I have been using this recipe for years, and it always produces excellent puddings, and is simplicity itself to make. They also keep exceptionally well, with one pudding being eaten 12 months after it was made. Anytime from now until the first week of December is ideal to make them and this recipe will make enough to fill 4 x 1 pint/ pudding basins.
250 gm/8 oz/2 1/2 cups dark sugar
250 gm/8 oz/2 cups unsalted butter
1000 gm/40 oz/ 8 cups mixed sultanas,raisins and currants ( I can only get sultanas in Italy and our puddings are none the worse for it).
125 gm/5 oz/1 1/4 cups plain flour
125 gm/5 oz/ 1/4 cups bread crumbs
1 lemon, zest and juice
5 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon heaped ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon heaped mixed spice
1 teaspoon heaped grated nutmeg
1 pinch salt
150 ml/5 fl oz/ 1/2 cup brandy or rum.
Pour yourself a glass of brandy for while you are mixing the ingredients
Put all the dry ingredients, including the butter into a very large mixing bowl.
Add the liquid ingredients and start stirring.
In between taking sips of brandy, continue stirring until the mixture is well and truly mixed, especially the butter.
This stage is optional. Leave overnight covered by a clean tea towel, to mature the flavour.
Turn the mix into greased pudding basins, pressing the mix down well into the basins, and to within 1cm/1/2inch of the top. This is to allow for expansion during the cooking.
Cover with a circle of kitchen paper. Then put foil over the top of each basin, tying it down and forming a handle, to facilitate lifting hot puddings out of the cooking pan.
Most recipes that I have read about Christmas Puddings recommend using string to tie down the foil and make a handle. However I have in the past had puddings slip from the string and fall back in to the pan, so now I always use thin garden wire. This is the sort that is covered with dark green plastic. Turn the edge of the foil up, to support the wire or string, while you fiddle it into position and secure it.
Put a pudding in a large pot, placing the pudding upon an upturned saucer. Pour boiling water in until it comes 1/3 up the side of the pudding basin. Put a lid on the pan and boil gently for about 5 1/2 hours, topping up with boiling water from time to time. It should look a dark brown colour at this stage.
When cool, change the kitchen paper and foil and tie as before
Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas Day, when the pudding will need another 2 hours of boiling. Serve with the sauce of your choice.
Some thoughts on the boiling. 7 1/2 hours boiling is a lot of gas or electricity, and if we did not have a wood burning stove upon which we do a lot of cooking during the winter months, then I would use our pressure cooker. I do not use our pressure cooker that much and so I am not too familiar with cooking times, but a quick scan on the internet yielded a lot of information (such as- cook as for chicken) which you would need to pick over. But it should be possible to reduce the cooking time to about 2 hours or thereabouts. I do have a confession to make here though. Pressure cookers frighten the life out of me. As an engineer, I am very much aware that that thing hissing away is a high pressure bomb, and yes I know all about safety margins, extensive testing to destruction, etc etc etc, but when I use one I always exit the kitchen, until it is safely hissing away.