Christmas Puddings


5 pounds dried currants
6 cups cognac or brandy
6 cups apple cider
30 thin slices white bread
5 pounds dark raisins, finely chopped
2 1/2 pounds candied orange peel, finely chopped
2 1/2 pounds candied lemon peel, finely chopped
2 1/2 pounds candied citron, finely chopped
5 pounds shelled walnuts, finely chopped
10 cups all-purpose flour
10 teaspoons baking soda
10 teaspoons salt
10 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
7 1/2 teaspoons ground mace
10 cups packed dark brown sugar
30 large eggs, beaten
3 cups black-currant jam or preserves
1. Combine currants with 1 cup cognac or brandy and enough apple cider to cover; soak until plumped, at least 30 minutes. Soak bread slices in remaining apple cider. Oil ten 2-quart pudding molds or pottery bowls with vegetable oil. Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Combine plumped currants with remaining fruits and the walnuts in a large bowl. Sift together dry ingredients and add to fruit mixture. Add suet, bread and apple cider, brown sugar, eggs, and jam and blend well. Your hands or a wooden spoon will work best to combine the batter, as it is very sticky and heavy.

3. Spoon batter into prepared molds seven-eighths full and cover tightly with rounds of moistened parchment paper. Secure twice, first with rubber bands and then with pieces of cotton string (the rubber bands may break during cooking). Place molds in large roasting pans, and fill with boiling water to come halfway up molds. Cover molds and pan with aluminum foil and steam in oven for 5 to 6 hours, adding boiling water as necessary to keep water level up.

4. Remove molds from roasting pans and uncover puddings. Pour 1/2 cup of cognac or brandy over each one and re-cover with a circle of waxed paper and a fresh piece of moistened parchment paper. Secure with a rubber band and a piece of cotton string. Set molds in a cool place to ripen for 1 month.

5. To serve an individual pudding, heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place mold on a rack in a large pan. Fill pan with boiling water to come halfway up mold. Cover with foil and steam in oven for 2 hours. Loosen sides of pudding with a thin metal spatula and invert mold onto a serving platter. Heat together 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 cup cognac, pour over warm pudding, and flame with a match. Serve with Hard Sauce (recipe follows).

Hard Sauce


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 large egg yolk
4 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons cognac
Whip together butter and confectioners' sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in egg yolk, cream, and cognac. Serve immediately.

note: Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, or anyone whose health is compromised.

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