Now is the time to prepare holiday puddings and cakes
by Virginia Carter Lee
Many of the best-loved dainties ripen and improve with age and should be made well in advance of festal occasions
“Sugar and spice and everything nice,” should go into the making of all holiday dainties — and as plum pudding, fruit cake and mincemeat seem to ripen and improve with age, they should be prepared well in advance of their service.
Recipes for two plum puddings are given among the tested recipes, and they may either be cooked in a regular pudding steamer, or, if several are to be made, they can be boiled or steamed in the old-fashioned way by turning into greased earthenware bowls. Tie each bowl up securely in a pudding cloth of cheesecloth, and set on a board in a small washboiler. Have the water come to about two inches below the top of the bowls, cover the boiler and cook for from four to six hours, according to the size of the bowls.
When the family is small, pound baking powder cans may be utilized for cooking the puddings, but the round bowl always gives a more attractive Christmas pudding. When the puddings are cooked, cool them and keep in any cool, dry place. Left over plum pudding may be again resteamed, and it is delicious cut in slices and sauteed in a little butter.
Some fine points
In the making of mincemeat, either beef heart or fresh tongue is to be preferred to the ordinary round of beef generally used. When cooked, it should be stored in airtight jars, as for canned fruit. Many persons think that a spoonful or two of chopped black walnuts improve mincemeat. If these are added, they should be stirred in just before the mixture is removed from the fire.
The lemon mincemeat, if it is to be kept, should be boiled for ten minutes, then sealed like the regulation mincemeat. If used immediately, it does not require cooking.
The Southern fruit cake, when carefully made, cannot be excelled, and to those who have always baked their fruit cake I would like to recommend the steaming process for part of the cooking, followed by a “drying off” in a slow oven. If one possesses a large steamer the cake pan may be set in it, the pan covered with buttered paper and the cake steamed as you would a pudding. Both plum puddings and fruit cakes are also excellent when cooked in the fireless cooker. Follow the directions that come with your own make of cooker, using one radiator.
The term “light fruit cake” may seem rather misleading, but the name is used in the far South to denote a cake not quite so rich as the real Christmas product. It will keep equally well, however, and has a delicious flavor of its own, due to the addition of the black walnuts. Always wrap a fruit cake in paraffin paper and store it in a stone or earthenware jar, being sure that it is quite cold before putting it away.
Fruit bread recipes
In preparing dainties for the holiday season (and this applies equally well to Thanksgiving), be sure that you have on hand at least a couple of loaves of one of the delicious fruit breads. It is true that these cannot be kept so well or so long as the puddings, mincemeat and cakes, but they are all the better for being nearly a week old, and cut in wafer-like slices and buttered, they are just the thing for children as a substitute for cake or to serve for the holiday supper.
For a very good “prune and raisin bread,” mix together one cupful of cornmeal, two cupfuls of graham flour, half a teaspoonful of salt and two rounding teaspoonfuls of baking powder. Have ready half a cupful of chopped raw prunes and a quarter of a cupful of chopped seeded raisins. Blend this with the flour mixture and moisten with a cupful of milk and half a cupful of molasses, into which has been stirred one-quarter of a teaspoonful of baking soda. Beat the batter well, pour into small molds (well-greased) and steam one and a half hours.
A special pudding
In making the “little fig pudding” (this may also be cooked in one large mold), scald one cupful of milk with two cupfuls of bread crumbs, and add three-quarters of a cupful of sugar, half a teaspoonful of salt, the grated rind and juice of one lemon and the beaten yolks of four eggs. Mix together half a cupful of suet, chopped to a powder; half a cupful of flour, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder, three-quarters of cupful of chopped figs, and half a cupful of chopped walnuts. Combine with the first mixture and fold in the stiffly whipped egg whites. Turn into individual molds, cover with buttered paper and steam for one hour and a half. If cooked in on large mold, steam for three hours.