Combine the suet, flour, sugar, bread crumbs, fruit and brandy. Cover and allow to stand overnight.
Add the syrup and beaten eggs. Dissolve the baking soda in the milk, and add to mixture. Stir until everything's combined. (The mixture will be fairly thick. My mother used to get help at this stage by telling us that if we stirred it three times and made a wish, the wish would come true. This only works with Christmas puddings.)
Place in two 1 1/2 quart pudding basins, cover with paper and several layers of aluminum foil, and steam for 4 hours.
When you're going to eat it, steam it for a further 2 hours. Serve by turning it out of the bowl, and pouring flaming brandy over it (see below). Serve with brandy butter (hard brandy sauce).
This pudding needs time to age between when you cook it and Christmas. My mother generally makes it about a month before. Keep it in the refrigerator until the day you will be eating it.
Each pudding will serve about 8-10 people. If you halve the recipe, use 3 eggs. You can also add cherries, figs, almonds and so on when you're adding the fruit.
* Old-fashioned Christmas boiled pudding - This recipe was first written down by my great-grandmother. It's an old-fashioned boiled pudding, and was always a special part of Christmas in my family. Nana Moon's family came from Sofala, the site of the 1851 gold rush in New South Wales, Australia, where they raised sheep (before the gold rush). It's probably based on an English recipe.
This recipe differs from others I've seen in that it uses no spices, just dried fruit and brandy. Perhaps spices were too difficult to get, it tastes great anyway. Makes two puddings.
* The suet can be replaced with some other form of shortening. The packaged suet we used to be able to get in Australia was only about 35 percent suet, the rest was cornflour (cornstarch). Avoid that at all costs. For a few years, we bought suet from the butcher and grated it ourselves (ok, we used a blender), but no one should have to do that (at least, not during an Australian summer).
* If you decide to go for authenticity and use a pudding bag, here's how:
Get a large piece of calico (it must have a tight weave), and boil it for a few minutes. Rub flour into the inner surface. Place 1/2 the mixture on it, and bring the corners together, leaving room for the mixture to rise. Tie with string. Cook by immersing in boiling water, when you add extra water, it must be already boiling, or the pudding will get soggy. The pudding will be rounder, and have a better crust than one steamed in a pudding bowl. A good crust means that the brandy won't soak in when you light it, so it'll burn for longer. Age the pudding by hanging it in a cool, dry place. The problem with using a pudding bag is that it tends to grow mold if the climate is too humid.
* To light the pudding, heat about 1/4 cup of brandy in a saucepan. Light it, then pour over the pudding and carry it to the table.