Moama's Shirley Durrant has been wowing district pudding eaters for the past 23 years with her Christmas delights.IVY WISE December 14, 2013 4:06am
With 23 years’ experience making plum puddings, it is little wonder Shirley Durrant is one of Echuca-Moama’s most sought-after Christmas cooks.
The grandmother of nine started making puddings in 1990, using her mother-in-law’s recipe, while living on a farm in Caldwell.
‘‘We had hens as a sideline and we used to sell eggs to someone who made puddings. She stopped making them, but didn’t tell me, so I ended up with a cool room full of eggs,’’ Mrs Durrant said.
‘‘At the time, the (Barham Uniting) church had a financial problem and I had something that could help that problem.
‘‘I started making puddings and selling them, with all the proceeds going to the church.’’
Mrs Durrant continued this every year, even when she and husband Knox moved to Moama five years ago, but the money now goes to Echuca-Moama Uniting Church.
‘‘I make about 40 to 50 each year, but when I was in the country, I usually made 70 to 80,’’ she said.
‘‘The most I’ve made is 120, because I was invited to a special fete in Albury.’’
Starting in October each year, Mrs Durrant buys 3 kg of mixed fruit, dozens of eggs, bags of flour and sugar and about 7kg of her secret ingredient.
‘‘I use suet. It’s beef fat found around the kidney,’’ she said.
‘‘When I first started, I had it given to me. However, that stopped when health regulations came in, so now I have to order it and buy it.
‘‘It’s the equivalent of using butter. I suspect it was used years ago because it was cheap.
‘‘I think it makes the puddings keep better.’’
To make sure all the meat is discarded from the fat, Mrs Durrant spends days rendering (melting) and purifying it.
The mixed fruit is soaked in brandy overnight, before being combined with the other ingredients and boiled in a calico cloth for four hours.
Making about 10 at a time, Mrs Durrant then hangs the puddings to dry on her clothesline for a few days, before they are boiled again for two hours.
‘‘It’s important they dry quickly, otherwise they can get mouldy,’’ she said.
She said the puddings could keep indefinitely, but once they were out of the cloth, they needed to be refrigerated.
With most puddings going to his wife’s regulars, Mr Durrant always makes sure he doesn’t miss out.
‘‘I take one and hide it,’’ he laughed.
He also willingly takes on the job of quality controller.
‘‘When I come home and the bench is covered in crumbs, I take a little bit,’’ he said.
‘‘She’s a first-class cook and very consistent in quality. I do very well.’’
Mrs Durrant said her mother was a good cook and cooking was just part of growing up in the country.
‘‘I quite enjoy it. It keeps me off the streets,’’ she said.
‘‘I really like the contact with customers, some of whom I’ve had since I started.’’
She hopes to one day pass down the recipe to one of her grandchildren, so they can continue the tradition.
‘‘If they would like to have it (recipe), then I would give it to them,’’ she said.
If you would like to buy one of Mrs Durrant’s famous puddings, phone her on 5482
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