UPDATES! The Pudding Adventure is underway!


I am resolved: A Christmas Pudding

Yes, I am still resolved.

I will be using the Christmas Pudding recipe from a cookbook for food mentioned in O’Brien’s books.

Lobscouse and Spotted DogWhich it’s called Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels.  I want to use this book because it was given to me by a reader of this blog through my amazon wishlist!  The use of the book, with the advice of those of you who have commented, will honor you.

This recipe doesn’t include the use of suet.  And I am determined to use suet.  Therefore, on studying the other recipes, I will adjust the aforementioned recipe for the addition of suet.

And I have determined the occasion for the consumption of said pudding: a meeting of my literary group at the end of January, which is within the Christmas limit of Candlemas.

I may make two.  One to test. One to consume later.

I will head out this evening to gather ingredients which I lack.

For my Sunday Supper, btw, I am going to try to reproduce a Steak, Bacon and Mushroom Pie I had in London at Rowley’s.

BTW… did you know that Agatha Christie wrote a book called The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding?  I didn’t!   I wonder if my adventure will be as exciting… and lethal.

UPDATE 5 Dec 22:01 GMT:

It has begun.

Christmas Pudding

I gathered the ingredients and set to this afternoon.

I decided to use a large food processor a lost friend gave me.  Just for some quick mixing of the first ingredients.

Christmas Pudding

Mixing some of the fruits.  I did this in stages so as to get them well covered.

Christmas Pudding

More stuff.

Christmas Pudding

And now the suet.  I got a huge chunk of the stuff.  I hacked off enough for this recipe and then lopped the rest of it into small pieces for ziplock freezer bags.

Christmas Pudding

I used the food processor to grate it, frozen.  It worked well and saved time.

Blending it it.

Christmas Pudding

Now the eggs.

Christmas Pudding

Once the brandy was joined to the gooey mass, it went into the greased 2 liter pudding basin.

Christmas Pudding

I covered it with a floured cloth and tied it down.

Christmas Pudding

Into the large kettle, which has a cover.

Christmas Pudding

The pudding is, as I write, steaming in its kettle.  This will take about 5 hours in all.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. The “Adventure of the Christmas Pudding” was, I think, actually a collection of short stories, though the Christmas pudding did feature in one of them. There was another one called “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” which was much more gory and extremely entertaining.

    I pray that we won’t be hearing tales of sudden deaths occurring after either the creation or the consumption of your own puddings!

  2. priests wife says:

    The pie sounds delicious- I can’t abide kidneys- will you be posting a recipe link?

  3. benedetta says:

    My father sometimes mentions how he used to enjoy his mother’s mincemeat pie at Christmas, and the recipe for that traditional dessert also calls for suet. I have never tried to make it but maybe will give it a go this year…

  4. priests: I have had steak and kidney pie in England a few times. It’s okay. But that steak, bacon and mushroom pie was inspired.

    Recipe? I think I will make this one up on my own and see what happens.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    Christmas Pudding without suet, sometimes called “vegetarian pudding” is not the same. The texture as well as the taste differ greatly. However, if you are making both, you will be able to taste and see the difference yourself.

  6. Genna says:

    If you tell me where to send, I can get some packets of Atora beef suet to you in 5 days.
    But you may have found the suet already.

  7. Genna: DON’T SEND SUET. Imagine.

    No, as I mentioned in the first post about the Pudding, I have a supply.

  8. FranzJosf says:

    Will the pie be, essentially, browned steak, set aside, and added later to a veloute sauce/gravy that began by rendering bacon with the brown bits, sauteing onions(?) and mushrooms, add flour, cook several minutes, add stock, baked in a crust? That sounds good to me. But you’ve probably got a better idea, or I’m missing an important step. Like make the roux separately, saute onions or shallots, if any, and mushrooms separately, as well. Deglaze browning pan with a little wine and stock, adding everything together before baking? It’ll be interesting to see what you do.

  9. Basil says:

    I have previously made two suet puddings out of the most excellent Lobscouse. We found the Spotted Dog which is steamed superior to the Boiled Baby, but both were quite tasty. We’ve cooked two full meals from the cookbook, and can recommend the Gooseberry Fool and Roast Pollo highly, though the vegetables all tend to be rather disappointing (understandably).

  10. PostCatholic says:

    I can’t think of “Steak and Kidney Pie” without thinking of P. G. Wodehouse.

  11. Genna says:

    Chill, Father. I wouldn’t send without your say-so. By the way the suet, which looks like grains of rice and has no odour, is in sealed packs. Enjoy your Christmas pud!

