George shares his secrets to the perfect pudding

George Hollywood of Georgie Porgie's Puddings. Ref sho 0365-51-14TI. Picture: Terry Ife

George Hollywood of Georgie Porgie's Puddings. Ref sho 0365-51-14TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Love them or hate them, the traditional Christmas pudding will have made an appearance at many dinner tables on December 25.

But for staff at one family-run East Devon business, every day of 2014 had a hint of the festive season as they spent eight hours a day, five days a week making and selling 54,000 of the humble seasonal deserts.

George Hollywood, owner and proprietor of Georgie Porgie’s Puddings, has been in the business of making and selling traditional steamed puddings for 20 years.

His range of products - which includes the traditional Christmas offering as well as an orange and Cointreau-based version and a summery lemon and Pimm’s-laced pud - is sold across East Devon, with some shipped as far as Africa and America.

After outgrowing his premises at Finnimore Industrial Estate in Ottery St Mary (where he traded for 16 years), the father-of-three moved to a larger space just outside of Budleigh Salterton. I visited his new premises to find out more about how his thousands of Christmas puddings make their way from kitchen to plate.

Each one of the thousands of Christmas puddings George makes begins with the same recipe, which is made up of vine fruits, including raisins, currants and sultanas, Muscovado [unrefined, brown] sugar, bread crumbs, flour, milk, egg, vegetarian suet and, finally, a splash of rum and brandy.

George said: “You’ve got to put enough alcohol in to help the flavour, but without making them alcoholic.”

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The ingredients are separated to create wet and dry mixtures, which are then slowly combined.

The resulting sticky mix is then portioned into rough, ball-shaped puddings, which George does by hand with a well-practised technique.

“The whole idea about using your hands is to keep in as much air as possible,” he said.

“As soon as you start using machines, you obliterate it and it ends up heavy and stodgy.”

The resulting five ounce or one, two and five-pound puddings are then wrapped in a sort of cling film, which helps lock in the moisture.

The uncooked puds are then transferred into spherical, metal pots, which are then placed into a steamer at 100 degrees centigrade for up to eight hours.

And that’s it.

“It’s quite a simple process, but you’ve got to take your time over it,” said George. “A lot of people say they don’t like Christmas puddings because they’re too heavy, but this way keeps the air in so they stay light.”

The finished product is then left to mature for at least six months, so while everyone else is heading back to work or school next week, staff at Georgie Porgie’s will already be preparing to make next Christmas’s puddings.

George revealed he has a special chest in his shop, filled with a personal stash of ‘vintage’ puddings from up to eight years ago.

“It’s like a fine wine in a way – it gets better with age,” he said. “Every now and then I’ll try one to see how it’s aged.

“A properly made Christmas pudding will store for years.”