1.Fill large boiler three-quarters full of hot water, cover; bring to the boil. Have the flour and string ready. Wearing thick rubber gloves, drop pudding cloth in boiling water, boil for 1 minute, then remove; carefully squeeze excess water from cloth. Working quickly, spread hot cloth on bench, rub flour into centre of cloth to cover an area about 35cm in diameter, leaving flour a little thicker in centre of cloth where the “skin” on the pudding needs to be thickest.
2.Place the cloth inside a colander or bowl, minimising the number of pleats as best you can (this helps give a nice shape to the pudding). Place pudding mixture in centre of cloth. Gather cloth evenly around mixture, avoiding any deep pleats, then pat into a round shape. Tie cloth tightly with string as close to mixture as possible. Leave ends of sting about 20cm long. Pull ends of cloth tightly to ensure pudding is as round and firm as possible.
3.Lower pudding into boiling water, tie free ends of string to handles of boiler to suspend pudding. Water should come up to the string on the neck of the pudding. Cover boiler with a tight-fitting lid, boil for 6 hours, replenishing with boiling water as needed to maintain water level.
4.Untie pudding from handles and lift from water. Don’t put pudding on bench, but place in a colander or bowl; cut string carefully peel back cloth a little (remove the cloth while the pudding is hot to prevent the skin sticking to the cloth). Turn pudding onto a plate, then peel away cloth completely. Stand for at least 20 minutes or until skin darkens and pudding becomes firm before serving. Wash and dry pudding cloth.
5.Serve pudding hot with brandy custard, brandy butter or ice cream, if desired.
We prefer to remove the cloth before storage, rather than hanging the pudding in the cloth, as mould can form in our warm climate. After removing the cloth, allow pudding to come to room temperature, wrap it in plastic wrap and seal in a freezer bag or airtight container. Pudding can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months or frozen for up to 12 months. If the calico pudding cloth hasn’t been used before, start with an 80cm square of calico, soak it in cold water overnight. Next day, boil it for 20 minutes, rinse in cold water and dry. Cut to a 60cm square. Not suitable to microwave.