  12. Mmmmmm…steak and kidney pie!

  13. BTW… I don’t know how I misread this, but suet is in the book’s recipe after all. I think that I expected it to be at the top of the list of ingredients. Instead, it was near the end. I guess I zoned out. In checking the recipe for the ingredients I would need today, I saw it starting at me – suet-like. Now I don’t have to adapt it!

  14. John F. Kennedy says:

    Please photo document the process. I had problems with the string wanting to slip when I made the Spotted Dog. I would like to hear your recommendations for the string after the experience.

  15. Here’s a modern Christmas pudding recipe page with pictures of modern assembly. (Though obviously, I’d love to see Fr. Z’s pictures more!) Don’t know if this is widely applicable, but it shows “kitchen string” for pudding and how the tying is done. Alas, no picture of the knot, which is what I was really hoping to see.

    Here’s a BBC messageboard with some Christmas pudding commentary from UK cooks, advising us poor Americans on various ways to do various kinds of Christmas pudding things.

  16. Here’s one with bigger pictures of pudding basins and string tying (if you click on them), but I still can’t really see what’s going on. Lots of advice for making modern Christmas puddings, though.

    Pudding bag Christmas pudding advice from the Farmer’s Almanac.

  17. Be sure to check the update with photos in the top entry!

  18. Supertradmum says:

    Looks like almost the right consistency, but hard to tell. I wish you well with the steaming.

  19. Jaybirdnbham says:

    Looking at the pics of the ingredients… if it doesn’t work out, you can still feed it to the birds. They would love it, no matter what. :-)

  20. Supertradmum says:

    I have made suet cakes for birds, Jaybirdnbham. It is something one can do with the kids, and the birds love ’em.

    Father, I confess that this year I am getting my Christmas Pudding from Canada, from a dear friend.

  21. gambletrainman says:

    I’m not too familiar with English recipes, but, after Father’s determination to make his Christmas Pudding, I went to just to see the recipe. What is suet, and what is stout? Don’t tell me I don’t want to know, because, I do. I wouldn’t be asking this if I didn’t want to know. After all, when you come from a country that has blood pudding and kidney pie, what else is new?

  22. On the subject of that Agatha Christie story, I asked one of my contributing editors, Chris Chan, who is something of a Christie scholar, and he writes:

    It’s actually a short story. In the UK, it is the title story in an anthology. There are two versions of it: “Christmas Pudding” is the shorter, original version, and “The Theft of the Royal Ruby” is the expanded version. The situation is further confounded by the fact that “Royal Ruby” (longer and more polished) is often published under the “Christmas Pudding” title. In America, only “Royal Ruby” is published, and it can be found in Double Sin and Other Stories. You can find the original “Christmas Pudding” in the British-only anthology While the Light Lasts. Whatever title is used, it’s an enjoyable story. The David Suchet adaptation is great (

  23. Pete says:

    But where are the half-shillings?

  24. Pete: Half-shillings? I am curiously short these days when it comes to half-shillings. And I don’t give sixpence for a recipe that requires them!

    How ’bout a Brumagem Ha’penny?

    Seriously, had I some, I would have included them.

    If someone in Ol’ Blighty would send me some ol’ sixpence coins, I would include them in the next pudding, for I shall have to make a couple more to use up these ingredients!

  25. Genna says:

    gambletrainman, suet is beef fat from around the kidneys. Well, you did ask! Stout is a dark brown beer. It helps make the pudding go almost black.
    Good luck with your efforts, Father. If you have time, try to let the next lot of ingredients steep overnight so all the flavours amalgamate. Do show us a photo when it’s done.

  26. dcs says:

    The pudding uses raw suet instead of rendered?

  27. A lost friend gave you the processor?

  28. eulogos says:

    When my husband made a plum pudding for Christmas one year, he tied it in something like cheesecloth in a round ball and put that in the boiling water. It was delicious with a sweet sauce called “hard sauce” on it.

    I confess that I skipped going to midnight mass for Christmas to sit and eat it with him. I had just had a baby on December 20th at 20 minutes before midnight, and was still sitting on a cushion, so I thought I had an excuse….but the real reason was the plum pudding and my husband’s company.

    Susan Peterson

  29. ecclesiae says:

    eulogos, is this Christmas pudding the same as plum pudding? Also, what is Yorkshire pudding?

  30. mwa says:

    @ ecclesiae
    Yorkshire pudding is a completely different animal–a batter like for popovers, baked to golden crisp goodness in the drippings of a beef roast and served with gravy. Delish!

  31. Genna says:

    This is a pretty good description of plum/Christmas pudding
    and Yorkshire pudding
    Hope this helps.

