I am resolved: A Christmas Pudding

Upon my return at-long-last home found a box from my amazon wishlist which included, from some kind soul, 2 pudding basins!

I once tried (successfully) to make a pudding with an improvised setup.  It was a anxious experience.

This time I want to do something particular.

RESOLVED: I shall make an English Christmas Pudding.

I have already found a suet supply.

I will eventually need to obtain sprigs of holly.  It won’t grow here in this drastic place.

Now: I must look for recipes!

In the meantime, here are images from a book I recall from my distant childhood, depicting “Max” preparing what I now at long last understand to be The Christmas Pudding!  As a kid I had always wondered what he was making.

Any resemblance to hamsters on sidebars is entirely intentional.

MAX's Christmas Pudding

MAX's Christmas Pudding

MAX's Christmas Pudding

MAX's Christmas Pudding

MAX's Christmas Pudding

MAX's Christmas Pudding

MAX's Christmas Pudding

MAX's Christmas Pudding

MAX's Christmas Pudding

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Fr. Z's Kitchen, Lighter fare and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. B Knotts says:


    From where are you obtaining suet? I used to be able to get it at the supermarket, but they no longer carry it, and I can’t even get it at the “meat market.”

  2. Supertradmum says:

    OK, Father, but you are supposed to start it in August and let it set for several months. Good luck, and do not forget the Brandy Butter, or Rum Sauce…

  3. Super: Well… I’ll not be home for Christmas anyway. It’ll be another year of kicking around in Manhattan. I may as well make it and then perhaps let it sit until, say, Candlemas.

  4. Good luck with that one, Fr. Z !

    BTW, for some time I have noticed that some of your images don’t display in my browser – I can see the bowl at the top of this post, for example, but the pictures at the bottom are just blanks. What format are they, and does anyone else have the same problem (or is it just me??)

  5. Geoffrey says:

    I am looking forward to seeing how you do this! I have been toying with the idea. Maybe next year…

  6. Sid says:

    The only thing that I liked about mine (I ordered it) was to pour brandy over it, turn off the lights, light a match, and light up the pudding. And don’t sue me if your house burns down.

  7. Mulier Fortis: Which browser do you use? I have tested the blog using several browsers and they all load the images.

  8. arb5489 says:

    I typically use Safari and the images won’t show up. But when I use Firefox, it works just fine.

  9. HighMass says:

    So Father Z,

    Do you share your recipe???

  10. High Mass: Do I have a recipe?

  11. templariidvm says:

    I saw suet at one of the “ethnic food markets” in my area, this summer! Was wondering what people do with it! I am on the West coast, though. If there are any in your area, might try there first. Can it be shipped? If it can, I can try to find it again and then help you out. As for a recipe – I will consult my wife. She is the food wizard in our family.

  12. templariidvm says:

    Sorry – the above was directed at B,Knotts!

  13. Joan M says:

    Fr. Z, I have “A centuries old recipe for Christmas Plum Pudding” in my “Irish Farmhouse Recipes” book. I could type it out for you if you want.

  14. Childermass says:

    I’m impressed, Father. I’ve always chickened out and bought myself a Christmas pudding.

    I wasn’t aware that you were going to be in Manhattan so long. I live in Boston, but I come out to New York for the occasional weekend. Do you celebrate Mass publicly at a parish there (Holy Innocents?), and when? I’d love to come out.

    While you are there, have you seen the Cloisters? [I have indeed been to the Cloisters. And I will be in NYC for the Octave.]

  15. Supertradmum says:

    Christmas Pudding recipe from my faithful British cookbook: Stir up Sunday can be the last Sunday before Advent. Keep an eye on the pudding during the long steaming, and keep the pan topped up with boiling water.
    2 oz plain flour
    1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
    1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    2 oz shredded beef suet
    2 oz fresh breadcrumbs
    2 0z soft light brown sugar (not dark)
    6 oz raisins
    6 0z sultanas
    1 oz mixed peel chopped-mixed peel is another name for glace citrus fruit
    1 eating apple, grated
    1 carrot peeled and grated
    1 oz blanched almonds, chopped
    grated rind and juice of 1/2 lemon
    grated rind of 1/2 orange
    2 tsp treacle
    2 and 1/2 fluid oz of barley wine
    1 Tbsp brandy

    Grease a two pint ovenproof pudding basin. Mix all the ingredients together, cover and leave overnight in the fridge. Spoon the mixture into the prepared basin, cover with pleated greaseproof paper and foil, and secure with string. Steam for 6 hours. Cool, then remove the covers.
    Turn out of the basin and cover the pudding tightly with greaseproof paper. Store for at least 1 month in a cool place.
    To serve, uncover, place in a basin, re-cover and steam for 2 hours. Or, reheat in a pressure cooker following the manufacturer’s instructions ( I do not recommend the pressure cooker way). Serve with brandy butter, fresh cream or custard. Also, one may serve it in a white cake dish, with red and white ribbons around the bottom and a sprig of holly on the top. I prefer the brandy butter and the cream, but hot custard is nice as well. Rum topping is popular with some.

