A good Christmas pud doesn’t just happen, says Chris Woodhams – it matures.
The owner-operator at Cambridge café Crave was explaining why, with four months to go, he is already in the festive season mood.
Crave is already making and taking orders for Christmas puddings, because their original family recipe, they say, can take several months to achieve the “perfect” Christmas pud.
Woodham’s traditional English puddings, which he has made for 15 years, is a slightly modernised version of his grandmother’s wartime recipe.
“We follow the old-fashioned method… the longer you keep it, up to about 18 months, the better. We decided what most people would like is at least three months before hand, hence why we’re taking orders now.”
The trick to a good Christmas pudding he says, is an old school recipe and plenty of time. He starts by feeding sherry to an assortment of dried fruits – raisins, cranberries and a little lemon rind – “until they won’t drink anymore and have gone lovely and plump.”
“We mix them with vegetable suet, the old-fashioned stuff, and some breadcrumbs, made ourselves from two-day-old loaves, and add a little flour, a scoop of liquor, and then suspend the dough in a pot of boiling water for eight hours. Then the steamed pudding comes out, and it’s lovely to eat right away, but if you give it a couple of months it just matures and the flavour develops and goes lovely.
“You cover it again with liquor once it’s cooked, which essentially preserves it, and then you put it in a cool dry place for three months, once in a while opening it up and feeding it a little bit more alcohol. And come Christmas morning you steam it for three hours, that boils off the alcohol and warms it through to the core. And you can’t tell that it’s months old, except in a good way, it’s just really deep and yummy.”
He said last year the Crave team was caught with dozens of last-minute orders for Christmas puddings, so this year they’re preparing themselves early.
The puddings come in two sizes and cost $30 and $40 and, like the Christmas cakes they are taking orders for, will be available in early December.