More labor, more love than the version I’ve made for years… Make the peel (both kinds), blanch your own almonds, render your own suet (stinky!), create your own spice blend. Necessity has turned me into some sort of version of an 18th-century cook. I kind of enjoy it — once a year. Specific varieties in parentheses are what I used in 2011; try other varieties if you like, but keep the balance of light and dark raisins.
6 oz dark raisins (Flame)
6 oz golden raisins (Monukka)
6 oz currants
8 oz blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
4 oz white figs, finely chopped
2 oz candied orange peel
2 oz candied Buddha’s Hand citron
2 oz candied quince
8 oz brown sugar
8 oz fresh suet
5 oz Cognac
4 oz plain white flour
5 oz freshly make whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Soak fruit and almonds overnight in brandy.
Cream suet and sugar, then add beaten eggs. Stir in fruit and nuts, sifted flour, breadcrumbs, baking soda and spices.
Put mixture in greased ceramic or glass bowls, cover with brown paper and tie string around the sides of the bowl to secure the paper. Trim edges of paper under string.
Steam 4 hours on a simmer with water coming halfway up the sides of the bowl. Refresh water regularly (use a jug to pour water down the inside of the pot).
Pudding can be cooled, stored in the refrigerator and reheated — steam again for 2 hours before serving, or microwave gently one slice at a time.