My father was a huge fan of this New England plum pudding, which his mother and grandmother made for Christmas. My mother struggled to make it every few years, but it wasn’t quite the same. She was a fan of convenience foods, and this ancient family recipe requires commitment.
There are no plums in this pudding, an illogical fact that was never explained to me when I was a child. It’s basically bread pudding with raisins, currants and candied citron, plus a sugary yellow sauce. Much like its English ancestor, this pudding is steamed in the oven for hours. In this case, the plum pudding pot sits in the middle of the oven in a pan of water.
My great-grandmother’s pudding is legendary in my family. We all enjoy eating it once a year. I make it for Christmas, but it’s also a Thanksgiving tradition in some branches of the family. The legend is likely related to the dedication this pudding requires. You must plan ahead to make it.
Leave the Bread Out Overnight
I have a photocopy of the original recipe in my great-grandmother’s handwriting. It calls for “day-old” bread, clearly pre-dating dough conditioners and other chemicals that keep today’s bread-ish products soft for weeks.
For those of us who don’t eat gluten, “day-old” (i.e. dried out) bread is easy to find. Leave a loaf of gluten-free bread on the counter for a day, and it’s dry enough for this recipe.
You cut the crusts off the bread, and then butter each and every slice on both sides. As a child, I was drafted for this job. The bread is layered in a deep pudding pot (I use an old mixing bowl) with dried fruits, then covered with milk, and left overnight in the fridge.
In the morning, you add more milk, place the pudding pot in a roasting pan filled with 2 inches of water, and let it steam away in a 250 degree F oven for 4-5 hours (depending on the size of your pudding). You have to watch the pudding during the last hour, to make sure it’s not getting overly dry on top.
Cranberries as Rebellion
I admit, I’m not a fan of candied citron, which can be hard to find. My family often substituted candied orange peel, which I like even less. I’m committing heresy here, but I substitute dried sweetened cranberries for the citron in my plum pudding. My apologies to Great-Grandma Jaques, but I like it a lot better. For you purists, use the candied citron if you must.
I use gluten-free bread, dairy-free butter, gluten-free flour and gluten-free oat milk in this recipe, which otherwise (except for the cranberries) is unchanged from the original. My great-grandmother was born in the latter half of the 19th century, so this recipe is over 100 years old.
The Sauce is Key
The plum pudding sauce (“yellow salve” as my grandfather called it) is composed of a cup of granulated sugar, a raw egg and a tablespoon of sherry. It tastes far better than it sounds. I suppose the alcohol in the sherry might kill off any germs in the raw egg, but unless I have a supply of very good fresh eggs from my local organic farmer, I whisk the egg in a double boiler over simmering water for 5 minutes until it’s syrupy. Don’t overcook it, or you’ll have a scrambled egg. Or, if you can find pasteurized eggs, use them instead.
My grandmother neither drank nor served alcohol, but she made an exception for the tablespoon of sherry in the sauce. My husband dislikes sherry, so I substitute bourbon, which tastes fine.
I make an exception to my no-refined-sugar rule and use organic granulated white sugar in the sauce, which doesn’t taste right without it. Make sure you purchase organic sugar, as regular refined sugar can be sprayed with toxic chemicals. I swap out some of the sugar for zero-glycemic-index xylitol or erythritol, both of which are sweeter than sugar, so I use less of the sugar substitute.
Great-Grandma Jaques Christmas Plum Pudding
Plan ahead to make this century-plus old recipe for Christmas plum pudding from my great-grandmother's recipe box. It takes time, but it's worth it.
- 1 large loaf of sliced gluten-free bread (use 2 smaller ones if you want a larger pudding
- 1 pound dairy-free butter (for buttering the pudding pot and bread)
- 1 3/4 cups seedless raisins
- 1 3/4 cups currants
- 1 3/4 cups dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup gluten-free flour mix
- 2 cups non-dairy milk (I use oat milk)
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup organic sugar (I substitute 3 tablespoons xylitol or erythritol for 1/4 cup of the sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid stevia
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup organic sugar (I substitute 1/4 cup of erythritol for 1/2 cup of the sugar)
- 1 raw egg
- 1 tablespoon sherry (I use bourbon)
Cut the crusts off the bread, and butter each slice on both sides. Set aside.
Butter a 4-quart bowl (I use an old mixing bowl), and set aside.
Place the raisins, currants and dried cranberries into a separate bowl.
Dust the fruits with gluten-free flour, and stir until thoroughly coated.
Place alternating layers of bread and fruit into the buttered bowl. You'll need to cut the bread to fit each layer. Fill the bowl to the very top.
Blend the non-dairy milk, eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, vanilla, stevia and salt in a blender or whisk together in a medium bowl.
Pour the custard over the bread and fruit.
Cover the pudding with parchment, and seal tightly with plastic wrap or foil.
The next morning, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Remove the pudding from the fridge, and add as much dairy-free milk as it will absorb.
Place the uncovered pudding into a roasting pan filled with 2 inches of water.
Bake at 250 degrees F for 4-5 hours.
Keep an eye on the pudding during the last hour. Add more water to the pan if it all evaporates. When the pudding is done, the top should be brown, but not burned or overly dry.
While the pudding is baking, make the sauce.
On top of a double boiler, over simmering water, whisk the egg until it's thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour the egg into a small glass bowl.
Stir in the sugar and sherry. Mix well.
Pour the sauce into a glass container, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
When the pudding is done, remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool slightly.
Put a serving plate over the top of the pudding, and turn it over.
Remove the sauce from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
Serve the pudding warm or at room temperature, garnished with holly.
Cut the pudding into thin slices, and serve drizzled with sauce.
Cut the crusts off a large loaf of gluten-free bread.
Coat both sides of each slice with dairy-free butter.
Put the currants, raisins and dried cranberries into a small bowl.
Sprinkle the dried fruits with gluten-free flour, and toss until coated.
Butter a deep 4-quart bowl, and place a layer of bread on the bottom.
Alternate layers of bread with layers of dried fruit.
Fill the bowl to the very top, ending with a layer of bread. Cut the bread to fit the bowl.
Mix the eggs, dairy-free milk, sugar, vanilla, stevia and salt in a blender.
Pour the custard over the bread and fruit.
Cover the pudding with parchment, and seal it tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Put in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, add as much dairy-free milk as the pudding will absorb.
Put the pudding into a roasting pan filled with 2 inches of water. Bake at 250 degrees F for 4-5 hours.
While the pudding is steaming, whisk the egg in a double boiler over simmering water for 5 minutes. Pour the egg into a glass bowl.
Add the sugar.
Stir in the sherry, and mix until well blended.
The sauce will be thick and grainy. Cover tightly, and store in the fridge until ready to use.
When it’s brown on top, take the pudding out of the oven, allow it to cool, and invert it onto a serving plate.
Half an hour before serving the pudding, take the sauce out of the fridge, and stir well.
Serve the pudding warm or at room temperature garnished with holly. Slice into thin slices and drizzle each slice with sauce.