    We have had it in the past with Warre’s Vintage Port–say 1927 or Quinta 1947, which is older than I am.

  16. RichardT says:

    You should really have made it on Stir-up Sunday (the Sunday before Advent). But since Christmas puddings should be made a year in advance (along with your mincemeat), to give them time to mature, being a couple of weeks late won’t make much difference. It’ll be wonderful by Christmas 2011.

    Stir-up Sunday is a date in the liturgical calendar (although an Anglican one); in the Book of Common Prayer the Collect begins “Stir up, O Lord, the hearts of thy people” (or something like that), and the connection to stirring the pudding was too good to miss.

    I shall post a recipe when I get home (D.V.). [Stir up! Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni!]

  17. John F. Kennedy says:

    Fr. I know you are a fan of the Aubrey–Maturin series. Do you have it’s cookbook? “Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels.” You can find it a Amazon. Here is it’s Home page, http://www.wwnorton.com/pob/spottedd/welcome.htm It has some great photos.

    I received the book several years ago and loved it. It has some great historical recipes including Christmas Pudding recipe. Since it was a mid November birthday present, there was no time to attempt a Christmas Pudding so I settled for a Spotted Dog. Captain A’s favorite! [AH! Excellent. I do have that book. It was even sent by one of the blog readers, too! That makes it even better. I will take a look right away.]

  18. Tom in NY says:

    For fresh holly, check with your contact at ME in Berlin, NJ. It’s native in the surrounding area. He may have some on the estate.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Spotted Dog is excellent with hot custard. Oh, my.

  20. Fr Matthew says:

    I have an Irish friend (a priest) who makes wonderful Irish pudding, with brandy butter (and I think he may have served it with Irish coffee on occasion, I forget… He makes that really well too). Unfortunately I won’t be able to have any this year, as he is back in Ireland after a decade in the USA. He got all the necessary ingredients in NYC and the suburbs, so I guess it’s just a matter of knowing where to go.

  21. Stvsmith2009 says:

    Just a suggestion about not seeing images. Check to see if your antivirus subscription for updates has expired. If so, that may be blocking some images, which is why you are not seeing them all. Try disabling the antivirus and refresh the webpage. If you then see the images, mystery solved.

  22. It says “Stir up” in our Mass too — in the collect for the First Sunday of Advent. But it’s in the EF, not the OF. My mom’s old missal translates it as “Bestir, O Lord, thy might, we pray Thee, and come.” That’s “Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam et veni.” I think it used to keep saying that all through Advent, but Stir Up Sunday’s the Sunday when it started. Probably before Christ the King’s feast came along, you could start Adventy stuff earlier.

  23. What I mean is, the EF had different endings to the Collects in Advent. It was just the beginning that was the same throughout the season.

  24. FXR2 says:

    I have more Holly than you would believe. I could pot and save it for you, for the next time you are at Mater Ecclesiae, or pot it and mail it to you. Holly, White Cedar, Juniper, and Mountain Laurel grow like weeds around here. A pudding that takes more than a month to make! That must be really something!
    Please advise about the Holly,


  25. The British expat consensus seems to be that you should ask ahead of time at the butcher’s, or ask ahead of time at the grocery’s meat section. They may be able to give you suet right away, or they may have to send for it. They may also make you buy the whole lump of whatever suet they’ve got, so possibly you will end up with a LOT of suet.

    Apparently suet is traditionally raw beef fat, and lard is rendered pork fat. However, there seem to be cans of “beef lard” in my supermarket, so let’s look it up…..

    “Suet is the hard fatty tissue from around the loins and kidneys of beef, sheep, and other grazing animals that is used in cooking. Suet is rendered to make tallow. Lard is rendered fat, which most often comes from the fat of the abdomen. Please note that the USDA requires the term lard on the beef label. Finally, tallow and lard have a texture similar to vegetable shortening.”

    So I guess it’s a case of location, location, location as well as what animal you’ve got.

  26. And melting point. Suet has a higher melting point and a different taste than butter or lard.

    Okay… apparently some organic food places do butcher stuff, and they’ll usually sell every little piece and part, including suet. You can get beef and lamb suet, stuff like that. So there’s another place to look, if folks want to try this. You might also try ethnic or religious butchers, like Chinese or kosher or halal, I suppose.

