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At Christmastime, we're all reminded of a higher power, as church and ritual are very big parts of the festivities of the season. I have the loveliest memories of walking in the dark to midnight Mass and the beautiful music, smells and candlelight in the church. What was foremost on my mind was Santa Claus and the presents he'd bring me, and of course Christmas dinner was a much-anticipated event.

Many Irish mothers started making their Christmas puddings anywhere from January to mid-year for the following Christmas, and they were stored so the flavors would develop and mature. In this case, the recipe included lots of brandy, which acted as a preservative. I would like to keep up this lovely tradition, but with my traveling lifestyle, the chance of me being in the same place as my puddings come next Christmas is next to none.

I do, however, like to give them at least a few weeks to mature and develop their lovely rich flavor, so I wanted to make sure I get my pudding recipe to you in time so you have a chance to make them in advance. We often put charms in the pudding wrapped up in parchment paper, a coin that meant whoever got it in their serving would be rich or a ring that meant you would be first to marry.

My Heavenly Christmas Pudding is my take on a traditional plum pudding, which I hope you'll thoroughly enjoy. Don't forget to read the variations at the end, as I also offer a gluten-free version for those intolerant to gluten and some other options. I often make several smaller puddings, as they make lovely Christmas gifts to give to my close friends, all beautifully wrapped up and adorned with a sprig of holly.

Happy holidays!

Aine


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