It’s fair to say there are two types of families in Australia; Those who love Christmas pudding, and the ones who don’t.
While I’m not a big fan of the pudding, it’s been part of my family fabric for generations; a complicated labour of love which starts with gathering the very best dried fruit, dousing it in booze (for at least a week), then grating three-day old bread into fine crumbs before mixing the heavy batter by hand.
Pudding ingredients vary from family to family, as you’ll see in the three local recipes we’ve published from 1936.
This combination of sticky, sweaty summer days and a lunch time feast of dense, wintry foods is how many choose to celebrate Christmas in Australia, a bizarre hangover from colonial times, when our English forebears would cook piping hot dinners on December 25.
In 1936, the Sydney Morning Herald rounded up some of the city’s top home cooks and hostesses, asking them to share their secret family recipes for Christmas Pudding.
The Sydney Morning Herald asked well-known local cooks and hostesses to reveal their secret pudding recipes.
Mrs Parkes 350-year-old Pudding Recipe
1 lb each of butter, brown sugar, plain flour.
½ lb breadcrumbs.
1 lb seeded raisins
1 b currants
¼ lb Jordan almonds
6 oz lemon peel
1 packet mixed spice
1 grated nutmeg
3 wineglasses of brandy
1 wine glass of rum
Cream the butter, add sugar beating by hand – then add eggs one at a time.
Add flour and breadcrumbs.
Put fruit in slowly, beating all the time.
Add brandy and rum.
Steam for six hours in a basin.
Mrs Monks’ Economy Pudding Recipe
1 lb each of currants, raisins, plain flour, suet, breadcrumbs.
½ cup treacle and sugar
1 tsp mixed spice.
1 large glass of brandy.
Prepare fruit and lay in sun to dry.
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Warm the treacle and add a little milk.
Beat into the pudding with the eggs – then add brandy and stir well.
Dip the pudding cloth into boiling water, flour and turn the pudding into it.
Tie up securely. Boil 6-7 hours.
The view from Mrs S.W Spain’s home in Neutral Bay. A gifted cook and seamstress, her husband was Military Commander Staunton William Spain.
Mrs Ella Spain, wife of of Neutral Bay Commander Staunton William Spain, was known to begin her festive baking months before Christmas, with a dozen fruit cakes in her pantry on the day a Herald reporter visited.
“Mrs Spain chose the hottest day this week to make 50lb of mixture, containing 60 eggs, sufficient for nine puddings,” the story reads.
“She had two willing helpers, her sisters Mrs A.F Manchee and Mrs F.W Brennan.
“Mrs Spain took five hours on the previous day to prepare all the fruit and about three hours to blanch and chop the almonds.”
The most important part of the procedure, Mrs Spain told the journalist, was tying the cloth firmly so water couldn’t seep into the pudding.
“This she does by holding the cloth in one hand and pulling the ends tightly through her fingers.”
Mrs Spain’s Deluxe Pudding Recipe
1lb each of currants, seeded raisins, sultanas, butter, sugar.
½ lb lemon peel and blanched almonds cut fine.
A ¼ lb plain flour.
Essence of lemon and vanilla.
Salt spoon each of mixed spice and nutmeg.
1 wine glass of brandy.
Cream butter, sugar, add egg yolks and whites separately and not too quickly.
Add spice, fruit, and sifted flour – then the brandy.
Cook for six hours on the day of making – and then four hours on Christmas Day.