( SERVES 24 )
This recipe has been a favourite for many years, and it makes an exceptional rich, dark pudding. Although it's best to make a Christmas pudding in June, it's not too late to make your own. The ingredient list is long, but making the pudding is not that arduous. If you wrap any extra puddings attractively in calico or muslin, they can be used as gifts.
In my experience, the puddings will keep for five years. My small stock of puddings at home goes back that far. I taste one each year and have observed that the flavour just gets better with age.
When serving the puddings, I first heat the brandy for 15 seconds in the microwave oven then pour it over the top of the puddings and set it alight. The dramatic effect adds little in flavour, but your friends will think that you're dead clever. Each pudding serves six guests.
- Combine all the ingredients - raisins, sultanas, currants, almonds (blanched and chopped), Shreddo suet, orange (zest and juice), lemon (zest and juice), apple (unpeeled, cored and grated), flour, raw sugar, eggs, salt, cinnamon, mixed spice, mixed peel, brandy, and beer) and mix thoroughly.
- Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 150 degC.
- Grease 4 x 12cm-diameter pudding basins and divide the mixture between them.
- Press the mixture down firmly to make sure that it is compact.
- Wipe the basin rims with a damp cloth to remove any spills.
- Cut 4 circles of greaseproof paper big enough to fit the top of the basins.
- Lightly grease the circles then place one on top of each pudding, pressing firmly to form a seal.
- Lay a large circle of damp muslin over each basin, stretch it taut and use string to tie it around the rim.
- Line a deep baking dish with some greaseproof paper and place the puddings on top of the paper.
- Put the dish into the oven, adding enough water to come halfway up the sides of the puddings.
- Cover the entire baking dish with foil. Cut a small hole in the centre of the foil to allow a small amount of steam to escape.
- Close the oven door and bake for 8 hours.
- Remove the basins from the oven and let them cool before removing the muslin.
- Wash the muslin in clean water and allow to dry.
- Leave the greaseproof paper in place and wipe the edges of the basins clean before stretching the washed muslin back over the puddings.
- Tie them tightly and seal by brushing the muslin with a little melted butter.
- If using the puddings as gifts, cover with foil before wrapping them up.
- Serve with custard, whipped cream and berries.