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Christmas Recipe for Plum Pudding in Calico Cloth

Karen's Christmas pud recipe was handed down from her great-great-grandmother and is always the highlight of the holiday feast.

Granny Maude's recipe for Christmas pudding made with love by Mum

Granny Maude's recipe for Christmas pudding made with love by Mum

Plum Pudding and Hot Custard, But Not a Plum in Sight

Family traditions that are handed down from mother to daughter through the generations are hard to beat. This Christmas pudding is one of those favourites that was handed down to me by my mother from her mother in Australia and all the way back to England and her grandmother. But it is not only the recipe that is special here—it is the ritual that surrounds it, from shopping for the ingredients to pouring the custard over the steamed pudding on the day of the feast.

The highlight of the feast is—as it has been for as long as I can remember—the unwrapping of the steaming hot Christmas pudding and the sighs of relief to discover the water hasn't penetrated through the calico cloth. This is followed by squeals of delight whenever someone's spoon clinks on one of the coins announcing the discovery of the treasures within, the humble Christmas 'pud.'

The Christmas Pudding Tradition

It all starts weeks before Christmas with the buying of the calico and mixed fruit. The cloth must be soaked overnight, then all the ingredients are blended together in the biggest mixing bowl in the cupboard. Everybody in the house needs to give the pudding a stir with a wooden spoon for luck. In the days when coins were made out of silver, sixpences would be boiled to sterilise, then stirred through the final mix.

The original plum pudding was made from dried plums or prunes, but the recipe that was created in our family is a mixture of currants, raisins and sultanas. It is rich and heavy and flavoured with brandy. The recipe doesn't say what size glass to use, so that depends on the mood of the cook at the time of making.

Some of the favourite recipes from Granny Maude

Some of the favourite recipes from Granny Maude

First entry in the housekeeping book that was to be filled with recipes

First entry in the housekeeping book that was to be filled with recipes

Handwritten Recipe Books

My grandmother was known to everyone as Granny. The epitome of a mother and grandmother, she was very much loved by all, not only for her wonderful recipes but for her way of welcoming you with a smile and a hug and her unique style of piano playing. If you could sing the melody, she could bring the piano to life. Her left hand would move swiftly over the keys using a combination of octaves and chords, while the right hand would tinkle away with the tune. Everybody’s favourite was 'Alley Cat'.

Handwritten treasures, collected over time, filled her recipe books. Nestled in one of these, a simple 80-page exercise book, is the traditional Christmas Pudding. My mother wrote it out for me with instructions for using the calico cloth of yesterday. It sits in my exercise book with pride, all covered in flour and other kitchen stains from years gone by.

Hanging the Pudding

Hang your pudding in a dry place for best results or if you are in an area of high humidity, pop the pudding in the freezer to prevent mould from forming.

Ideally, the pudding needs to hang for a long time—at least three weeks—but anything up to six weeks is good too. The longer the pudding hangs, the better the chance of the flavours working their way through the mix. A firmer pudding texture develops as the days roll on toward Christmas.

The pudding should be prepared weeks in advance. The idea is for the flavours to seep through the mix and work their magic. The alcohol acts as a preservative. Don't panic, though. If you have run out of time, you can still prepare the pudding, even on the day, as long as you give it six hours to cook. Make sure you steam the pudding for six hours initially.

Granny Maude's Christmas Pudding Recipe

The ingredients above make a large pudding for the extended family. It serves 12–16 but can easily be scaled down by half for a smaller feast. Leftovers can also be kept refrigerated for several weeks or frozen for 12 months.

Calico Cloth

  • 1 metre calico
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • String for tying

Soak cloth overnight in cold water; while making pudding, boil cloth in boiling water for 30 minutes. Ring out well. Spread the calico cloth on the table or bench and rub well with flour (40cm area only).

Christmas Pudding Ingredients

  • ½ pound butter
  • ½ pound brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ pounds mixed dried fruit
  • ¾ pound plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon carbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • ½ glass brandy or sherry
  • 1/2 cup of almonds, see below


  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Add well-beaten eggs, brandy, fruit, flour, spice and soda.
  3. Place in pudding cloth, gather up evenly and firmly (allowing room to swell) and tie firmly with string.
  4. Put lid on pan. Boil or steam quickly for 15 minutes, reduce heat and boil or steam slowly for six hours.
  5. Hang in a cool, dry place.
  6. On Christmas Day, boil for three hours.
  7. Hang ten minutes to firm.

