Christmas 2013: top picks for pudding

There are many traditions that surround the Christmas pudding and every family will have its own. Some prefer their pudding boiled in a cloth, others in a bowl. Some families will stir the pudding east-west in remembrance of the Three Wise Men from the Orient and others will throw in coins and make wishes.

For those who aren't making a pudding this year, we tested these five puddings available commercially around Australia. The panelists were instructed to look for plump fruit, firm but not too dense texture, rich caramelised flavours, fresh butter and a lovely bouquet of mixed spices. Only the first was fully embraced by the panel.

First: Pudding Lane Classic
500g for $28 ($56 per kg), Thomas Dux stores and puddinglane.com.au

A traditional cloth-boiled pudding that was slightly brain-shaped when disrobed. It was very moist, had lovely spice notes and held together well when cut. Handmade in small batches in Newcastle, this pudding was highly recommended, with many of the panel commenting that it reminded them of their own family puddings.

Second: Pud For All Seasons
800g for $28.95 ($36 per kg), pudforallseasons.com.au

Packed in a plastic pudding-shaped bowl wrapped in cloth, this pudding presented well on the plate, with nice smooth and rounded sides. It was a little dry but the panelists felt that with brandy butter, brandy sauce, cream and custard it could be a welcome addition to the table.

Third: Frank Food and Me Nutty Gran's Christmas Pudding
800g for $30 ($37.5 per kg), frankfoodandme.com

A pudding with a less dense texture and with a greater emphasis on nuts than most puddings. The panelists felt it too was a little dry but also that the addition of the usual pudding accompaniments would ameliorate the situation.

Fourth: Stephen's Finefoods Figgy Pudding
500g for $27.95, Essential Ingredient stores

This pudding failed to impress the judges, who felt there was something in it that caused a very slight numbing sensation on the tongue. One panelist suggested this could be from cloves, which may have been used in the spices. This and its slight dryness failed to impress the judges.

Fifth: Simon Johnson
1kg for $56, simonjohnson.com

This large pudding came in a ceramic pudding bowl in a clear plastic box. It presented beautifully on the plate, with a lovely dark colour. As soon as the panelists tried to cut it, it fell apart. The pudding seemed rancid. A pool of yellow oil gathered on the plate. The ingredients listed that it had been made with vegetable oil and much less butter than a traditional pudding. Sadly, this pudding was rejected by all the panelists.