The Christmas pudding in a cloth is something I have made each year. I remember my Grandmother having puddings hanging up in the pantry in the old house at Redland Bay. The puddings had threepences and sixpences in them back then.
People have asked me if I'm afraid the pudding will go bad. I haven't had them go bad, even though I usually make them weeks in advance. Some people say alcohol preserves a pudding, but as a tea totaller I substitute juice for brandy or whatever the recipe says. My grandma would not have had alcohol in the house either.
The fruit can be any dried fruit. This year I have used sultanas, currants, raisins, dates and dried cranberries. Sometimes I use dried apples, figs, apricots &c. Traditionally lard is used as the shortening, but I have also made puddings with butter.
To prepare the cloth put it in a pot of boiling water. Then lift it out with two pairs of tongs and wring the excess water out. Place the cloth on the bench, and put plenty of plain flour on it (to give the pudding a crust). Then spoon the mixture out.
The picture shows the texture of the mixture when I put it out on the cloth. Tie the cloth, leaving space above the mixture so that it doesn't burst out. Leave some length on the string so that it can be looped onto a hook. Have the pot of water boiling strongly when you put the pudding in. Then put the lid on and put a message on it "Do not lift the lid" until it's finished its cooking. You need enough water to last the time, and the heat to be sufficient to keep it boiling but not too hot.
I hang the pudding up in the window, with air flowing freely around it. It dries out quickly. On Christmas day the pudding goes back into the pot of boiling water and needs to boil for a couple of hours. Then you cut the string and take the cloth off, putting the pudding upside down on a plate. Custard and icecream are very nice accompaniments. Even on a hot summer day we enjoy Christmas pudding. Leftovers are good cold.