Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Christmas Pudding and Preserved Lemons

OK so I will try to be brief here, I have made the Christmas puddings and the Vanilla Sugar, and the Preserved Lemons are on the window sill for the next four days before being bathed in their own juice and sealed tight for a month.

The Christmas puddings were really quite easy in the end and I do not know why I have been so inclined to rely one someone else to make them each year.  The recipe seemed to excite my mother who queried the liquid constituents. Skye Gyngell's recipe is combined of milk and Armagnac whereas my mother's is made using Guinness, and I know that hers tastes amazing so lets see how this new recipe pans out.

It is incredibly easy to make the mix, incredibly easy to rest it for 24 hours, incredibly easy to spoon it into a pudding basin but pretty damn tricky to cover the thing in greaseproof paper and tie with string!!  Thankfully I had the help of my three year old to place his finger in the middle of the knot while I tied another one.  There simply is not a knack to it but it just takes a bit of practice and after the third one, it was fine, so don't give up and call your mother like I did!

The preserved lemons are resting for a few days but are well on their way to making a great foodie present!
Skye Gyngell's 2L Christmas Pudding mix is as follows:

360g suet, I used Atora pre-grated
170g plain flour
180g fresh white breadcrumbs
150g candied peel
350g seedless raisins
350g currants
200g sultanas
170g dark muscovado sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon (unwaxed)
grated zest of 1 orange ( unwaxed - impossible to find on the Island of Ireland unless someone can enlighten me - I left this out)
1/2 nutmeg, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 organic free-range large eggs, lightly beaten
100ml Armagnac (I used Cognac)
550ml whole milk, (I used Glenisk Organic Milk)
butter, a little to grease the pudding bowls

Mix all of the above into a large bowl and leave to rest covered with a clean tea towel overnight.
Spoon into pudding bowls, either 2 x 1L bowls or 4 x0.5L or 1 x 1L and 2 x0.5L, you do the math.

Cover with a large piece of greaseproof paper/baking parchment installing a crease into the middle of the paper to allow the pudding to rise and expand a little.  Tie with string and place individually into a large saucepan on a trivet.  I do not have a trivet so I placed the two smaller bowls onto the the underside of an upturned saucer within the saucepan.  The larger 1L pudding bowl was placed on scrunched up tin foil placed in the bottom of the large pan.  Make sure each pan you are using has a tightly fitting lid.  I used two Le Creuset pans and one regular lidded saucepan. 
Fill each pan with water so that it comes about half way up the pudding basin.
Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for between 3-6 hours.  I simmered the little ones for 4 hours and the large one for 6 hours.

When each pudding is cool, remove the original wrap and tie another one.  Wrap the whole thing in tinfoil and store in a cool dark place until required.  When you are heating it up, on Christmas morning for example, place again into boiling water on a trivet and heat for about 2 hours before serving.

The most important thing in both the original cooking and the re-heating is to not let the saucepan boil dry and keep replenishing the water to keep a steady steam supply.  I noticed with mine that the Le Creuset let much less steam escape and thus needed less replenishment than a regular saucepan with a lid.  Just less than one year ago there was a near house fire after the Christmas dinner in one Wheeler household where the pudding was put on to heat and in the throws of a great and relaxing Christmas dinner, the saucepan boiled dry, melted the pudding basin and causing black acrid smoke to fill the house.  I really wish I could publish the photos here, although I do not think that there is any need for it as the lady concerned has not lived it down since!  Better luck this year Rosie!

The Easy Preserved Lemon Recipe

Cut 5 unwaxed and scrubbed clean lemons from the tip to the stem four times leaving the stem intact, as shown.  This should fill a 0.75L jar so gauge it from here.
Take a teaspoon of sea salt and spoon into the middle of the lemon and then squeeze together.
Place a tablespoon of the salt into a sterilized 'kilner' type jar, one with a detachable rubber seal and then nestle in the lemons tightly.  Fill the gas with some salt and close the lid.  Leave on a warm (or the best you can for Ireland) windowsill for the juices to be drawn out.  After 4 days, fill the jar around the lemons with freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Store for 1 month before using.  Once opened store in the fridge.

Do not do what I did and try to sterilize the jar with boiling water but without a metal spoon inserted.  I somehow thought that the metal neck ring would do the trick but alas no.  I had spilling boiling water and broken glass to deal with at one point today.  So either use Milton to sterilise using cold water or place a large metal spoon into the jar before the boiling water. 

I will make the long and more savoury version from the Moro cookbook when I manage to find 1kg of coarse sea salt without breaking the bank.


  1. I got boxes of coarse sea salt (not Maldon but good enough for this) from Roy Foxes in Donnybrook before. It wasn't that expensive and the Moro recipe is def worth doing.

  2. Thanks I will try that, I need to get more jars also after my boiling water in jar then on floor accident yesterday! I am going to Borough market on Saturday morning so will take some home in bulk - do you want anything in particular brought back?

  3. You've reminded me that I need to make a new jar of preserved lemons. They're so useful to have available! Where did you find the unwaxed lemons?

  4. Hi Caroline, I got them in Tesco of all places, they sell them in bags of about 5 or 6 and they are a good size, quite small with a thin skin and they are organic also. I tried for ages to find preserved lemons in Dublin but couldn't, so make my own I thought. The authentic ones are egyptian lemons which are like little marbles, but I would imagine these are cost prohibitive to import to Ireland. Happy Preserving!