“The Pudding…Oh The Pudding”
Christmas Pudding, a tradition in Merry Old England, gained popularity and prestige thanks to Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”. Prior to the Cratchett family’s exultations over the “pudding bubbling away in the copper” as the “finest pudding in all England”, Christmas Pudding was a finale for Christmas feast. However, the traditional Christmas Pudding preparations began months in advance. Traditional recipes all call for beef suet as the cohesive ingredient. Fruits and citron peel, dried and soaked in brandy for 3 months mascerated to a soft consistency. Though Christmas pudding recipes vary, the end result is not pudding, but a type of fruit cake. The highlight of Christmas pudding is presenting it in the center of the table, flame with brandy and serve with a brandy hard sauce.
Christmas Pudding ingredients in Italy is slightly different than the English version. It is usually made with similar dried fruits, figs and pignoli nuts (pine nuts) are added. It’s more dense and darker in color. Instead of a brandied hard sauce, often lemon and anise are added to a bit of sweetened mascarpone cheese for a topping. Or, it’s drizzled with a wine-laced honey. In Eastern European countries, dried apricot, dates and chestnuts comprise the ingredients. In these countries, it’s known as a “steamed” pudding because it is set in a large water bath to steam for six or more hours. Steamed persimmon pudding is one variety that is well known in this part of the world.