved by Jill over the years.  That’s how it used to work, isn’t it, recipes handed down from one generation to the next?  I almost feel guilty for never having made a Christmas Pudding in my life….  Almost.  But really?  When I can pop down to the Cook shop and buy a really nice one that I can just heat in the microwave?  Well, never say never – maybe one day (still some time hence I fear), when I’m retired and can spend a whole day at home towards the end of November, when perhaps there will be small people around who can stir and make a wish…

Greetings of the Festive Season to all my readers!