Eliza Acton’s Christmas pudding

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From her classic book, Modern Cookery (1845)

Serves 4 – 6

You will need a 1.2 litre ceramic pudding bowl, or two x 600ml  individual bowls,  some greaseproof paper, foil and kitchen string

Pudding ingredients

  • 75g plain flour
  • 75g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 175g suet
  • 175g raisins
  • 175g sultanas
  • 1 apple (roughly 110g large apple), peeled, cored and chopped fairly small
  • 150g soft dark brown sugar
  • 50g candied peel (washed if very sticky)
  • 1 generous teaspoon of mixed spice (or half tsp nutmeg and half tsp mace)
  • pinch of salt
  • small wineglass cognac or a liqueur such as Cointreau
  • 3 eggs, beaten lightly

Use a large mixing bowl. Mix everything together in the order given, adding each ingredient in turn. Stir very thoroughly. Traditionally, you would also add a sixpence coin (5p coin), wrapped tightly in greaseproof paper. Pack the mixture firmly into the pudding bowl or bowls, but don’t fill right to the top (leave about 5mm space), then cover the pudding layer with a round of greaseproof paper. If using plastic bowls, clip on the lid/s now. If using ceramic bowls, put on a lid of foil and tie a string handle around the top of the bowl so that you can lift it in and out of the pan. Put the pudding/s in a saucepan of boiling water, to come 2/3 of the way up the sides of the bowl. Turn down the heat, put a lid on the saucepan and simmer for about 3 hours for big puds; 1 and a half hours for small puds. Check that the water levels stay just right – not too low (won’t cook properly) and not too high (the fat from the pudding will escape). The puddings are cooked when nicely dark. Store in a cool dark cupboard till Christmas, then replace the foil and reboil for about an hour for large puds, 1 and a half hours for small puds. Serve hot

Eliza Acton’s Delicious German Pudding Sauce

Serves 6

This sauce is a sabayon cream, a delicate fluff of wine and egg yolk. Great care must be taken, says Miss Acton, not to allow it to curdle. 

  • ½ pint sherry or Madeira
  • 3-4 ounces castor sugar
  • 6 egg yolks, whisked till fluffy
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Dissolve the sugar in the sherry or Madeira in a pan over a gentle heat, but do not allow it to boil; stir it hot to the well-beaten yolks in a bowl. Set the bowl over simmering water. Whisk the sauce over a gentle fire until it is well thickened and highly frothed.