It makes fruitcake ten times better

By Margaret Eby
December 18, 2018
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Christmas pudding has always been a staple of my family holiday. My mother is from Ireland, so it's a pudding in the Irish way, not than the Jell-O way. It involves many kinds of dried fruit, nuts, a great deal of rum, and very little sugar, at least for my childhood palate. It's the kind of fruitcake-adjacent pudding you can tell was developed before refrigeration—you steam it, rather than bake it, and though I haven't put it to the test, I feel it could last many months without worry of spoiling thanks to the booze content. 

The pudding is presented at the end of the Christmas meal. It gets doused with a little bit of brandy and set on fire, a display of pyrotechnics that is definitely my brothers' favorite part of the night. A crucial condiment is served alongside the pudding: brandy butter. As I've gotten older, I've learned to love pudding on its own and not just smothered in sugary butter, but the sauce is still something that feels like Christmas to me. It goes by different names—hard sauce or brandy sauce are a few I've heard—but brandy butter feels like the most honest because, well, that's what it is. It's a low-key icing, or a high-key compound butter. Essentially you soften butter, cut it with sugar and brandy, and serve it. It has been my job in the family for as long as I can remember, because it's a relatively simple task for a child and also because I am a known butter enthusiast.

You could buy brandy butter, I suppose, but it's not difficult to make. You probably have all the ingredients you need already. We usually use the Delia Smith recipe and an electric or stand mixer, whichever is unoccupied during the frenzy of preparing Christmas dinner, but you can play around with the proportions however you wish. It's roughly equal parts sugar and butter plus a couple tablespoons of brandy. Could you use rum? You could. Whiskey? Why not. Cognac would be nice too. Whatever you have kicking around that would complement the flavor of your holiday desserts. It goes particularly nicely with something as savory and boozey as a pudding, fruitcake, or mince pie, but I'm not going to try to stop you from adding it to anything else. 

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