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Traditional Irish Plum Pudding on a white plate

 

I know it’s late…but it’s not too late…to make your plum pudding for Christmas. This traditional Irish dessert is rich in spices and gloriously packed with delicious fruit.

A few weeks back I made homemade Mixed Candied Peel for this very recipe and it is incredibly more-ish…if you have the time and the inclination, I highly suggest you make you’re own too as it really is magic.

Of course, as one would expect, there are some superstitions {or call them traditions, if you will} that go hand in hand with making Irish plum pudding. They include:

* You make your Christmas plum pudding the Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent, also known in the north of Ireland and the U.K. as Stir-up Sunday.

* It must be made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His disciples.

* Every member of the family should take a turn stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon from east to west in honor of the three kings.

* If you make a wish as you stir your pudding, it will come true by Christmas morning.

* When serving, present the pudding with a sprig of holly on top as a reminder of Christ’s crown of thorns…or…add the holly for good luck…you decide the meaning.

* And set your pudding alight with a wee bit of brandy, to represent Christ’s passion.

Personally, I make plum pudding at Christmas for one reason…it’s my husband’s favourite dessert for the holiday and I want to make him happy. Though this might sound old fashioned and sappy, I don’t mind. Christmas is a time for giving and this is one of my gifts to my husband.

If you’ve never made plum pudding, fear not! This recipe is easy to make. The hardest part is being home for six hours while it steams. The recipe I use has been handed down from my mother-in-law, to my sister-in-law, to me…and now to you. It originally came from one of those little Stork Margarine leaflets written by Paula Daly back in the late 1970s. One last tip, however, if you’re making a pudding to give as a gift, a pot of brandy butter makes it all the nicer. Enjoy!

Irish Plum Pudding

Makes 2 Puddings

Ingredients
8oz/225g Stork margarine {or whatever margarine you can buy}, melted
8oz/225g dark brown sugar
7oz/200g plain flour {or self raising}, sieved
12oz/350g currants
8oz/225g raisins
6oz/175g sultanas
2oz/50g mixed cut peel
1oz/25g chopped almonds
1oz/25g glace cherries
6oz/175g fresh breadcrumbs
grated rind of 1 lemon
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1 rounded teaspoon nutmeg
1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice {or pumpkin spice}
2 large eggs
3-4 tablespoons beer/milk
2 tablespoons of whiskey or rum

Directions
1. Mix all of the other ingredients together in a large bowl {don’t forget to melt the margarine first}.

2. Cover with a round of greaseproof paper that has been greased with margarine and leave overnight. {The greased side goes against the mixture in the bowl.}

3. The next day, grease a 2.5-3 litre pudding bowl with margarine.

4. Stir the pudding mixture again, very well, and pour into the prepared pudding bowl. Fill to about 1-inch of the top of the bowl. Smooth out the top.

5. Cover with greaseproof paper, which has been pleated in the centre and greased with margarine, and tie it down tightly under the rim with cotton twine.

6. Cover a second time, with a piece of aluminium, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine. Make a twine handle so you can remove the bowl easily after the pudding has been steamed.

7. Place the bowl in a saucepan* and add enough water such that it comes halfway up the side of the bowl. Cover the saucepan with a lid and steam for 6 hours. Be sure to check every hour and top up with boiled water, if necessary.

8. After 6 hours, turn the heat off. Remove the pudding from the saucepan and allow to cool.

9. Re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper, be sure to put another pleat through the middle of the paper, and tie with more cotton twine as before. Store in a cool, dry, place until Christmas Day.

10. On Christmas Day, steam the pudding again for another 2 hours.

11. After two hours, turn the plum pudding out onto a warm plate, pour over some Irish whiskey or brandy and, very carefully, ignite with a match. Serve with brandy butter or cream.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* The way I steam a plum pudding is I use a saucepan that has a steam basket insert. I place the insert into the saucepan, put the covered bowl into the steam basket, and cover with a tight fitting lid. Then, when I have to check the water in the saucepan, I only have to lift the steam basket up to take a look.

** If you’re looking for an Irish music playlist for Christmas, checkout this one over at Spotify.

*** The meaning of holly and ivy at Christmas in an Irish home is explained well in this article from The Irish News.

 

 

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Homemade cranberry sauce in a white bowl with a vintage spoon surrounded by Christmas decor

I still remember, with some embarrassment, the first time I made homemade cranberry sauce. I was not yet engaged but having Christmas dinner, all the same, with my now husband’s parents and extended family. After Christmas morning mass, everyone descended on the home of my future in-laws, Dan and Mary Rose, for breakfast, present opening, and, much later in the day, supper. While the men watched the news and sport on T.V., the women retired to the kitchen to make the Christmas dinner {with much laughter and chat}.

