Thursday, December 25, 2008
...a Christmas pudding as described by Mr. Dickens himself.
"Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper (boiler). A smell like washing day! That was the cloth (the pudding bag). A smell like an eating house and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laudress's next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered - flushed, but smiling proudly - with the pudding, like a speckled cannon ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of a half-a-quarten of ignited brandy, and with Christmas holly stuck into the top."
"Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly, too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since their marriage..."
I first had Christmas pudding in Hannie's kitchen. She made her pudding on Stir-Up Day, the Sunday before advent. Connoisseurs insist that it's the final day on which a pudding can be made if it's to age properly for the holiday. On that day the Collect in the Church of England begins, "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of they faithful people, what they plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works..." Bored young choristers created a verse of there own and on the sly would chant:"Stir up, we beseech thee, the pudding in the pot. And when we do get home tonight, we'll eat it piping hot." When the pudding is made at home all family members are expected to take a hand in the stirring, using a special wooden spoon (in honor of Christ's crib). The stirring must be from east to west, in commemoration of the journey of the Magi, and it's said that if, as you stirred, you closed your eyes and made a wish your wish would come true. Some Christmas pudding recipes called for exactly thirteen ingredients, in honor of Christ and the twelve apostles. Then at some point a flaming halo of brandy came to represent Christ’s passion, while the holly stuck on top symbolized the crown of thorns. Hannie insisted that the pudding had been borrowed from German plates and brought to England by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Each year she would grab from memory her romanticized story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. She'd tell with delight of the day, a single day, when English and German troops put down their guns and shared Christmas pudding and sausage. Like Mr. Dickens before her, Hannie believed Christmas without pudding was beyond the pale - uncivilized. I closed my eyes while stirring the pot this year. I let you know what happens. Till then, from my kitchen to yours come warm wishes for the happiest of holidays. "God bless us, every one."
1 cup light raisins
1 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
3 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel
1 tablespoon chopped candied lemon peel
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup quartered glaced cherries (mixed red and green)
3 ounces brandy
1/4 cup chopped ginger in syrup + 1 tablespoon of syrup
1 large apple, grated
1 large orange, juice and zest
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 ounces shredded suet or softened butter
3/4 cup golden brown sugar
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1) Toss raisins, figs, peel, apricots and cherries in brandy. Let sit overnight.
2) Combine ginger, syrup, grated apple, orange juice and zest in a large bowl. Add eggs, suet, brown sugar, bread crumbs and flour. Stir in soaked fruit, and pumpkin pie spice. Mix well.
3) Spray a pudding mold and lid with nonstick spray. Fill with pudding mixture. Cover and snap lid into place.
4) Place in a 6-quart pot. Fill pot with 2 quarts of water (water should come up 3/4 of way up sides of pan). Bring water to a simmer. Cover pot and steam pudding for 3-1/2 hours.
5) Remove pudding; cool on wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Unmold and allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
6) To reheat, warm foil wrapped pudding in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or return pudding to mold and steam again for 3-1/2 hours. Individual sliced can be warmed in a microwave. Serve warm. Flame with brandy if desired. Serve with a brandied hard sauce. Yield: 1 pudding (about 8 servings).
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 stick, unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
Combine all ingredients in small bowl; stir to blend well. (Can be made 4 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)