  27. As I mentioned in the top entry, I have a source for suet. Suet won’t be a problem.

  28. Charivari Rob says:

    I echo Supertradmum and Father Matthew (and shout it all the louder) – brandy butter is a must!

    I’ll be seeing Mom tomorrow (well, later today) and will see if I can get her brandy butter recipe, along with Irish pudding recipe.

  29. Genna says:

    Your recipe is pretty much like the pud my Mom used to make. I think she used to put in more fruit than the original recipe stated. The steaming was quite tricky, having to top up the water lots of times over an 8-hr timescale and make sure none of the water seeped into the basins.
    The puds came out black, very dense and extremely rich and it was rum that went over the pud to light it up when it was dished out.
    She would make several puddings in advance so that some would last till the next year or the year after and the level of alcohol in them was a perfect preservative.
    Some cooks used to put in a silver sixpence to bring the finder good luck.
    It’s a pity I never really liked Christmas pudding as child – still don’t, but always have a token slice (very small).
    Good luck with your efforts, Fr. And keep an eye on that boiling pot!

  30. RVisotski says:

    I e-mailed you a picture of one of my holly “Trees”. Reply with date and place you want it sent and some freshly cut, South Carolina holly will be on it’s way to the Poconos.

  31. benedetta says:

    That Max sure has some terrific adventures!

    Also could supply you with some holly, Father.

  32. Sleepyhead says:

    Father, the pud can wait – I’d love to see some pix of how it’s snowing at your place! “Deep and crisp and even”.

  33. Supertradmum says:

    The steaming is tricky and must be watched. If you do not have a fancy steamer, one can put a bowl upside down in the bottom of a large pot and place the pudding on that. Never let the pudding touch the water. Etsy has an old one for sale, but if you have the pennies, get a new one. Here are some possibilities–http://www.etsy.com/listing/63202668/vintage-pudding-steamer-mold-pan-fisko here and here.

  34. Joan M says:

    I add my recipe, since it is a bit different from the one given by Supertradmom.


    8 ozs. breadcrumbs
    8 ozs. brown sugar
    8 ozs. raisins
    8 ozs, sultanas
    8 ozs. currants
    8 ozs. chopped suet
    6 ozs. finely chopped mixed peel
    4 ozs. glace cherries
    4 ozs. flour
    3 ozs. roughly chopped almonds
    6 eggs
    I large grated cooking apple
    I level teaspoon mixed spice
    2 tablespoons treacle
    ½ teaspoon each of grated cinnamon
    and nutmeg
    ¼ teaspoon each of ground clove
    and ginger
    ½ pint stout
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    Sift the flour with the salt and spices; add to the
    breadcrumbs and mix in the sugar. Stir well, add the
    suet, then the cleaned prepared fruit, almonds and
    grated apple. Warm the treacle slightly and add to the
    well-beaten eggs. Stir into the dry mixture. Mix well,
    cover and stand for 24 hours.

    Beat well, add in stout. Mixture should be soft
    enough to drop off the spoon but not soft enough to glide
    off. If a little extra liquid is needed to get this consistency,
    add a little water carefully.

    Divide equally between three 3-pint bowls. Cover
    with greaseproof paper, then with a scalded and floured
    cloth. Tie down securely. Bring ends of pudding cloth
    back over the bowl and tie to form a secure handle for
    lifting up puddings when cooked.

    Steam for seven hours. Lift up and allow to drain
    before storing. Allow another two full hours’ steaming
    before serving. Have hot water come up only three-quarters
    the way to the top of pudding basin. Keep an
    even steady heat all through cooking. Each pudding is
    sufficient for 5 to 6 average servings, so, if you want only
    one such pudding, use one-third of all the above measurements
    of ingredients.

    By the way, beef suet is easier to chop if a little sugar
    or flour is added to it.

    I have had this book for YEARS. I believe this is the recipe I used the time I made Christmas Puddings, but haven’t done them in a long time as I don’t know of anywhere in Trinidad that I could get suet since they stopped importing Atora suet……

  35. irishgirl says:

    A question from this non-cooking [except when it comes from a box, package or can] single Catholic lady:
    How does holly fit into a recipe for Christmas pudding? Is it eaten?
    I thought holly was poisonous….it’s poisonous to dogs, I know that.
    Just askin’….

  36. pelerin says:

    No don’t eat the holly!!! I think the berries are poisonous and the leaves would certainly be very uncomfortable. It is purely for decoration. A sprig is usually put on top, brandy poured over then it is lit. The flames can be spectacular depending on how much brandy is poured over! Stand well back as they say.