Being a guest and wanting to make a good impression, I asked if there was anything I could do to help. Mary Rose replied, “you can make the cranberry sauce”.  In my innocence, I thought that’ll be an easy job. ThenI asked for a can opener. “Why would you need a can opener?”, she asked. “You know”, I said, “to make the cranberry sauce.”

For a moment the room went silent and I could feel my cheeks turn a funny shade of pink. Growing up, the only cranberry sauce I had ever eaten came from a tin can. It slid out nicely, if you opened the can at both ends. To serve, you sliced it neatly on the plate.

My future mother-in-law cocked her head and looked at me for a moment. Then, without missing a beat, she took a bag of Ocean Spray cranberries off the counter, a bag I had not seen, and handed them to me. In the nicest of ways she said, “we make them this way in Ireland”.

And with that, my future mother-in-law and my future sisters-in-law handed me a pot, a big spoon, the sugar, a weigh scale, and everything else I needed to turn American cranberries into an Irish side dish. Nary a word was said about my misstep. Those warm women took me into their hearts and homes that day. I am forever thankful for their love and gentle guidance through the years and for teaching me to make {from scratch!} this very delicious cranberry sauce. Enjoy!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

340g/12oz fresh cranberries

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

2. Add the cranberries and bring everything back to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can use the back of a spoon to pop the cranberries if you prefer your cranberry sauce smooth.

3. Remove from the heat and pour the sauce into a bowl, cover and allow to cool completely before putting into the refrigerator.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* For additional flavour, add a cinnamon stick or slices of fresh ginger to the water and simmer with the cranberries. Remove before serving.

** If you like your cranberry sauce boozy, stir in 1 tablespoon of rum, brandy, or whiskey to the cranberry sauce right after taking it off the hob {stove}.

*** For a citrusy zing, Add the peel of an orange to the water and simmer with the cranberries. Remove the peel before serving.

**** The American cranberry sauce I remember from my childhood from the good folks over at kitchn.com.

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The holidays are right around the corner: Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and Christmas is just six weeks later. As is the case for so many homemakers everywhere, my holiday countdown has begun!

First up on my To Do list is make candied mix peel. Mixed peel is a staple of Irish holiday baking: it is added to Christmas Cake, Plum Pudding, and is often given as a beautiful homemade gift.

If you have ever tasted store bought mix peel, I want you to forget everything you thought you ever knew about this holiday ingredient. Mixed peel from a plastic tub is bland and unappealing. It’s also loaded with horrid ingredients. Homemade candied mix peel, on the other hand, is brightly coloured, sparkling in sugar crystals, and tastes wonderfully citrusy.

 

Another bonus of making your own mixed peel is that it’s something you can involve your kids or grandkids in. And, don’t we all want to share time with the young people in our lives? Little-littles and teens can be involved in every stage: selecting the fruit, washing it, juicing and peeling it, cutting it {with your help}, boiling it and, finally, sugaring it.

Wishing you well as you begin your own holiday countdown! And, in all the hassle and bustle, do remember…this is the perfect season for memory making and reviving family rituals. Enjoy!

Citrus Mixed Peel

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

2 grapefruits, preferably organic

3 oranges, preferably organic

4 lemons, preferably organic

8oz/2 cups sugar

8oz/250ml/1 cup sugar

Directions

1 Cut each citrus in half and juice. Reserve the juice for another purpose and do not use a squeeze juicer as it will damage the peel.

2. Cut each citrus into quarters and, using a paring knife, carefully pull out the inside pith and membrane.

3. Slice the citrus quarters into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

4. Put the citrus strips into a heavy saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil over high heat and blanch for 5 minutes.

5. Drain and repeat Step 4 two more times.

6. While the citrus peels are draining the third time, put the sugar and water into the heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stir to dissolve the sugar.

7. When the sugar is dissolved, add the citrus peel and boil gently for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure the peels do not burn.

8. Remove the peel with a slotted spoon and leave to cool for about 30 minutes. Reserve the syrup for another use, perhaps a flavouring for ice tea. Set a rack over a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.

9. Put the peel into a clean bowl and pour over 1 cup sugar and mix well. Spread the sugared peel on the wire rack and leave to dry.  The drying process can take 2, maybe even 3, days.

10. Once fully dry, store candied mix peel in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Since most pesticide residue is found in the skin, its important to use organic fruit when making candied peel.

** Click here for my favourite homemade mince pie recipe.

*** And if you’re looking for homemade Irish recipes for giving at Christmas, please see my post here.

 

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