Traditions run strong at Bungaree and the very serious business of Christmas pudding preparation and consumption is no exception.
Christmas Day is a particularly significant date on our Bungaree calendar, given the Hawker brothers – George, Charles and James – first camped under two gum trees here on Christmas Day 1841. History does not record whether they had Christmas pudding packed in their tucker-bag, but today, some 177 years later, our Bungaree Christmas pudding is certainly jam-packed with tradition.
There is no shortage of great tasting Christmas puddings that can be purchased in Australia, but there is undoubtedly something special about making your own. Our Bungaree Christmas pudding has evolved over the years and isn’t based on a single recipe, but inspired by several.
Our pudding preparation takes place over several weeks, beginning with the soaking of the fruit in October. South Australia’s local brandy “St Agnes” is dutifully added (and regularly topped up) to a bowl of glacé cherries, dates, prunes, raisins, sultanas, dried figs, grated apple, currants, cranberries, dried apricots, orange and lemon zest. The fruit is varied from year to year but our rules dictate that there must be at least 12 types of fruit in the mix.
The fruit is soaked for at least 1-2 weeks, and is then added to our pudding mixture. Mixed spice and nutmeg along with locally sourced suet, and a dash more brandy is added to the pudding mix, before it is all stirred – as per tradition – east to west by all available members of the family, from the youngest members of the 6th generation through to their 4th generation grandparents.
Recently, we have been able to inject even more history into this classic pudding by adding a 1925 threepence, a 1944 threepence and a 1913 shilling. These coins were all found on Bungaree in 2017 by metal detecting enthusiasts Roz, Dale and Stan. We do suggest that it is best to warn your guests if the pudding contains coins before they tuck into the delicious steaming pudding on Christmas Day!
Everyone has their own favourite accompaniments for pudding, but we generally cover all bases with not only brandy butter but also custard and locally made Golden North icecream.
Note to self: remember to label brandy butter as brandy butter so it is not mistakenly put onto breakfast toast – it doesn’t go so well with Vegemite according to the children!
Like our Christmas pud which has become richer by the influence of others over the years, so have our other Christmas traditions, including:
- Selection and decoration of the perfect pine Christmas tree: we have no shortage of pine trees growing at Bungaree, with the ideal tree being well balanced and trimmed to size so it is just touches the ceiling in the Homestead
- Catching up with family and friends: it’s always tricky to squeeze in all festive drinks and celebrations around the annual harvest and other commitments, and the geographic spread of family and friends. Many thanks to the Anama and Calcannia Hawkers for hosting catch ups already this festive season.
- Church service: usually held in St Michael’s Church at Bungaree, although other local services are sometimes also attended
- Playing “snapdragons”: this a test of nerves in snatching fruit and nuts from a tray of flaming brandy, usually in the evening when the dancing of the flames appears more dramatic!
- Our annual UK-Australia malteaser rolling challenge: a competitive challenge with some good friends in the UK, based on the longest distance a chocolate malteaser can be rolled down a measuring tape into one’s mouth (Bungaree proudly holds the record with a slightly nerve-racking roll over 10 metres from the Homestead balcony to the recipient on the lawns below, without any damage to the recipient’s teeth)
- Consumption of a special Christmas tipple: Clare Valley wines and homemade sloe gin always makes an appearance, but sometimes an additional Christmas cocktail or beverage will appear. This year we are looking forward to tasting the “Quince Brandy” that has been maturing in our cellar following last season’s bumper quince harvest!
We do hope that you and your friends and family have a wonderful Christmas, and look forward to seeing many of you again in 2019.
From the Hawker family and the rest of our great team at Bungaree
Please note: Bungaree will be closed to the public from 25 December 2018 – 2 January 2019.