Hurrah for plum pudding (1976)
By Craig Claiborne with Pierre Franey – The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) December 8, 1976
One of our favorite commentaries on plum pudding appeared several years ago in the Christmas issue of “The British Medical Journal.” It listed the ingredients for a plum pudding to serve 20, and reckoned that the calorie count was in excess of 58,000, which averaged out to 2,750 calories per serving.
“Who cares,” the author asked, Lord bless him, “about the calorie content of such a creation? Its sustenance is of the spirit, not of the body, The mind is enriched and tranquil after such a meal. free to dream peacefully of those sunlit lands far over the blue, untaxable sea where grapes turn to wizened raisins in a day and the orange ripens.”
The gentleman went on to quote Dr Samuel Johnson, that “human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured and little to be enjoyed.”
Wassail! Here’s to the Christmas pudding and its calorie-laden companion, a rich fruitcake. (These would, by the way, make ideal homemade gifts for the present season.) The excellent fruitcake recipe came to us from a reader, Mrs. Jean La Camera of New Haven, Connecticut.
Vintage plum pudding recipe
1/2 pound beef suet taken from the kidney
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups black raisins
2 cups dried currants
1/2 pound glace cake mix
1/2 pound candied citron
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Grated rind of two lemons
1/4 cup dark-brown sugar
8 eggs, separated
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup cognac or rum
The flour seal:
2 cups flour
1/4 cup water
1 egg yolk, beaten
1. To steam the pudding, select a kettle or a steamer large enough to hold four sealed pudding molds. They should be placed in the steamer basket or on a rack above one inch of boiling water. which should be constantly replenished as it boils away. Pudding may also be baked. To do this, set the pudding molds in a basin of boiling water and place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees. Steam or bake the pudding for about two hours.
2. Remove the connecting and tough outer tissues from the suet Place the suet in the freezer and let it stand until almost but not quite frozen Remove it and place it on a flat surface. Chop it finely with a heavy knife or cleaver.
3. Combine the suet, raisins, currants, cake mix, citron and bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl and toss with the hands until blended Sift together the flour and spices and sift this over the fruit mixture. Add the grated lemon rind. salt to taste and brown sugar, and toss to blend Beat the yolks lightly and add the cream. Pour this over the fruit mixture. Add the rum and blend with the hands.
4. Beat the whites until stiff and add them. Fold them in with the hands.
5. Add equal portions of the batter to four greased two-cup pudding molds (see note) with lids. Cover with the lids.
6. Combine the flour and water in a bowl, kneading to make a stiff dough. Divide it into four parts. Roll each part into a rope large enough to encircle the lids. Flatten the rope slightly.
7. Brush around the lid of each mold and the perimeter of the lid with egg yolk. Circle the rope around the top, pressing to seal the lid and the mold. Press the ends of the rope together to seal.
8. Arrange the molds in a steamer or in a water bath and steam or bake as outlined in step 1.
9. These puddings may now be served or they may be kept closely sealed for several weeks in the refrigerator. If the puddings can be removed easily from their molds, remove them and wrap in cheesecloth. Moisten thoroughly with cognac or rum and return to the molds. This procedure is not essential. The puddings should be reheated in or over boiling water until piping hot before serving. Serve with hard sauce (see recipe).
Yield: Four one-pound puddings – Note: Use ceramic or crockery molds that, preferably, are heatproof.
How to make hard sauce for plum pudding
1 cup butter
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 egg white (2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla.
1. Cream the butter and add two cups sugar and the egg white alternately Beat well after each addition.
2. Beat in remaining sugar and add the vanilla. Store in a screw-cap jar. Serve at room temperature.
Yield: Four cups, or 16 servings
Traditional plum pudding is truly regal (1953)
Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida) December 11, 1953
Of all holiday desserts, the traditional plum pudding is the most regal. It was around 1680 that the first plum pudding as we know it appeared in food history, and today no Christmas or New Year’s repast is complete without this right royal dish steamed in a mold and served in a blaze of rum or brandy.
As delightful as the pudding are the old superstitions connected with its making and serving adding more interest to its appearance on the dinner table.
First, according to the old wives’ tales, it must be made on the fourth Sunday in Advent — or “Stir-up Sunday” — and each member of the family should give a twist of the wrist to the stirring spoon. According to colonial superstition, plum pudding if eaten 12 days after Christmas was supposed to bring 12 months of happiness.
Ann Seranne in her model cookbook “Delectable Desserts,” gives the following recipe for plum pudding, and writes also:
“The mold may be a round-bottomed bowl, or the pudding may be steamed in any of the molds tucked away on the top shelf — ring, melon or timbale — or in a loaf pan. But a dessert as luxurious as the traditional plum pudding deserves the most ornate mold you can beg, borrow or steal.
“A little time spent browsing around antique stores and secondhand shops will unearth a beauty, made of copper, of tin. or earthenware, a possession to be treasured among your most valuable culinary accouterments.”
How to make a good old-fashioned plum pudding from the 1800s
Published in The Washington Herald (Washington DC) December 22, 1912
I have read lately (but I think not in your column) a piteous plea for the Christmas plum pudding of yore. The petitioner is a man who cries out:
I am positively homesick for the sight of a good rich plum pudding, such as I had when I was a boy! I have tried them in the best hotels and restaurants in the city, but they haven’t the same taste! Don’t you suppose that in this great town there is some woman who has not forgotten how to put one together? I want one so full of fruit and other good things that there is little room for the dough.
Out of sheer compassion for the complainant, I am sending you a recipe one hundred years old for just the kind of Christmas plum pudding he is longing for.
A classic plum pudding recipe
The ingredients must be measured in a coffee cup:
Four eggs beaten light, one cup each of dark sugar, molasses, kidney suet, bread crumbs, milk, blackberry or grape jam, three cups of flour, one pound of currants, two pounds of raisins, half pound of citron, half cup of walnut meats (if desired), one teaspoonful of ground cinnamon, and one-half teaspoonful of cloves. Salt to taste.
Grind suet, bread, and citron through the meat chopper. Mix the dry ingredients together. Sift a teaspoonful of soda and one of baking powder three times with the flour, and incorporate these ingredients with the beaten eggs and molasses, milk and jam. Dredge the fruit with a cup of the flour.
Mix all lightly together. Steam in molds or cans four hours, or boil in a bag if you prefer. If you use the bag a large iron kettle is best. The water must be at a fast boil when the pudding bag goes in.
The pudding is best when it has ripened for a month. It will keep for an indefinite period. Reheat on Christmas or Thanksgiving morning. No good pudding sauce, however fine, can add to the lusciousness, but use whatever you like in that line.
If you make the pudding according to this recipe — ‘your content will be your best having.’ If you measure ingredients in a tea cup, use one egg the less. If in a quart bowl, use two more. It is a genuine pleasure to contribute this recipe. As I have said, it is a century old. It has been in our family for generations. I have used it for forty years. – Mrs. M. R. W.