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12.13.2007

A Christmas Carol Plum Pudding/ Retro Recipe Challenge


I wish I had all my story books as a child. Some of them where filled with fantastic illustration of fanciful pastries that I would just stare at. When I saw this months Retro Recipe Challenge asking us to seek inspiration from Storybook food,a Plum Pudding from Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" came to mind. As I child just saying plum pudding made me crave for a dessert I had imagined as a ignorant youth resembling a purple colored jello mold. Au Contraire. As a adult I ordered one from one of those mail order catalogues and wasn't that impressed. Oh ,the let down to discover there were no plums at all!When researching the recipes for this , I learnt so much. Traditionally one makes the pudding a year in advance during the advent season for the Christmas of the next year. The puddings slowly age and mature. The older the pudding the better. Challenge #1 came form finding a proper pudding mold. Sur Le Table to the rescue. Although I wish I had gotten a larger mold. Fortunately my years of antique finds yielded some mini molds that would be suitable for miniature puddings alongside the larger one. Challenge # 2 was in finding candied citron, etc. Surprisingly hard to find early November. Hyde Park Co Op to the rescue. They seem to carry them all year round. Seems the art of making fruitcakes and puddings is a lost one. I also gathered up some figs, raisins,and currants and soaked them in rum.As this recipe was getting costly in time and money, I chose to go with the rum as I have tons of it. Certain Someone would kill me if I got into his good stuff. I was starting to see why this dessert was considered a sign of prosperity. Here is a excellent historical link with some recipes.
"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 laundress’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 half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight 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..."
Challenge #3 was finding suet, which all the recipes I referenced called for. Not as readily available here as it is the UK. The lovely and flirtatious butcher over at Hyde Park Co Op managed to cut me up some . It had flecks of meat attached. But it was better than nothing. I endured the embarrassment of a a big executive over at my place of work behind me in line as they rang up my 'FAT' . The Exec looked at me odd "as if they must not be paying me much if I'm buying fat( actually it was free)and hadn't we evolved from our slave ancestors by eating such unhealthy things". I suppose he wondered where my greens were too. He commented that I was really the gourmet ,as I explained the fat. Luckily Certain Someones colleague will bring me back some hydrogenated suet when she goes back for Christmas.


To make this pudding I followed several recipes.This link contains several antique ones that I used as my primary guide.I also used the famous James Beards published in House and Garden 1963. My obstacles where in cutting up the suet so fine. I froze it and chopped it up. I than ran it through a food processor with the wet ingredients . I had soaked my fruit in both rum and Cointreau for over 4 days, as time did not let me start this recipe as I intended . It does require 6 hours of steaming. No shortcuts. Julia Child's really made it simple for me . I made this the night before Thanksgiving as the challenge is due by Dec 14. There are so many variations. My Aussie friend Gabs fondly reminisced about the Clootie Puddings she had in Scotland. The name doesn't do much for me , but it seems to be a favorite. So if you have the time, means, and patience I think everyone should try this. Up to the sentence I haven't tried it it as its slowly aging in my fridge with periodic rum baths. Prior to serving it I must steam it again for 2 hours and torch it with more booze. No wonder this is a favorite!


Post Script
December 11
I steamed some of the mini puddings to photograph and taste for this post. I decided on the Zabaione Sauce from the Julia Child recipe. I was a little disappointed my puddings didn't come out in the rich and dark color one associates with plum pudding. But overall the taste was good and rich. No wonder its a opulent Christmas favorite. And what a fitting treat for the poor ,yet rich Cratchitt family.





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8 comments:

Deborah said...

Oh my!! I don't know if I would have the patience for a recipe like this. I am very impressed!!

Cynthia said...

I'm with Deborah, I bow down to your breath of patience but I thank you sincerely for doing it.

Maryann said...

wow! I'm impressed with you! I have made this, as well as "spotted dick" and other steamed desserts (because of the english bloke)..but I have to say, last year I just bought it. It takes time, but very good.I would love to try yours with some brandy sauce. Nice memories here of watching "A Christmas Carol".

Proud Italian Cook said...

Wow, I too am totally impressed!! What a huge undertaking!! I would never imagine suet in it, what actually is in suet?? and how does it affect this pudding? Would it be like shortening?

glamah16 said...

Thanks all of you.It was a learning experince!

Maryanne - They sell Spotted Dick here in a can at Dominicks. I dont have the guts to but it.:-)I'm sure with the English Bloke you can give me some pointers the next time around.
Proud Italian Cook-
Suet is fat from the kidney area. Its the most refined fat and supposedly really makes the diffrence. It's like using lard for a flakier crust. It really absorbs and gives baked and steamed goods a better texture. It also doesnt separate or breakdown as maybe butter would with all the steaming and aging in this recipe.It shard to find here as you have to request it. Most people use it for bird feed. In the UK its readily found in hydrogenated form in the baking aisles. Even a vegetarian version.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Thanks for the explaination, I learned something new today! I've bought suet in a bird seed store at winter time, something to do with keepng them warm over the winter, probably the fat content huh? Thanks Glamah!!

The Caked Crusader said...

Steamed puddings and photos of many cake tins. I need a lie down in a darkened room......

Mary said...

I'm so very impressed with the time and effort you put into this lovely dessert. My family makes fruitcake, but its not anywhere near as complicated. Very nice!