But Wait, There’s More

The first time I made the pudding, I forgot to read the back of the recipe, where, in my mother’s best cursive writing are the rest of the ingredients and instructions. Mum is a wonderful cook but always manages to leave something out when she shares her secrets, although she swears this is unintentional. Here's what she wrote:

Lots of luck, hope this all makes sense to you. Make sure there is someone handy to tie the pudding up very tightly so the water can’t get in. Forgot to list almonds, these weren’t in the original recipe but I always add about ½ cup, blanched and peeled ones, cut into halves. Make sure the water in pan is always about ¾ full so top up as needed.

When you take the pudding out of the water ring out as much water as you can from loose calico ends. Tie these ends up high on the string for a few days till dry. Too much cloth resting on the pudding could cause mould. That’s about it but give a me a call if you can’t make sense out of all this. Love Mum.

Christmas in Australia Is Hot

It may seem strange to sit down to a full roast dinner with steamed Christmas pudding and hot custard when the temperature outside is soaring to 100 degrees, but that's what we did. The kitchen would be hot, the house would be hot, and the food was always hot, but it didn't matter.

The women from my mother's family had handed down the tradition, and so far, no one has tried to change it. My younger sister rises to the challenge now but has the sense to bake the meat outside on the Weber.

© 2010 Karen Wilton


Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on December 09, 2014:

It is a wonderful tradition, I'm so glad by granny handed down the plum pudding recipe so we could delight in it for years to come. Thanks pstraubie.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 07, 2014:

The story that accompanies this makes it a food that everyone should wish to prepare. I know that many will be happy while making it.

Angels are on the way ps

Rebel on December 10, 2013:

Thank you so much Karanda! I've been looking for a pudding like my grandma used to make, with NO breadcrumbs. Yours looks like it is just like hers was. It's getting a bit close to Christmas, just 2 weeks to go, but I'll have a go anyway. I'll give it more time next year to build up the flavours! Thanks again.

Bappy Hussain from South Yarra, Melbourne on June 20, 2012:

Oh my gosh! Great post and useful recipe info on Puddings.

But I am not a great cook , as I always messed up, whenever tried to prepare something like chicken roast, BBQ or any dessert item. :P

But After reading this hub I would definitely try preparing plum puddings myself :)

Thanks again for the great recipe.

Though I didn't prepare puddings last Christmas but bought some great yummy puddings from local online pudding store. They really do serve handmade quality puddings all over Australia. Anyone thinking of buying chocolate, gourmet or plum puddings, have a look.

Here is that Online store's link

But if you can prepare puddings at home I would definitely recommend to prepare it in your home and share with me!!!


chiclon from Barcelona on January 02, 2012:

Tot té molta bona pinta

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on November 08, 2011:

Your welcome Loren, I'm so glad your family will be having the traditional Christmas pudding. I do hope you all cope with your first Christmas without nana. All the best with the recipe.

loren on November 06, 2011:

thank you sooo much for sharing! my nana passed away earlier this year and iv been promising my grandpa i would try and make plum pudding like nana did for christmas,but iv been hunting high and low through her recipes and couldn't find the recipe anywhere! i remember watching her make it years ago and this is about as close as it gets to her recipe! thanks heaps!

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on December 16, 2010:

Peter I would love to be able to make a pudding for you but time is against me. We are getting ready to travel home for that special Christmas I've been talking about.

The recipe I've outlined should be fairly easy to follow and the making of the pudding is not at all difficult it is the placing into the calico and tying it up that causes problems. As long as there are two of you, one to hold the calico, the other to tie the string you should be fine. Best of luck.

You can always stop back here and leave a comment if you have any problems. I'll be sure to check over the next few days and help where I can.

I am sorry to hear about the passing of your grandmother, no doubt she will be sorely missed and I suspect not solely for her Christmas pudding.

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on November 23, 2010:

Thank you so much Neverletitgo. It is a special time for my family as we all live so far away from each other. This is the one time of the year we, mostly, manage to get together for a wonderful meal, extra special for the memories.

Abdinasir Aden from Minneapolis, MN on November 22, 2010:

What a nice hub! I should come back this hub to get to know your recipe. Voted up and awsome.Thanks for sharing.

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on November 22, 2010:

Thank you febriedethan, it was an absolute delight to share this family tradition. Sure, rum or any other alcohol. The idea is to preserve the pudding so it lasts for weeks hanging in the cupboard, maturing and soaking up all the flavours so whatever takes your fancy.

febriedethan from Indonesia on November 22, 2010:

Wow this is really wonderful! thank you for sharing Karanda. Oh and about the sherry/brandy, can I replace it with rhum?

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on November 21, 2010:

Thanks travel man, I feel honoured that you read and commented. Christmas is not looking so hot this year. We have had some truly unusual weather in Australia over the past few months and they are predicting more wind and rain for Christmas, almost unheard of in previous years. Perhaps we will not only enjoy but appreciated the hot dinner for a change.

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on November 21, 2010:

Thanks for sharing this, Ms. Karanda. That recipe book is really a treasure. Have a very 'hot' Christmas this year!!! :D

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on November 19, 2010:

Wendy thank you for your comments, I really appreciate that you've taken time to read my hub. Yes, the recipe book is priceless and as you can see it began in 1959 making it over fifty years old.

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on November 19, 2010:

Thank you Eiddwen. Christmas is all about keep our family traditions alive and well in my family. It is the one time of year when we can all get together, surrounded by memories and nostalgia. Glad you enjoyed and thank you so much for your feedback.

Wendy Henderson from Cape Coral on November 19, 2010:

I loved reading this hub. And I especially loved your grandmothers old recipe book.

Eiddwen from Wales on November 19, 2010:

Oh wow Karanda what a lovely and useful hub. Christmas to me is all about old fashioned themes and what better way to bring back a little nostalgia than through this hub.

Im know that some of these recipes will have been tried out by me in the next couple of weeks.

Thank you so much for haring this with us .I think an up and useful/awesome is in order here.

Take care Karanda.

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on November 19, 2010:

vrbmft, hey Vern, Christmas Karanda, there's an interesting idea. I've only given you the traditions handed down from mother to daughter, wait till I start on the ones from Dad's side!

Yes, it can get extremely hot, it is after all the middle of our summer. We have no concept of a 'white Christmas' here. Most Aussie families have moved away from the hot dinners and sit down to a cold spread of prawns and ham. Thank you for your comment. It is appreciated.

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on November 19, 2010:

Frogyfish it was a pleasure to write and share these family traditions. Oh dear, seems as if I have taken after my mother and forgotten an important part of the recipe. After the first boiling or steaming, the pudding is hung for at least 3 weeks so it dries out completely before reheating on the day.

Karen Wilton (author) from Australia on November 19, 2010:

The housekeeping book is an absolute treasure. Granny's weekly expenses on the inside cover then page after page of handwritten recipes. I guess she found another way of keeping track of her bills and filled it with delights instead. Thank you for reading. You are most certainly 'onegoodwoman'.

Vernon Bradley from Yucaipa, California on November 18, 2010:

Wow! Feel like I'm reading Dicken's Christmas Carol. Well we could rename it, Christmas Karanda!

Thanks for priming my memory and getting me into the Christmas Spirit!! Love the pictures of Granny.

I figured the folks down under have a HOT Christmas!!


frogyfish from Central United States of America on November 18, 2010:

I must bookmark your recipe - I have never made Christmas pudding, but someday... Thank you so much for sharing the delightful recipe and its history! I do need to ask how long between the first six hour boil - cool - then the 3 hour Christmas day boil? A day, week??

Your handwritten books are just priceless!

onegoodwoman from A small southern town on November 18, 2010:

"The Housekeeping Book".....

now, that is charm and memory.

I like the idea of everyone taking

a stir with the wooden spoon.

I do hope you will share more

with us from your treasure chest.