Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a list of Frequently Asked Questions;
If you question is not answered here, ask me via the contact form
- Can I cook your pudding in a microwave oven?
No, you can't. Essentially, it takes many hours of slow cooking to develop the flavour, trying to cook the Pudding in the microwave will just overheat the Pudding and cause loss of flavour.
- Can I use something other than a pudding bowl?
Of course! the only issues you need to be aware of.... the container must be able to keep water/steam out of the pudding mixture, you MUST keep the container off the bottom of the Saucepan. I almost can imagine a Tupperware container doing the job!
- Can I use that pre-packaged suet; Atora?
UPDATED answer 10th April 2006; No, I'm sorry, you can't. It's a mixture of suet and some sort of flour, and contains only 65% suet. using this will throw out the proportions of the mixture.
- Can I use Vegetable suet?
You can, it doesn't have quite the same texture or flavour, and after steaming, you will find a layer of fat on the inside of the foil covering.
- Grams? what about cup measurements?
I WAS going to attempt to convert this recipe and offer a "cups" version for US cooks. What a mistake! It seems it's not easy to convert a weight into a volume measure. But I'm told that these days, most cooks in the US also have weighing scales, or their measuring cups have graduated marks for different scales. <br>
If you can be bothered, there's an interesting article that explains it all.... see the first link below.
I just found this site, see second link below, this person deserves a medal, what a great description of weights & measures, there is a section which mentions U.S. measures http://www.hub-uk.com/interesting/weighing.htm
- How do I store the pudding?
The best place to store it is a cool, dark place. I normally put in the back of the larder. It is NOT necessary to store it in the fridge, or the freezer. If you keep it too cold, it slows down the maturation process.
- Someone.... doesn't like Christmas Pudding!
Well, I suppose there may be some people who don't, BUT, I generally find those that don't like Christmas pud, are those that have eaten puddings made with butter or oil or something other than suet. REALLY, it does make a difference to the taste, but it makes MORE difference to the structure, it is much lighter, and more delicate. (try a taste test with those friends or family who say they don't like it, they'll be surprised!)
- I can't find ....... (insert your missing ingredient here)!
If you look in the Alternate ingredents page, it will list what you can substitute, and just as important.... what you can't change; for example, you CANNOT use packet breadcrumbs as a substitute for standard breadcrumbs, packet breadcrumbs are meant for deep frying foods, they have lots of odd ingredients to stop them falling off the frying food, and things to stop them absorbing too much fat. That makes them very unsuitable for my recipe.
- I'm cooking it on the day, do I need to cook it for the total 10.5 hours?
No, you don't, the pudding is FULLY cooked at the end of it's eight hours, the 2.5 hours is just a slow re-heat, and you don't need to include that.
- I'm not using alcohol, does anything change?
I mentioned you can use milk, it tends to make the pudding a little more dense. Also be aware that without alcohol of any sort, the storing properties change, you may want to keep the pudding in the fridge if you have made this well ahead of time.
- I've heard I need to "feed" the Pudding!
There are recipes that suggest that you can feed the pudding, that means that once every two weeks, you take the pudding out of the larder, and add a tablespoon of brandy, having first, stabbed the pudding with a knitting needle!
I do not do that with mine, but, It will not do any harm. BUT, you must remember this if you light the pudding, as you will have a lot more fuel!<br>
UPDATE; On a further note, if you intend keeping your pudding for an extended period, for example, more than three months, you MAY want to unwrap it every three months, and poke it with a knitting needle, and add a tablespoon of Brandy, this will stop it drying out.
- Is "Mixed Spice", Allspice?
This is an old question, I have left this here in the FAQ's, just to help out people looking for this answer on the web, and the answer is;
NO! They are not the same, Allspice is a single berry (from, I'm guessing, the Allspice tree!!!!) Mixed Spice is a blend of anything from four to seven spices, Mixed Spice is usually sold in the UK and Australia, and is a spice company/importer special blend. It does cause confusion, as a lot of UK/Australian recipes are appearing on the 'net, and no allowances are made for an international readership. (I fell into that trap also, only realizing my mistake after many dozens of emails from US, Canada, France etc....)
- Is this a Plum pudding?
As this recipe contains Prunes, it IS a Plum Pudding, Prunes are dried plums, but, mainly one variety, the d'Argen plum, the PRUNE PLUM.
- Plum Duff, is this another name for this pudding?
No, Plum Duff is a pudding boiled in the bag, and was commonly cooked by sailors, but the ingredients vary greatly from Christmas Pudding, having fewer ingredients, and milk or buttermilk being one of the central components . I have mainly heard this mis-named by a few of my US and NZ readers, and I guess that it may have happened during the long sea voyages to the "new" country (just my guess...). Any info on this appreciated, there *was* an article by an on-line newspaper, but they made the archive subscription only.. ahh well.....
- Self-Raising.. self-rising, I can't find it!
