Julia Craig’s Christmas Pudding

A lucky daughter and grandsons in Phoenix, Arizona, will have their mom and grandmother’s steamed pudding on their table this Christmas. It is winging its way to them (accompanied by a couple pounds of yellow eye beans for a taste of Maine). Julia Craig, of Houlton, who will celebrate her 98th birthday next month, made a Carrot and Suet Pudding to send them. She wrote, “This is an old Canadian recipe that was in my husband’s mother’s family. It is very rich, a little goes a long way, served hot with a sweet sauce.”

She first wrote me asking about what I could suggest to use instead of coffee cans to steam the puddings in. Coffee, she observed, now comes in plastic or cardboard containers, absolutely unsuitable for steaming. I’ve used my favorite old pudding mold, pictured above, set into a steamer where it bumps and rattles away until the pudding is done. I’ve also used ceramic bowls with a piece of muslin tied on. Sometimes, I set them in a deep roasting pan to steam them in the oven instead of on top of the stove.

Somewhere, Julia found a couple of cans. She says about the recipe, “It made two puddings about 3 to 4 inches tall. Serve warm,” she advised, “with butter sauce flavored with your choice, usually vanilla but sometimes rum, sparingly.”

Do not let the word suet alarm you. In puddings like these with all the other ingredients called for, it adds just the right amount of fat and is part of the pudding’s distinctive flavor; just be sure to serve it warm for the right texture. Julia recommends putting the raisins through a food chopper; you can pulse them in a food processor, but not too finely. I added a tad more spice in my batch.

She also made fruit cake, allowing as how she was pushing herself and getting a little over-tired. “I plan to send two puddings and two or three of the fruit cakes and a 2 lb. bag of Yellow Eye beans to AZ Monday or Tuesday as a surprise. My daughter and family have lived in Phoenix since 1980 but still miss Maine Grub !!” Good old Yellow Eyes, just the ticket for a proper pot of beans.

A member of the Cooperative Extension for sixty years, Julia wrote that she is “still able to cook and shop and have an interest in life.” She has also figured out how to use a laptop to send emails, something a few seventy-year-olds in my acquaintance haven’t yet attempted. Bless her heart. I am honored that she also regularly reads this column! I hope to goodness that if I live as long as she, I’ll still manage to make steamed puddings at Christmas.

Best wishes to all of you for a lovely Christmas. Now bring us a carrot pudding and a cup of good cheer!

Julia Craig’s Suet and Carrot Pudding
  • 1 cup grated beef suet
  • 1 cup grated raw carrots
  • 1 cup grated raw potato
  • 1 cup chopped raisins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Put a teakettle full of water on to boil.
  2. Grease a couple of pudding molds, tin cans, or one-quart ceramic bowls.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until very well combined.
  4. Spoon into the pudding molds or bowls and set into a steamer or large pot with a lid.
  5. Put hot water into the pan until it comes halfway up the side of pudding containers. Cover.
  6. Steam 3 hours over a medium heat, checking occasionally to add more hot water if needed.
  7. Puddings are done when a tester inserted comes out clean.
  8. Take out of the water and let cool slightly before inverting to unmold puddings.
  9. May be made ahead stored in a refrigerator until wanted, but wrap in aluminum foil and reheat in a warm oven before serving.
  10. Serve with hard or butter sauce.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.