  32. jaykay says:

    I started assembling the ingredients for mine yesterday (I usually make 2 in 1-pint pudding bowls). Over here in Ireland a lot of people use Guinness, which gives the mixture a fine dark appearance, as well as the spirits such as whisley/brandy/rum. I personally use rum, as I prefer the flavour. You have to be careful about the amount of Guinness as it’s easy to make the mixture too moist – although if that happens you can just add more breadcrumbs to soak it up. However you can then end up having rather more mixture than you bargained for!

    I use a pressure cooker for the steaming but I remember when I was a small kid back in the 60s, when we had one of those big old-fashioned anthracite-stoked ranges, my mother boiled the puddings in a large open cast-iron pot of the type that originally would have hung over a big open fire on a “crane”. The kitchen resembled a laundry, with all the steam! She traditionally started to make the mixture on 8th December and we would “help” (ahem!) as we were off school on that day, of course. She would reserve it under cover for a day or so before sealing it in the pudding bowls for the boiling. I think she made-up the Christmas cake mixture as well on that day. For us as kids it really marked the start of Christmas. Happy memories.

  33. JaneC says:

    This post is making me a little jealous. I love Christmas pudding, and have made a decent one in the past. Unfortunately, no one else in my family likes it, so it would be a huge waste of time and ingredients for me to make one. I used to be able to get my fix, when I lived in Los Angeles, by going to the King’s Head in Santa Monica during the week after Christmas. Everyone else could have cheesecake or chocolate whatever, and I’d get my Christmas pudding. No British pubs in my new hometown, though. Maybe if I make a pudding I could get my husband’s British co-worker to help me eat it.

  34. From a reader:

    I had hoped to comment before you got this far in the recipe, but nevertheless: I do not know how you plan on flaming the finished pudding, but here is one of the better ways based on years and years of experience. When you make the pudding, it is best if it has a small indentation in the center of the top. Many cooks insert a 2 oz measure or similar oven-proof item and leave it during the first steam. Then, when ready to serve, place the pudding on a LARGE fire proof platter. Put about twice as much brandy as your indentation will hold into a metal kitchen ladle. Heat the ladle on the stove for a few minutes. Light the brandy with a candle lighter (don’t get too close!) and then gently pour the flaming brandy into the indentation in the pudding. It will overflow and run gently down the sides into the platter. PUT THE LADLE IN THE SINK – it is still on fire!! Carry the flaming pudding to the table to the admiring oohs of the assembly (It is best to have the lights off since the mostly blue flames are difficult to see in bring light. They can be rendered more yellow by placing a sugar cube in your indentation before adding the brandy, but then you are left with a distasteful lump of charred sugar in the middle of your masterpiece.

  35. BTW… my first pudding is wrapped up and in a cool place in the wine-cellar, in an old wooden wine crate in case any mice get in.

  36. AnAmericanMother says:

    A little bit of trivia concerning puddings and their preparation ahead of time:

    The old Book of Common Prayer has this collect for the last Sunday before the First Sunday in Advent:

    Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    By an association of ideas that became connected with “stirring up” the Christmas pudding, which was then popped into the cellar to rest until Christmas. So it’s known as “Stir Up Sunday”. At least in certain American Anglophile circles . . . . although the collect has been moved in the new BCP to Third Advent, probably because it doesn’t take as long to prepare your typical American dessert.

  37. Supertradmum says:

    Plum pudding is a version of Christmas Pudding, as well as “Figgie” or Figge” Pudding. Yorkshire Pudding is made around the edge of a roast in the drippings and is difficult to get right, but is more like flaky buns. Very yummy.

  38. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z, I have a half-penny somewhere, and a shilling, but would have to dig them out. As it is 7 degrees F, I cannot stand to go into the back closet, where there is no heat, to rummage around. If it warms up, I shall.

  39. Supertradmum says:


    Suet is beef or mutton fat, rendered from the raw meat.
    Stout is like Russian Imperial Stout, one of my favorites, of which there is a photo on Wiki, or
    Guinness or any other dark beer, made from roasted grains and usually stronger than lighter colored beers. Not all Christmas Pudding recipes call for Stout.

    Happy St. Nicholas Day, everyone, by the way..

  40. Fr. A.M. says:

    Looking good Father. I wish I could taste it ! We don’t get any Christmas puddings where I am.

  41. RichardT says:

    Father, that looks good; I hope it comes out well.

    gambletrainman – the best-known Stout (although not the best tasting) is Guinness. It’s got fewer hops than beer (than proper English beer anyway), and often uses darker-roasted or even caramelised malt. It has a darker colour and a smoother, less bitter taste.

    For a pudding I’d suggest using an Imperial Stout – higher alcohol content to cope with the cold weather, and so will help the pudding keep longer.

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