  37. Supertradmum says:


    The holly is only a decoration on top. No eating of it, please, as indeed, it is poisonous.

  38. HyacinthClare says:

    Listening to this thread is like listening in the kitchen to my mother, grandmother and great aunts many, many long years ago when I was a small child. What a joyful memory you all have “stirred up”!

  39. Rich says:

    I, too, am resolved: fruitcake.

  40. seaneinn says:

    Fr Z most people here in the England use Delia Smith for their Christmas pudding very very good though you may have left it a little late. As I am originaly from Ireland I make the pudding my grandmother used to make. This uses no suet and instead of stout uses buttermilk. As kids we would be woken up to go to Midnight Mass and then when we came home we would have bacon, eggs fried soda bread and fried pudding it was the best meal of the year. I stiill have fried Christmas pudding every year and make a pudding especially even though I am here by myself and my friends think I am mad eating fried Christmas pudding

  41. HighMass says:

    Yes Father,

    A recipe for the Plum Pudding??? Thanks Joan M. for providing the recipe!

  42. I’ll just stick with the springerle. Though I might make a persimmon pudding too.

  43. irishgirl says:

    pelerin and Supertradmum-thanks for the clarification about holly!
    I was right…it can’t be eaten….

  44. PJ says:

    I make a pudding every year (to Delia’s recipe – as seaneinn says, that is what most people would use in the UK if they are making their own, and I must say Delia rarely fails to deliver on this sort of thing).

    If I may be so bold as to share some general pointers, I would recommend:
    – For the stout (if your recipe calls for it) I find “Mackeson” works best, but failing that I guess Guinness would probably work fine. [I don’t know if other people have any other thoughts and recommendations?]
    – Most recipes call for breadcrumbs. Perhaps also use this opportunity to make the breadcrumbs needed for any stuffing you may have planned for your Christmas turkey (if you have turkey at Christmas). You can freeze these excess breadcrumbs in a bag in your freezer and they will be absolutely fine for when you make your stuffing on Christmas eve/day once defrosted. One less job to think about for Christmas lunch.
    – I agree with the earlier entries about brandy butter. However, I would also most heartily recommend brandy sauce. There are many good recipes out there, but one simple way is just to make an ordinary white sauce, and then add sugar, a few spoons of brandy and some rum (all to taste), and then gently heat for a few minutes, adding a knob of butter at the end for “glossiness”.

    Puddings need to be stirred well. In my family it is our custom for everybody in the house to have a good ol’ stir on “stir-up Sunday” (per earlier posts) aka “pudding Sunday”. So if you have any guests staying, or friends passing by, I suggest you enlist their assistance.

    Indeed, when stirring a pudding it is traditional in many circles to “make a wish”. In my family we have supplanted this custom with making a Christmas prayer as we stir. Perhaps you might like to adapt one on the “Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam tuam et veni” theme?

    Good luck!

  45. PJ: Thanks for the pointers and comments about your family tradition on “Stir Up Sunday”.

    I think I will pay for more attention to the last Sunday of the year next year!

  46. RichardT says:

    Two tips for setting fire to the brandy on the Christmas Pudding:

    1) Warm the brandy slightly first (bain marie style; just float a cup with the brandy in it in the no-longer-quite-boiling water you steamed the pudding in. It burns much better!

    2) Either pick your holly fresh from outside, or if it has been inside for a while then wet it before you put it on the pudding. Otherwise the burning brandy will set the holly on fire and it can all get a little too exciting.

  47. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I find suet to be far too greasy, and use Irish Butter instead. It works wonders in shortbread as well.

    Any European style cultured butter will work, though Kerrygold is my favorite.

  48. RichardT says:

    My recipe is similar to that of Joan M, above, but for liquid mine contains a small wine glass (say a quarter of a pint) of brandy. Supertradmum’s spoonful seems to be verging on teetotalism. Perhaps that’s why my pudding keeps so well for so long.

    As Joan’s instructions say, it is very important to leave the mixture to stand (covered, in a cool larder) for a few days before steaming it. It really seems to improve the consistency. I also leave out the almonds, because I prefer the smoother consistency of the fruit without them.

    I’ve never added chopped apple, but it sounds like a good idea.

  49. RichardT says:

    Father, the Latin that you quoted for Stir-up Sunday, is that still in the OF or is it just EF?

  50. RichardT says:

    Whilst I have a huge respect for you Americans searching out butchers who will supply fresh suet, here in England most of us buy it dried and ready-shredded (it’s rendered, purified, mixed with a little flour to keep it dry and made into little yellow pellets). Much easier.

    It comes in a box from the supermarket. The main brand is Atora, and I am sure that all you Latin scholars will see where the name comes from.

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