Traditionally, Christmas begins on ‘Stir-Up Sunday’ with the making of the Christmas Pudding. Here, food historian, writer and cook, Sam Bilton shares some historic recipes for festive treats.
Aunt Eliza’s Victorian Christmas Pudding
Makes 1 x 600g pudding - Serves 4-6
75g raisins or sultanas
100g pitted prunes, quartered
25g chopped mixed peel
10g blanched almonds, cut into slithers
1½ tbsp brandy
1½ tbsp dark rum
55g plain flour
55g ‘fresh’ white breadcrumbs (from a stale loaf is fine but don’t use dried)
50g dark brown sugar
45g vegetable or beef suet
1 tsp mixed spice
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
2-4 tbsp milk
Butter for greasing
1 x 600ml pudding basin
Foil and greaseproof paper to make the lid
1 large saucepan preferably with a steamer basket
1. Put the dried fruit (including the mixed peel) and the almonds in a large bowl. Stir in the brandy and rum. Leave to marinate for at least one hour or overnight if possible.
2. Grease your pudding basin well with butter.
3. Mix the flour, breadcrumbs, sugar, suet, mixed spice and salt into the dried fruit.
4. Beat the egg and 2tbsp milk together. Stir into the fruit and flour mixture until thoroughly combined. It should be dropping consistency. Add more milk if you think the mixture is too stiff.
5. Spoon into the prepared basin. Replace the lid then steam for 6-8 hours. Allow to cool then refrigerate until required or store in a cool place like a larder.
* If you’d like to make this in a 450g foil pudding basin reduce the prunes to 75g, the flour and breadcrumbs to 50g and the suet to 40g.
To reheat your pudding
Steam the pudding again for 1 hour on Christmas Day before serving
Francatelli’s German Custard Sauce
Serves 4 - 6
Charles Elmé Francatelli was chef to Queen Victoria for four years during the early part of her reign. Several recipes in his book The Modern Cook (1845) are named after Prince Albert or reflect his German heritage (and of course that of his wife).
2 large egg yolks
50g caster sugar
50ml sweet sherry (such as Pedro Jiminez)
5cm piece orange or lemon peel
1. Put all of the ingredients into a heat proof bowl.
2. Pour some boiling water in the bottom of a small saucepan. Ensure that the water is simmering gently but not boiling rapidly. The bowl containing the eggs etc should sit on top of this saucepan comfortably but must not touch the water.
3. Whisk the eggs etc over the barely simmering water. Initially the mixture will be quite liquid and frothy. However, within 5-10 minutes or so it will thicken to a light foamy custard. Ideally it should be served as soon as possible. However, you can keep it warm by turning off the heat and leaving the bowl suspended over the hot water.
Eliza Acton’s Punch Sauce
Eliza Acton (not to be confused with Great Aunt Eliza) was the first cookery book writer to list her ingredients with quantities at the end of her recipes in her book Modern Cookery for Private Families (1842). Over time she has been over shadowed by Mrs Beeton but her book is one of the best examples of Victorian cookery with many recipes which still translate well today. This sauce packs a particular ‘punch’ (just like it says in it’s title)!
100g caster sugar
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
Juice and zest of ½ small orange
2-3 tsp arrowroot
60ml dark rum
60ml white wine or dry sherry
1. Put the sugar, water and zests in a small sauce pan. Bring to the boil then simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes or until reduced by half. Strain the mixture into a clean saucepan or jug.
2. Add the fruit juices, brandy, wine and rum. Mix 2 tsp arrowroot with 1 tbsp cold water. Add this to the pan containing the alcoholic fruit syrup. Heat the syrup gently, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Before the the sauce comes to the boil whisk in the butter. Once the butter has been absorbed the sauce is ready to serve. If the sauce doesn’t seem thick enough add another teaspoon of arrowroot mixed with water as instructed above.
The sauce can be cooled at this stage then reheated later. However, do not allow the sauce to boil once the alcohol has been added.
Georgiana Hill’s Common Pudding Sauce (1862)
50g unsalted butter
50g brown sugar
50g white wine or brandy
Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted. Serve immediately.