Gran’s Christmas Pudding…

I really felt like baking this weekend, but I’m on a diet that restricts my shovelling flour, butter and sugar into my mouth (believe me, it’s for the best) and with a new sudden interest in Christmas (I had been feeling quite apprehensive about the first one without Mum, to the point where I was avoiding thinking about it, but I’ve now taken on her ‘you can’t change it so get on with it and enjoy’ attitude) I decided to make a christmas pudding and some mincemeat.

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As always, I used my Gran’s recipe, I’ve blogged it before, here, but below are the details again:

Ingredients

85g  Fresh white breadcrumbs

85g  Suet

85g Currants

85g  Raisins

85g  Sultanas

35g Candid Peel (finely chopped)

15g  Glace Cherries (chopped)

15g  Almonds (chopped)

100g Soft Brown Sugar

Pinch Salt

1/2 Tsp Mixed Spice

Grating of Nutmeg

1/2 Carrot, Grated

1 Tbls Brandy

Grated zest of 1/4 Orange and Lemon

Mix all the above in a bowl and leave overnight.

1/4 Pint Milk

1/2 Tbls Treacle

1 Lrg Egg (beaten)

Mix the above wet ingredients (next day) and then add to the bowl and stir well.

50g SR Flour

Add sifted flour, mix well and pack into a bowl (about 600ml capacity).  Cover with 2 layers of baking parchment and 1 layer of foil, with a fold in the middle for expansion, tie around tightly with string and add a handle for lifting the pudding out of the pot.  Steam for 5-6 hours then, when completely cold, replace backing parchment and foil with new.

It’s a lovely pudding and, as with most versions, can be kept for months before eating; we have, on occasion, eaten one made the year before that’s been stored away in a dark cupboard and it’s been perfectly good.

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I took the time to pick through the dried fruit, removing any left over stalks.  This always makes me think of Gran, she used to have trays and trays of fruit running up to the festive season and she’d sit for hours picking them over.  You don’t need to do this, but the stalks can taste gritty when you bite into them, especially in mincemeat.

When you are ready to eat it, you need to steam the pud again, Delia says for about 2 hours, but then that’s for a bigger pudding, so maybe you could steam for less time?  I know you can also microwave it, but you’ll need to Google that one.

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Mistakes? Yep, I made a few.  I used a 500ml pudding bowl which was clearly a bit small, there was some room left for expansion when cooking, but seeing the dome it formed on top as it cooked, not enough.  I should have gone for a 600ml, or even 700ml one.  Also, I realised just as I started to steam the pudding that I’d used plain flour instead of self-raising – doh!  I simply scraped the raw pudding mix onto a big plate and added the relevant baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, mixing it in well.  Gran used both with plain flour in her original version, so it should work out fine.  I also revised the cooking time from my earlier post to 5-6 hours steaming after Mum laughed at the 8 I’d originally gone for some years ago, to be fair, it did say 8 in recipes I’d used as references but probably for much bigger puddings.  I notice I reduced Gran’s flour after cross checking with Delia versions, no idea why, maybe I’ll up it back to the original quantities next year.

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I’ve ordered some charms from Vivi Celebrations, I’m planning to cheat and tuck them under the pudding when it’s served, probably wrapped in little squares of greaseproof paper, that way everyone gets one and there is less chance of the boys choking on them.  I’m liking this shop, if money were no option I’d definitely have gone for the super deluxe versions!

Whilst I was making the pudding, I though it would be interesting to check out Mrs Beeton’s versions, I was quite interested to see that at least one of the plum puddings is almost identical.  I hope you can enlarge the photo below, should you wish to see the details.

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I’ve genuinely enjoyed this weekend’s cooking (I also made some of Delia’s Mincemeat as I had so much dried fruit in), it makes me feel connected with people sadly no longer here.  My husband and I argue often on this subject, he sometimes feels ‘suffocated’ by my need for nostalgic objects and rituals from the past, but I find great comfort in them (although I appreciate living with me and all my junk must be very stressful for him).  I enjoy knowing I’m keeping traditions alive, I still always make bread sauce in the way my family always have and their stuffing balls whenever we roast a bird (I’ll blog the recipes when I next make them) and I quite like that my boys are growing up with this same traditions, revised where necessary to make them our own….I say that, but they are both letting me down on the bread sauce side as they wont eat it, I’ll keep trying and slowly wear them down 😉

Potatoes and Garlic (what no shallots?)…

We have enjoying eating the Charlotte’ potato crop over the past few weeks (even this late in the season).

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I’ve posted many, many times on the different ways I grow potatoes, but what has always been a consistent is I grow them in containers.

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I had a 2 year love of small, black exhibitors bags (with one seed potato in each, so you can just turn it out for a single meals worth of spuds, as seen above on the right), but this year I just chucked a number of chitted tubers into two of my extra-large plastic containers.

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It worked a treat.  When we came back from our holidays, the tops were all gone so I just covered the pots with plastic sheets to stop them getting too wet, leaving the crop undisturbed until we wanted to eat them.  I then just dug around in the soil and removed as many as we wanted for each meal.  I know this works fine, in past years there has always been at least one abandoned bag that when turned out in Spring has still had some edible tubers inside.  It always amazes me how long they can just sit in the soil and still be good, but as the garden is taking on a permanent damp feel, I think any final spuds will have to be removed this weekend.

My plan for next year is to grow them the same way.  I have gone for a change in variety and have ordered some ‘Lady Christl’ from Thompson and Morgan.  The blurb reads:

‘Quickly became a customer favourite for its good yields of very early, firm, oval, smooth, pale yellow-skinned tubers. The creamy flesh has an excellent flavour as a new potato and remains firm on cooking. This RHS AGM variety bulks up quickly as a first early, or leave it as a second early if larger tubers are required. With good disease resistance, including golden eelworm, Potato ‘Lady Christl’ is easy to grow and well suited to growing in containers and potato bags’.

I just fancied something new and they have a 5 star customer rating and a RHS Garden Merit Award.  I normally order my seed shallots at the same time as my potatoes, but I haven’t bothered with them, no idea why, they didn’t do well for me this year (first time ever, to be fair) and I have 2 less raised beds (more on that another time) so I need to remove a few of my staple crops.

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This year I also went back to ordering my garlic from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm.  I seem to remember that the ones ordered from T & M last year were fine, but they weren’t exactly massive and I was very pleased when these huge beauties turned up.  As you can see, I added a few extras to the order, the P&P made it a necessity, it’s not silly expensive or anything, but in comparison to just ordering 4 garlic bulbs it feels so.

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I’ve been out in the garden all day today.  I feel like I’ve really been putting it off, to the point that the jobs had become overwhelming, but I’m pleased to say after a full day digging, planting (bulbs) and clearing leaves I feel a little more in control.  We are hoping for a fine weekend so we can move a lot of junk, my important stuff into the shed and free up some space in the house, there are also huge amounts of leaves that need clearing after our recent storms brought them all down.  I’m hoping that now the momentum has started, I’ll keep going and will finally feel pleased to look out of the window, instead of a slight feeling of guilt at the poor, neglected garden.