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It is a tad strange to imagine that the origin of what we know today as Christmas pudding — made using fruits, dry fruits, flour, sugar and eggs — lay, perhaps, in meats. A tradition that supposedly started in England in the 15th century as a way to preserve meats during the winter, by keeping it in a pastry case with dry fruits and spices, has evolved into one of the most popular celebratory sweets over time. With its creation — often credited to King George I, also known as the Pudding King after his passion for sweet things — came about the annual ceremony of cake mixing. "A social event, it has roots in the 18th century Europe, where large families or the entire village would come together to mix the ingredients that go into preparing the Christmas pudding. Because the quantities of fruits, dry fruits, spices and the spirits that are used to ferment these ingredients are large, people would do it together, making a festivity out of it," explains Chef Ajay Chopra, executive chef at The Westin Mumbai Garden City.
In the city,Taj Chandigarh ushered in the spirit with a fruit mixing ceremony (in the picture). That was followed by Hometel hosting a session a few days ago with Father Dominic Bosco, Parish Priest of St Anne's Church as the guest of honour. Apart from being a fun photo op, it saw participants — hotel staff and guests — roll up their sleeves and mix piles of blackcurrants, cashewnuts, cherries, figs, dry apricots, candied ginger and orange peels with almonds, prunes, raisins, cardamom, cloves, walnut and spices to be used in the cake. Add to this a heady concoction of whisky, rum, beer, gin, wine and honey. "The mix can be prepared upto a month in advance but it's good to stock jars with liquor laced fruits and nuts all through the year," says Manimajra-based Harjyot Phoolka, who has been dishing out customised spreads under her brand Baked with love. "The idea is that the longer you soak the ingredients in alcohol, the more flavourful the pudding will be," adds Phoolka. Chef Chopra believes that five to six weeks of fermentation is required for up to 20 kg of production. "For one portion each of the softer fruits, one adds half a portion each of the dry fruits," he says, explaining that the gooey fruits lend the soft texture while the dry fruits give it the crunch. "The zest cuts the alcohol's bitterness with its tang," explains Chopra.