I don’t know about you but I know Christmas is coming, not by all the decorations in store or the Christmas songs, but by the smell.
For me, it is the smell of Great Nanna Nash’s Christmas plum pudding.
Every October, the annual plum pudding day would come. Mum would pre-soak the mixed dried fruits with rum for a few days before setting aside a day to create the mix and cook it.
It was a ritual of my sisters and I that we would be given four threepence each to drop into the mix; twelve in total to be hidden in the depths of the delicious yumminess that was to come.
It always felt like we were given the most important of Christmas tasks even though we were hardly a part of the process.
I would always marvel at what came next. Nanna Nash’s plum pudding was always calico-wrapped; a time honoured tradition only given to my father who, like a well oiled machine, would rinse and set out the calico on the bench, flour the cloth, and quickly work to gather up the ends and tie the pudding off as tightly as possible when the mix was in place.
I could never work out how, but he managed to do it in a way that come Christmas Day, the pudding would sit perfectly high and round atop the pudding plate.
I have never once had a Christmas without the pudding; not even when I lived some 16,000km away in Virginia in the United States. That smell as I unpacked the pudding in my chilly university dorm room took me right back home to Wagga for Christmas. This year will be the first year I attempt to make Great Nanna’s plum pudding.
While I am not sure if it will be a success (please let me do it justice), I have realised that it isn’t so much the eating of it that brings me joy.
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It is the tradition it has become for my family in bringing us together to create and share a holiday dessert from scratch all those weeks before and wandering past it has it hangs; it’s the excitement of wondering who will be lucky enough to catch a coin in their piece and win themselves a scratchie.
While a pudding, or whatever Christmas goodies you or your family has, might seem like such a small piece of the day, in essence it isn’t.
It’s these little things, that if you took them away wouldn’t feel much like Christmas at all.
Here’s to our Christmas food traditions.
See the recipe below.
- ½ pound of plain flour
- 1 pound of butter
- 1 pound of currants
- ½ pound of raisins
- ½ pound of fresh bread crumbs
- 1 pound of brown sugar
- 1 pound of sultanas
- ½ pound of citrus peel
- 1 cup of rum
- 9 eggs
- 1 cup of split almonds
- 1 teaspoon of mixed spices
- ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon of bi-carb soda
You will also need:
- 2 pieces of pudding calico; pre-soaked.
- Extra flour for sprinkling
- Twine to tie off the pudding
- Mix all the fruit and peel together in a bowl. Pour over the rum and let it sit overnight.
- Beat the butter and sugar together.
- Add the eggs a few at a time, followed by the flour, breadcrumbs and spices
- Place the soaked fruit and almonds into a large mixing bowl and add the mixture. Mix together by hand. Now is also the time to add in your threepence.
- Spread out the first piece of calico on a bench and lightly flour. Cover this with the second piece of calico and lightly flour.
- Pick up and place the calico in a large saucepan and pour the mixture in. The saucepan will help the pudding take a rounded shape and allow for ease of tying.
- Gather the calico ends and at the base of the pudding tie the twine as tightly as possible. Double up if you need.
- In a large stockpot boil some water and submerge the pudding.
- Boil for six hours. Check the water levels at regular intervals and top up with boiled water from a boiled kettle as required.
- Hang the pudding in a dry and damp place until Christmas Day.
- On Christmas Day boil the pudding for three hours. When ready open the base of the calico and place the pudding on a plate. You can then gently peel back the calico to reveal your Christmas pudding.
- Decorate. To keep it warm simply wrap the pudding in foil leaving a small opening for steam to escape at the top.