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Pudding ladies flat out like Santa’s helpers

Thursday, 6th October, 2011

DELICIOUS DECORATIONS: Barbara Stanford hangs the RFDS Christmas puddings at the Zinc Mine Hall yesterday. DELICIOUS DECORATIONS: Barbara Stanford hangs the RFDS Christmas puddings at the Zinc Mine Hall yesterday.

By Kurtis Eichler

For 20 special ladies, the next few days all boils down to one thing - Christmas puddings.

Surrounded by steaming coppers, spinning mixers and hundreds of containers of ingredients, the Royal Flying Doctors Women’s Auxiliary are rustling up 2000 of the tastiest Christmas puddings that have kept mouths watering for generations.

Leading the army of cooks is Margaret Symes. 

In her sixth year in the kitchen, Ms Symes said there were many aspects to the making of the puddings but that the volunteers were the main ingredient.

“Some of us are here from 6am in the morning,” she said. 

“On a good day we get around about 20. Today’s a very good day, though.”

First the citrus peel, currants, raisins, almonds and a nip brandy are weighed and sent to the mixers.

“I don’t drink brandy, that’s why I get the job,” said Sanchia Treloar from Yarramba Station.

The combination then goes to the commercial mixer, the only part of the process that involves a machine.

The ingredients are then folded together by hand, and passed on to Val Anderson who, for 38 years, has weighed the puddings and wrapped them in their trademark hessian cloths.

“It’s not easy, but it’s constant,” she said.

“You don’t need a science degree to do it.”

She said the recipe was created by “bush women” more than 50 years ago and had been added to, or subtracted from, ever since.

However lips are sealed on the recipe.

“We can’t tell you,” Ms Symes joked. “We could but we wouldn’t let you leave the building.”

The kilo puddings, which cost $20 each, are then sent into the coppers to be boiled for three hours.

Sixteen coppers line the walls of the small room, with brand-new copper pipes replacing the old technique of having the women fill them with buckets of boiling water.

“When they come out they’re dried and the ladies make sure they’re all nice and clean,” Ms Symes said.

After several hours, the desserts are moved into the hanging quarters.

Even there, the task is not complete.

“If their ears are all closed up tight, they don’t dry, so we pull them out because if we don’t they could go mouldy,” said Debra Hunt, who also works for the RFDS.

Her colleague, Barbara Stanford, said she has her finger in all the departments.

“We just love it - we love to help.

“It’s a good social atmosphere, it really is.

“Sometimes you may only see these people at this time of year.”

Mrs Stanford said she sent puddings to her family in Queensland for their Christmas lunch.

On Monday, 279 puddings were cooked and Ms Symes said the auxiliary hoped to raise more than last year’s total of $22,000.

“At the AGM, we donate more than $65,000 to the RFDS which we raise from the dinner dance as well.

“The RFDS is a special place for everyone. We all know someone who needs it.”

Cooking of the seasonal delicacies began in 1956 in the home of one of the auxiliaries’ members.

There they made 75 puddings before moving their production line to the pathology room at the hospital.

Members then moved to the North Mine Ambulance rooms before going to the old Central Power Station in 1987.

After 21 years there, they moved to their current location, the Zinc Mine Hall.

Anyone wanting to order puddings may phone Olwyn on 0427 710 544.

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