This, found on the web, is supposed to be the correct ratio;
Emergency Self Rising Flour
Yield: 1 Servings
1 cup All purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/8 tsp Salt
Combine and use in place of 1 cup of self-rising flour.
(you will note, that my recipe is not based on cup measurements, so you will need to blend using the above ingredients, and then weigh to suit)
- Using butter instead of suet, what's the difference in results?
Well, to cut a long lecture short..... Butter melts at a lower tempreture than suet, and combines earlier with the flour as the pudding heats up, the end result is a pudding using butter has a sticky, more solid "gluggy" feel, whereas, the suet pudding maintains its open structure, and has much lighter texture.
- What about the Cholesterol?
Some readers have expressed concern over the Suet, I can only say, it's a very rich pudding but, I don't think that 110gms amongst 10 people is a lot, especially as it's only once a year, however, there is always the option of vegetable suet as an alternative.
- What about the lit Brandy, how much? and how long does it burn?
You only use a small amount of Brandy, generally about 1 tablespoon, (the flame is small and blue in colour, not easily seen in a brightly lit Kitchen) the flame goes out on it's own within about 30 seconds. Make sure you warm the Brandy. Heat the empty spoon, not too hot, you only want the Brandy warm about blood temperature, then measure the Brandy onto the spoon, then, straight onto the pudding, and light! It's always more impressive if you enter the dining room with the lights turned down, and the pudding lit.
- What are pudding bowls called in the USA? (where can I find them)
Pudding bowls (referred to in the USA as English mixing bowls) can be purchased from Sur La Table on-line or at their stores. This info kindly supplied by Mrs. Kristin Wickersham.
- What is Suet? (my most commonly asked question)
I am very pleased to have permission from Miranda to re-publish an article she wrote in The Age newspaper just last week, please read it, it tells you everything you need to know.
This comprehensive article appeared in The Age newspaper on 26/11/2003, Miranda Sharp the author, has kindly given her permission to reprint this on my site. Paul
There is no way around it — suet is a very specialised, finest-quality pure fat that surrounds and therefore protects the kidneys of a cow. Once you’re over any squeamishness about using solid fat in any quantity, consider what they say about it as a culinary ingredient.
Angela Hoban, of Melbournes KipCo Pudding Company — which makes about eight tonnes of festive puddings each year — says customer demand drove her decision to move to a pure butter pudding. Nonetheless, she says, suet is good if you want particular flavour and textural qualities. “It’s very much the domain of the very traditional pud maker, committed to a particular recipe.”
Phillippa Grogan, of Phillippas, in Armadale, will always make a suet plum pudding because she’s one who is committed to a traditional recipe. In her mind, suet does make a “better” pudding. ‘The suet seems to amalgamate very well with the other ingredients and produces a lighter textured pudding,” she says.
Suet was originally used in cooking when each and every inch of the animal was useful in some way and nothing was wasted. Butter was a prized commodity, so suet was a much more everyday ingredient in baking, particularly for pies, pastries and puddings. Being a firm fat, it remains hard even when grated or chopped for use but has a low melting point, so distributes evenly and easily. With butter no longer a rarity, the use of suet has gradually lessened, with only particular uses, mostly for sentimental reasons.
Rob Boyle, of Rob’s British Butchers, is not only sentimental but considers it an essential ingredient in his meat pasties and puddings as well as his seasonal Scottish Clootie Dumpling For Christmas. Boyles view is that suet is important both for its flavour and characteristic of cooking from the "inside out"; in dense, long, slow-cooked foods, it leaves the moisture in while the majority of the fat drains out.
You will need to order suet in advance from a specialist butcher. It is as expensive as butter these days and relatively hard to find as few butchers buy the whole beast. Suet should smell really fresh with no hint of rancidity or your cooking will exacerbate it. Suet from young beasts is preferable as it takes on a more ‘boviney” character as the animal ages. It should appear bright white to quite pink, marbly in texture and free of animal matter and blood. Some butchers will supply pre-grated suet but for easiest handling at home, if it is supplied in the lump in which it comes naturally, freeze first and grate while still hard.
- What's a pudding bowl?
This is probably the best thing I can do, show you a picture! click on the picture for a larger image.
- Why do you stress SILVER coins?
Only because I have never put gold coins in my pudding! Seriously, you should not add modern coins, some of them are cupro-nickel based, and the acid in the fruit and the heat, can cause them to react, and taint the food, silver does not do this, and of course neither does gold! If you are interested, I purchased my silver coins in Bath in England, they are mid-1930's and they only cost me about US$15.00 for the six.
- Why don't you use "Mixed Spice"?
Well, in the UK and Australia, there is such a thing as mixed spice, however, it doesn't seem to exist in any of North America, or, many other places! After a lot of research, I discovered that there is no standard list of ingredients or proportions (the spice houses that blend this mix, always use their own jealously guarded recipes). I finally adjusted the spice ingredients to give the same flavour, and added the optional tiny amounts of Coriander, Allspice and Mace, as these appear in some versions of "Mixed Spice".