Every year, at the start of the holidays, the royal family makes Christmas pudding.
This year, they shared a video of the process on Twitter, and I was intrigued. I had heard of Christmas pudding, sang Christmas carol lyrics about figgy pudding and read of the pudding-making traditions inside Buckingham Palace. But I really had no idea what the process was behind the traditional British holiday dessert.
The royal family shared their pudding video on Stir-up Sunday, which, according to VinePair, takes place on the Sunday before the season of Advent begins. Family members take turns stirring the ingredients, which include a lot of dried fruit and booze. And they make a wish while stirring "from east to west in honor of the journey of the wise men."
I was late to the pudding party, so I stirred up my pudding the following week. Still, I made some wishes, because in a year like 2020, we need all the good vibes we can get.
There are 13 ingredients in Christmas pudding: A combination of items like mixed peel (similar to the colorful fruit in fruitcake), sultanas (golden raisins) and mixed spice (a blend of spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves used in British baking). Even these 13 ingredients hold a bit of symbolism, representing Jesus and the Twelve Apostles.
The majority of my ingredients, including suet, a raw, hard fat used in British cooking and baking, had to be ordered online, as they weren't easy to find at my local grocery store. But once I had my supplies gathered, I was ready to attempt to make my own Christmas pudding.
In addition to stirring eggs, breadcrumbs and sugar together with the dried fruits, I added the royal family-prescribed ingredients of dark rum, brandy and beer. VinePair says some British home-bakers even soak the dried fruit in the alcohol overnight before making, but I omitted that step, not because I was opposed to the idea, just because I forgot.
Once the concoction is completely combined, it gets pressed into pudding basins (porcelain bowls used by the British to mold their pudding into dome shapes). Then comes the steaming: I placed both pudding molds into roasting trays covered with aluminum foil and let them steam in the oven at about 300 F for six hours.
Whey they came out of the oven, I let my pudding babies cool, then popped each out of their molds, wrapped them in plastic wrap and placed them in my refrigerator tucked inside gallon-sized storage bags. Internet searches left me torn on whether to store my puddings in a dark place like the pantry or pack them away in the refrigerator or freezer, but living in a humid home in Florida led me to fear molding or spoiling without refrigeration.
The puddings are intended to age until Christmas, allowing the flavors to meld together and improve over time. Since the recipe made two, I plan to try one in two weeks — I'll report back when I do! — and save the other one for Christmas Day.
Like the extensive prep time, serving the puddings is also a labor of love.
VinePair says the British steam the pudding for four hours before serving, then decorate the dish with holly to represent the crown of thorns worn by Jesus. It's also doused with a bit of brandy and set on fire, presented aflame to represent the passion of Jesus Christ.
Then it's time to eat the pudding, topped with brandy butter, a combination of brandy, powdered sugar and butter.
The Royals really know how to celebrate.
Overall, Christmas pudding was a fun thing to learn about and create. I even ordered a few British silver coins to slide into the pudding before serving, as I read that the British hide silver in their puddings, with the belief that whoever discovers it has good luck for the year. I'm nothing if not authentic.
For now, our pudding is hanging out in the refrigerator, just waiting to be flambeed, buttered and consumed over the holidays.
Here's hoping the classic British holiday treat is worth the wait.