Gallery: WI judge shares her secret for top Christmas pudding

Jane Sago making Christmas Pudding with her family. Left to right, Jane Sago, Julie Wagstaff (daught

Jane Sago making Christmas Pudding with her family. Left to right, Jane Sago, Julie Wagstaff (daughter), Isaac Sago (grandchild) and Pete Sago (son). - Credit: Archant

Jane Sago has made Christmas puddings every year for more than 40 years – all her married life.

Jane Sago making Christmas Pudding with her family.

Jane Sago making Christmas Pudding with her family. - Credit: Archant

It is a family tradition.

Her splattered and much-loved cookery book, Belling’s 80 Classic recipes – which came with her first oven – is out in her kitchen.

On the side an array of ingredients are ready and waiting to be used – sultanas, eggs, chopped nuts to name a few - it is Christmas pudding time.

Jane prefers home-made to bought.

She said: “I have had bought Christmas pudding but I always think they are a bit cloying and don’t seem to have enough in them. They don’t have enough substance for me.”

Christmas puddings are one of our oldest culinary traditions dating back hundreds of years to medieval England.

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Jane said: “Lots of our food traditions have a religious aspect to them. ‘Stir up Sunday’ was when families traditionally made their Christmas puddings. It comes from the collect for the last Sunday in advent which this year is November 24. The collect starts with the words ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord’. Christmas puddings are steeped in history.

“The idea is the family went home and all had a hand in stirring the Christmas pudding. The tradition is everyone makes a wish.”

It is a tradition that Jane’s family still adheres to and her son Pete, daughter Julie and youngest grandson Isaac, three, are on hand to make sure they don’t miss the family stir-up ritual.

Jane, vice chairman of the East Suffolk Federation of WIs, said: “The earlier you make your pudding the longer they have to mature. Because of the high fat and alcohol content they keep for a long while and I usually keep one for about a year. The more mature, the darker and richer the pudding.”

She added: “My mother made Christmas puddings every year and I have carried on. I usually make two big ones each year, one we eat at Christmas or Boxing Day and another one that we eat at Easter if the family get together or the following year. My family will eat Christmas pudding at any time of the year.”

At her home in Bramford, Jane regularly hosts 14 for Christmas lunch.

She said: “Christmas is all about family to me and Christmas isn’t Christmas without a Christmas pudding. It is part of our family Christmas. It is not as if you need a pudding after a big meal but you eat it because it is there. I don’t like that fact that the shops are full of Christmas things earlier and earlier but I do make my puddings early.

Jane, who is also a qualified WI cooking judge, said: “The technique is really simple. You mix everything in a bowl together and that’s when everybody has a stir and makes a wish. Then you leave it overnight.

“The next morning give it a stir again and if needed you can add a little more milk or alcohol.”

Jane said she then puts the mixture into a plastic bowl with the bottom lined with greaseproof paper.

She said: “They are traditionally put in a pudding cloth and you can use a glass or ceramic bowl if you like.”

To cook the pudding, Jane puts an upturned saucer in the bottom of a saucepan and then places the pudding inside. She fills the saucepan with water two thirds of the way up the bowl.

She added: “You bring it to the boil and simmer very slowly for about six hours. The longer you steam it the darker it becomes.”

Once cooked, store in a dry place until needed.

Jane said: “They don’t respond well to being put in a microwave so on Christmas morning I boil the pudding again for about three hours. It is very easy really.”

Jane said her family do not follow the tradition of lighting their puddings.

But they do serve it with custard, cream and brandy butter.

She said: “My husband always makes the brandy butter. Equal measures of butter, icing sugar and brandy. What we have left we serve with mince pies.”

And what does the family do with any left-over Christmas pudding?

Jane said: “There’s not usually much left but if there is it’s lovely fried in butter.”

Meanwhile, in Lavenham, a family recipe is being shared with amateur cooks as part of a seasonal fundraising workshop.