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by Tanya Joslin December 02, 2020 4 min read

Old Fashioned Christmas Pudding Recipe

This traditional Christmas Pudding has been handed down through at least three generations of my husband's family, and my mother-in-law still makes it exactly as it was told to her many decades ago today!


Christmas Pudding Recipe

I've been celebrating Christmas with my in-laws for more than 21 years now, and every year my mother-in-law, Paulene, invests a tremendous amount of time and love into her family's traditional Christmas pudding. 


My 15-year-old son has found a love of cooking through Covid-lockdown, so it seemed the perfect time to reach out to Paulene to ask if she'd mind sharing the recipe and the history of this recipe. Knowing that one day, my kids will be passed the pudding-baton, it suddenly felt essential to get this recipe documented for future generations.

 Paulene replied to me the following: "This is an old recipe handed down through three generations of my New Zealand family (not sure how old - perhaps even longer than that). I remember my mother making several of these puddings, always in November, and they would be wrapped in calico fabric and hung from hooks on the kitchen ceiling, the hooks having been put there specifically for that purpose. By Christmas, several would have been gifted to family and friends, but there was always one for us on Christmas Day and another for New Year, each brimming with threepenny and sixpenny pieces, and if we were really lucky, maybe the odd shilling. Fortified with extra heated brandy poured over and lit for the dramatic effect, and dollops of custard and cream, this pudding, for me, is the taste of Christmas. I continue to make it every year, a tradition integral to Christmas for me."

Realising how authentically (very) old-fashioned this Christmas Pudding recipe is,  I decided to push my luck. I asked Paulene if I could share it with our Indagare community, which, in her usual generous attitude, she was more than happy about doing (recipe below). 

History of Christmas Pudding

Before we launch into this sumptuous recipe, it might be interesting to share a brief history Christmas Pudding, because today's pudding is not what it was initially like!


Did you know that Christmas pudding originated as a 14th-century porridge called 'frumenty' that was made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices? As you can imagine, the consistency was more like soup. 


By 1595, frumenty was gradually transforming into a plum pudding having progressively evolved: thickened with eggs, breadcrumbs, dried fruit, and given more flavour with beer and spirits.


It wasn't until around 1650 that it became the customary Christmas Pudding most of us know and love. But it doesn't end there! In 1664 the puritans banned the pudding, declaring Christmas should be fast day and not a feast day. We need to thank King George I who re-established it as part of the Christmas meal in 1714, having tasted and enjoyed Plum Pudding. The rest, as they say, is history!




Cooking Christmas Pudding


Please note, because this recipe has been handed down three generations the weights are in ounces. I chose to leave it as it was supplied to me and leave it to you to convert if needed. It should feed 6-8 people, depending on how full everybody is from Christmas lunch or dinner!


Step one, dry mix.

In a large bowl add:

  • 2 oz flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of mixed spice: you can usually buy a mixed spice pre-made in the herb aisle, or make it with a combination of fragrant spices like cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cardamon, cloves
  • A pinch of nutmeg and salt
  • Stir 2oz fresh white breadcrumbs into the above.


Stage two.

  • In another bowl:
  • 3 oz Suet (Suet is shredded animal fat and may not be easy to get, so, today, Paulene uses finely chopped or grated butter instead)
  • Add 12 oz mixed dried fruit
  • 1 oz glace cherries, quartered
  • One small peeled and grated apple (grate the apples at the last minute or they will go brown)

Add this mix to the flour mixture.


Then, to this add:

  • 3 oz brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp treacle
  • Grated rind/juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp strong ale or stout
  • 3 dessert spoons brandy


  1. Mix everything thoroughly.
  2. Pour the mixture into a greased steamer bowl.
  3. Cover with double layer greased paper and tie securely.
  4. Place steamer bowl into a saucepan with water about 2 inches high, and bring to a gentle boil for four hours. You will need to keep an eye on the pudding and top up the water regularly so that the pudding does not boil dry.
  5. After four hours of steaming, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool down a bit before carefully removing the pudding bowl from the saucepan, placing it on a heatproof surface to cool down fully.


Paulene says she still likes to make hers in November and store it for a month or so in the refrigerator for the flavours to develop. You can wrap yours in a calico bag or tie a fresh piece of greaseproof paper and foil over it.


To Serve:


Slice of Christmas Pudding with cream


On the day, you reheat the pudding by steaming for a further 1 1/2 to 2 hours. To serve the pudding, carefully remove it from the pudding basin (it will be very hot) by inverting on to a serving plate. You can light it with heated brandy poured over at serving time if you want. It is absolutely delicious served with custard, whipped cream, or brandy butter.





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