When I was kid in Southern California, one of the local independent television stations (remember those?) would play the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol on every Christmas Eve (the version with Reginald Owen as Scrooge). I just loved when the Crachits all had dinner together. Now, thanks first to VHS and now DVDs, I own that film. Every Christmas Eve my family and I watch it together and pause at the point where Mrs. Cratchit brings in the figgy pudding.
Then I bring out our own figgy pudding and special punch and we feast just like the Crachits.
OK, I buy the pudding premade from the , but I make the punch using the same recipe Charles Dickens used at his parties. According to a cookbook by Brenda Marshall, The Charles Dickens Cookbook, the recipe was from a letter Dickens wrote in 1847 to a friend. It is very strong, so only adults get to drink it in our house; the children have sparkling apple cider instead. Still, if I ever tried to skip that tradition, there would be no end of complaint.
The holidays are all about tradition and the foods served at those special meals are a large part of the celebrations. So Mercer Island, what are the recipes that your family wants every holiday? Share them in comments and maybe a new tradition will be started for another family.
Charles Dickens’ Very Own Christmas Punch (just like Bob Crachit makes)
Editor’s Note: I have never tried to make it flame as I have no desire to burn my house down.
Makes around 10 – 15 glasses full.
- 1000 ml (1 L) bottled mineral water
- 700 ml of dark rum (one bottle)
- 350 ml of brandy (half bottle)
- 500g natural brown sugar (Demerrara)
- 3 large lemons – grated zest and juice
- optional – 6 lemons sliced into several thick wedges
- optional – grating of nutmeg
- optional – a cinnamon stick in each glass to stir
Put the rum, mineral water, and sugar into a large saucepan. Heat the mixture in the pan on a low temperature for 10 minutes, do not allow the punch to boil, but stir continuously to dissolve the sugar.
After 10 minutes add in the brandy and the zested lemon peel from 3 large lemons, then cut them in half and add all the lemon juice from them (strain through a sieve to catch the pips). Gently warm for another 10 minutes, again do not allow the punch to boil.
Whilst still hot add the heated Punch mix from the saucepan into a heat proof punch bowl and take it to the table. Dim the lights.
Into a large metal ladle pour in some brandy (do not overfill the ladle). Ignite the surface fumes of brandy in the ladle with a long lit wick (keeping both away from you) and slowly pour the lit brandy, just above the Punch, igniting the surface of the punch. When ready stir well with the ladle and extinguish the flames.
Serve in glasses that are heat proof to warm liquids: Either serve the Christmas Punch plain, as Dickens’s Recipe states, or with a lemon wedge, cinnamon stick and a grating of nutmeg.
For an easier version of the recipe, Lynne Rossetto Kasper of National Public Radio’s The Splendid Table has a recipe: Click here to view it.