Living in New York in 2013, Melbourne librarian-by-trade Jenelle Blevins decided to bring a small slice of Australia to the Big Apple. She made her first ever Christmas plum pudding and served it to American husband Bill’s family.
“I researched a whole lot of different recipes and settled on my current recipe, which is a very authentic, traditional plum pudding,” Mrs Blevins said.
“I even sourced some genuine 1911 silver threepence from the UK on eBay to include in ours each Christmas.”
Despite the first pudding’s plastic holly sprig catching fire when Mrs Blevins, 40, poured brandy over and set it alight, the dessert was such a success that it has since become a Blevins’ tradition.
During Advent, the family holds an annual ‘Stir-up Sunday’ in the small kitchen of their Endeavour Hills home. Sons Francis, 3, and Benedict, 11 months, help with the mixture before the pudding is steamed for eight hours, left to cool then stored for December 25.
This year, the keen home cook made her pudding early and entered it in the plum pudding cookery class at the Royal Melbourne Show.
It was her first time entering a city Show after success in country ones. When the judging was done, Mrs Blevins’ plum pudding won the prized blue ribbon. Her lemon butter took out second and her rocky road placed third.
In the glass cabinet at the Show, “Mine stood out as it is almost black in appearance whereas the others had more of a rich fruit cake look to them,” Mrs Blevins said.
“With only 50 grams of flour, the recipe is pure decadence and extremely robust in flavour. On Christmas Day, just a small slice with a lashing of custard hits the spot.”
Along with supplying her prize-winning recipe – a hybrid of a recipe from British author Delia Smith and tips and tricks from a Melbourne-based cookery site – Mrs Blevins has passed on her extra secrets to The New Daily.
“I use only real suet that I source from Rob’s British Butchery in Dandenong, and I also use that suet to grease my pudding basin before coating it in caster sugar,” Mrs Blevins said.
“I always only use fresh breadcrumbs. And I grind my own cinnamon and only use freshly grated nutmeg.”
What Mrs Blevins loves about her plum pudding recipe is “the historical aspect,” she said.
“We collect old cookbooks and read them for fun and I love that this could be part of one of them. For me, using an ingredient like suet makes the recipe even more special as it takes that little bit of extra effort to find.”
When the pudding is mixed, Mrs Blevins dresses it with parchment, foil and ties it with string (“You need an extra pair of hands to make it nice and tight), before steaming it in a 1.2 litre Mason and Cole ceramic basin.
JENELLE’S PLUM PUDDING
4oz (110g) shredded suet (a hard raw fat from beef)
2oz (50g) self-raising flour, sifted
8oz (225g) soft dark brown sugar
1 and a quarter t freshly grated nutmeg
1 and a quarter t freshly ground cinnamon
One third t ground ginger
One quarter t ground cloves
One quarter t salt
4 oz (110 g) white breadcrumbs
4 oz (110g) sultanas
4 oz (110g) raisins
10 oz (275g) currants
4 oz (110g ) dried dates, cut into pieces, stones removed
2 large eggs
1 large lemon, zested
1 small apple, cored, peeled and grated
1 oz (25g) almonds, skinned and chopped
1 oz (25g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
5 full oz (150ml) stout
2 T rum
“It’s pretty much all chucked in a bowl, left overnight, then steamed for eight hours the following day,” Mrs Blevins said.
The pudding is then cooled overnight on a bench before being re-dressed in parchment, foil and string to sit in the fridge until Christmas Day, when it is steamed for 2.5 hours before serving.
To make the recipe gluten free, replace the suet with either gluten free or gluten free vegetarian suet. Use gluten free white flour (add a pinch of baking powder) and breadcrumbs made from gluten free bread. Replace the stout with the same amount of sherry.