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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Plum Pudding

But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone, -- too nervous to bear witnesses, -- to take the pudding up, and bring it in. Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose,. . .  All sorts of horrors were supposed. . . .  In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered, -- flushed but smiling proudly, -- with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, . . . with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

O, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.      
~A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Christmas Pudding was and still is a traditional part of my Christmas dinner.  My mother was a great hand at making steamed puddings.  We just took it for granted that some kind of pudding would appear on the menu several times a month.   They were usually plain or studded with raisins, dates or blueberries.  While my school friends may have consumed a plain or figgy duff with their potatoes and gravy, at our house pudding was strictly reserved for dessert.  Slices of steaming hot pudding, floating in a milky white nutmeg sauce, would be served when we had dutifully cleaned and scraped our plates clean.  But at Christmas the ordinary pudding was forsaken for a it's glamorous cousin--the Christmas Pudding.  


The Christmas Pudding was the main dessert following a hearty and overabundant dinner.  It would have been unheard of to serve anything else, and while some families might serve a trifle or jelly and sponge cake following their Christmas dinner, "the pudding" was as firmly entrenched as the Magna Carta in our Christmas dinner line-up.  There were of course the Christmas and cherry cakes if anyone was still hungry (which seems, would have been an impossibility) but they were often relegated to the supper hour along with the cold turkey sandwiches.

The making of a Christmas pudding can bring fear and dread into the cook's heart, as Mrs. Cratchit could attest to when fetching the pudding for her family.  The list of ingredients looks daunting, but have no fear, this pudding goes together quickly after the apple, carrot and potato are grated.
  


Top: currants; bottom: raisins. 
Notice the French on the bag, "Raisins de corinthe."
You will notice there are no plums in plum pudding.  The old English word for "raisin" was "plum" and the name carried over to modern times. So that clears up that mystery.   And did you know currants are actually raisins as well?  They are dried Black Corinth grapes also known as Corinthian Raisins.  Who knew???

The raisins and currants are interchangeable and you may use all raisins if you can't find currants.  I didn't have quite enough to make up 1½ cups of currants (and the grocery stores are swept clean) so I made up the difference with golden raisins.  

Christmas Plum Pudding 
1 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

⅔ cup butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup grated raw apples
1 cup grated raw carrots
1 cup grated raw potatoes
1 ½ cups stale bread crumbs

¼ cup orange or other fruit juice
1 ½ cups raisins
1 ½ cups currants
⅓ cups candied peel

½ cup chopped nuts, if desired


Remove 2 tablespoons flour and sprinkle over the raisins, currants, peel and nuts.



Sift remaining flour, baking powder, salt and spices together and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together. You may do this by hand if the butter is soft.  Mix baking soda in the beaten egg and add to the creamed butter mixture until well combined.




Stir in the grated apples, carrots and potatoes.  Add the bread crumbs.  Add the the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the juice.  Combine well.  

Add the floured fruit and nuts and combine thoroughly. 



Spoon into well greased pudding mold or heat-proof bowl.  Cover top with greased parchment or waxed paper.  If using a pudding mold press on the cover and tie securely.   If using a bowl, tie the paper down around the lip of the bowl.  Take a large sheet of foil wrap and place the bowl in the middle.  Bring the wrap up around the bowl covering the top loosely and secure by scrunching together. 


 
Place a trivet or 3 or 4 jar rings or jam jar covers in the bottom of a deep stock pot.  Pour 3 or 4-inches of hot water in the pot and place the pudding on top of the trivet. 


Bring the water to a boil and cover the pot.  Lower the heat so the water is gently boiling.  Steam the pudding 3 ½ hours, checking occasionally to make sure the water has not evaporated.  When the pudding has finished steaming remove the pot from the heat and let it and the pudding cool down enough to remove.  This is so you won't scald your hands.  


The pudding can be eaten as soon as it's cooked but the flavour will improve with storage.  If eating the same day let it sit about half an hour before serving.  Store the pudding in a tightly sealed container for a few days or freeze until ready to serve.   To serve, thaw pudding or remove from container and place in the same mold or bowl in which it was cooked.  Re-steam for 1 hour.  Alternately, in this technical age, you may microwave slices of pudding until very warm but the steaming will produce a nicer pudding.  Serve with your favourite warm sauce.  

My favourite sauce is Mom's Nutmeg Sauce.  I could eat this by the bowlful and I wonder if I didn't eat more sauce than pudding when growing up.  I've also included a Brown Sugar Sauce and a traditional Hard Sauce.  


Mom's Nutmeg Sauce
Small lump of butter (about 2 tablespoons)
1 heaping tablespoon flour
2 cups milk 
¼-⅓ cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium size saucepan over medium heat melt butter and stir in flour until bubbly but not brown. Whisk in cold milk, sugar and nutmeg.  Stir and cook until sauce comes to a gentle boil.  Lower heat and continue to cook and stir another 2 minutes until thickened and thoroughly cooked.  Stir in the vanilla.  Serve with steamed pudding.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown Sugar Sauce
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter

Combine all ingredients except lemon juice and vanilla.  Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a gentle boil.  Lower heat and continue to cook and occasionally stir for 2 minutes.  Add lemon juice and vanilla and mix well.  Serve with steamed pudding.

* * * * * * * * * * *
Hard sauce is served in dollops over warm slices of pudding. It's basically a vanilla frosting that melts over and into the pudding.

Hard Sauce
½ cup softened butter
2 cups icing sugar
1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla
1 or 2 tablespoon warm water, if needed

Cream the butter and add the icing sugar in small amounts, beating well after each addition.  Add flavouring and beat until fluffy only using the water if the mixture is too thick.  Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.  Serve 1 or 2 tablespoons with each serving of hot steamed pudding.  



♪♬
Now, bring us a figgy pudding,
Now, bring us a figgy pudding,
Now, bring us a figgy pudding, 
And bring it us here! 
♪♬

 

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