Heavily laced with alcohol, the royals’ festive pudding is not just for Christmas – they eat it for months, even frying it up for warming snacks while out hunting.
Work starts on the fruity pudding soon after Queen Elizabeth and her staff return from Balmoral, in the highlands of Scotland, in October, former staffer Darren McGrady tells PEOPLE in the current issue.
And the chefs have to make so much they have even been known to clean out the kitchen sinks in order to mix the contents easily.
But because of all that rum, beer and brandy, it is well-preserved and keeps well in the fridge for almost a year – the Windsors and their guests are still eating it the following September!
The chefs will cook the puddings for the royal tables in 2-pound bowls and they’ll be served at the various lunches from Christmas through New Years (which the Queen celebrates in Sandringham).
The final touches are made by the Queen’s page, who “pours brandy over the top using a silver brandy holder and lights it,” McGrady says. (It flames up spectacularly!)
But the chefs make large versions of the mixture in rectangular baking trays to keep for other occasions. Then, it is known simply as plum pudding.
They fry 3-inch slices in unsalted butter and “they crisp up and go gooey inside,” McGrady, who runs Eating Royally Catering in Dallas, tells PEOPLE.
“We would slice it into fingers, wrap it in wax paper and anyone going out hunting or shooting or stalking would have two fingers,” he shares.
The recipe below is for three 2-pound bowls (about 30 servings):
5 cups raisins
3 cups currants
2 cups candied peel
2 1/2 cups beef suet
6 cups fresh white breadcrumbs
1 1/4 cups flour
3 1/2 Tbs mixed spice
2 cups demerara sugar
2 cups dark beer
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup brandy for pouring
1/4 cup unsalted butter for greasing bowls and parchment
1. Using a pastry brush, lightly grease the bottom and sides of the pudding bowls and also three square pieces of parchment large enough to cover the tops of the bowls. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and divide between the pudding bowls.
2. Place the parchment paper on top of the bowls and cover each with aluminum foil wrapping tightly around the bowl.
3. Put the puddings in a large steamer with a lid making sure the water comes at least 1/2 up the sides of the bowls. Boil for five hours, checking the water in the steamer every hour – it will probably need more adding.
4. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool. Refrigerate for at least three months before using (up to two years).
To serve, reheat the pudding in a steamer for two hours. Invert onto a warm dinner plate. Warm the 1/4 cup of brandy and pour over the pudding and set alight. Serve immediately with brandy sauce.
To read more about plans for the royal family’s Christmas, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday