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Traditionally, the whole household would get involved in making the Christmas pudding. Each member of the family would take it in turns to stir the mixture in a clockwise direction and make a secret wish. It was also popular to include small silver coins in the mixture, which were believed to bring wealth in the coming year.

Making the pudding with your family is a fantastic tradition to carry on and kids love getting involved in the process. Below Maggie shares her family’s tradition of eating Christmas pudding and her favourite recipe. 

‘Our family never manages to eat the Christmas pudding on Christmas Day. What tends to happen is that it’s covered well and put back into the fridge. In the evenings that follow it is taken out a slice at a time and warmed a little, to enjoy with a cup of tea after dinner.

Traditionally, Christmas pudding is made in advance to allow time for it to mature – I make ours in October. The pudding will keep for a long time, as will the brandy butter – that is, if you don’t eat it by the spoonful when you pass the fridge like I do, butter fiend that I am. It would be much better for me if I didn’t make the brandy butter at all, but then it wouldn’t be Christmas!’

 Maggie Beer's Christmas Pudding photo Earl Carter
Photo credit Earl Carter

Ingredients

365g dehydrated cumquats or any mixed peel if not available

225g currants

225g seedless raisins

225g sultanas

1 cup (250ml) cumquat brandy or regular brandy

115g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

Good pinch of ground cinnamon

Good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Good pinch of ground ginger

Good pinch of ground mace

Sea salt

225g chilled unsalted butter

225g fresh breadcrumbs

2 granny smith apples, peeled and grated

75g flaked almonds

3 free-range eggs

 

Cumquat Brandy Butter

175g icing sugar

175g unsalted butter, softened

½ cup (125ml) cumquat brandy or regular brandy

 

Method

  1. Combine the cumquats, currants, raisins, sultanas and brandy in a large non-reactive bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover with plastic film and leave at room temperature for 24 hours, stirring several times.
  2. Sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, mace and 1 teaspoon salt into a large bowl, and then coarsely grate in the butter. Stir in the breadcrumbs and add the lemon zest, apple, almonds and fruit mixture. Whisk the eggs until light and frothy and stir through the pudding mixture until well combined.
  3. For 1 large pudding, dust a 60cm square of calico with a little extra flour, then spoon the pudding mixture into the middle. Gather up the cloth and tie it securely with kitchen string at the top to enclose the pudding. Steam the pudding in a large double steamer over a boiling water or boil in a large saucepan for 6 hours, replenishing the water every 30 minutes or as necessary. To make 2 puddings, divide the mixture in half and wrap each in a 40cm square of dusted calico, then steam or boil as above in separate pans for 4 hours.
  4. Suspend the boiled pudding in a cool, airy place to mature before serving. Christmas puddings certainly mature with standing but the main issues are having the right balance of flavours in the first place and ensuring a long cooking time. Puddings can become mouldy in humid weather, or if several are hung too close together, so if you don’t have time to mature your pudding, or the weather is against you, don’t fret; as long as the flavour balance is fine, it will still be fabulous.
  5. Make the cumquat brandy butter on Christmas morning (it can be made the day before, but it needs to be wrapped really well to avoid it becoming tainted in the refrigerator). Cream the icing sugar and butter in an electric mixer until white, thick and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved; this takes some time, so be patient. Slowly beat in the brandy, a teaspoonful at a time, tasting as you go. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until required.
  6. To serve, steam the pudding in its cloth in the top of a steamer or double saucepan over simmering water for 1 hour, or until heated through, checking and topping up the water if necessary. (Having said all that, you can also warm the pudding in a microwave on defrost setting, as long as it is well covered.) Meanwhile, let the brandy butter stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, then transfer to 2 serving bowls.
  7. Serve the pudding with brandy butter.