A Christmas tradition in our family is the serving of the plum pudding for dessert after the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. My grandfather was from England where this dish is more commonly known as Christmas pudding, and it is reserved for a once a year eating on this holy day. We have a recipe that has been handed down in the family for years. We make it right after Thanksgiving and allow it to age in a cool place until Christmas day. I have read that in some families, they make the plum pudding a year in advance, but that seems a little extreme to me, so we’ll stick with the Thanksgiving day making as my Mom used to do.
Plum pudding contains no plums. It is a mixture of dried fruits like raisins, currants, dates and sultanas, citron or candied peel, and nuts like almonds. It includes rich spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, brown sugar, brandy or dark rum, eggs, breadcrumbs and suet. It can also have flour, lemon or orange zest, carrot or apple. It is very dark, almost black, when removed from its mold, due to the dark sugars used and its long cooking time. The inclusion of beef suet harkens back to earlier times when English puddings included meat.
Sometimes cooks secrete a silver coin, thimble or wishbone as a sign of good luck or wealth for the lucky recipient.
Once all the ingredients are mixed, the pudding is placed in a rounded mold and steamed for 5 or 6 hours. When it is cool, we wrap our mold in wax paper and store it in the garage. On Christmas day, we bring it in and steam it for another hour while we eat Christmas dinner.
Rosemary has previously made and refrigerated the hard sauce by creaming some butter with confectionary sugar, vanilla and brandy. She also makes the ever popular, in the Palmer family, foamy sauce, which includes similar ingredients plus whisked egg and cooked in a double boiler until frothy and the consistency of cream. It is quite sweet.
The pudding is removed from the mold onto a serving plate, topped with a sprig of holly, and doused with warm brandy and ignited. It is brought to the darkened dining room table, flaming, to the gasps of pleasure from the assembled revelers.
Once the flames die down, it is served with a wedge of hard sauce and a spoonful of the foamy sauce topping the rich, fruity mixture. It is always a hit at our house, and a holiday ritual that Rosemary and I have carried on from my folks. It’s not too late to start a plum pudding tradition for your holiday.
½ c. currants
1 ½ c. raisins
½ c. figs
½ c. dates
¼ c. citron
¼ c. candied orange rind
2 c. ground suet (3/8 lb.)
½ loaf day-old bread
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1 c. milk, scalded
½ c. brown sugar, firmly packed
2 TB red wine
2 TB Brandy
Look over currants and raisins with a hawk’s eye for stray bits of stem. Cut up figs, dates, citron, candied orange rind, in tiny pieces with your kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. Put suet through your food chopper, using medium blade.
Remove crusts from bread and crumble bread into small pieces into your larges bowl. Now add salt, spices, scaled milk (in other words, milk that has been heated until a film, shows. Not boiled) and sugar. Mix these ingredients well and set aside to cool. While this mixture cools, beat eggs until light and airy in a separate bowl. Stir into crumb combination along with all fruits, suet, wine and brandy. Mix thoroughly, pour into two small, ungreased, molds or one large mold (1 ½ qt) and cover with close fitting lid or several taut layers of waxed paper tied on very securely. Steam on top of stove for 5 hours.
Easiest way to steam, this pudding is to use our large roasting pan. Place a roasting rack n bottom of the roaster (pie tins will do or any utensil which keeps pudding from resting on bottom of pan, fill roaster with enough boiling water to cover 2/3 of the mold and put on tight fitting lid. As water evaporates keep filling roaster with boiling water to cover 2/3 of the mold.
This makes 1 plum pudding large enough to serve or feed 12. You’ll find pudding keep beautifully in mold steamed in. Cover top of mold tightly with waxed paper and store in cool, dark place.
When you are ready to reheat plum pudding for your wonderful dinner, heat in same fashion in which you steamed pudding in first place for 1 hr. Let sit 15 minutes.
Sprinkle granulated sugar on top of hot pudding (sugar plus alcohol gives a brighter flame). Pour two jiggers of any brandy or whiskey that is at least 80 proof over top. Touch off with a match to top of pudding and you’ll have a real holiday conversation piece.
Work or cream 1/3 c. butter until soft, gradually mix in 1 c. confectionery sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract or 2 Tb Brandy. Serve cold with the hot pudding. Enough sauce for 6.
Work or cream ½ c. butter then gradually work in 1 c. confectionery sugar until smooth. Beat 1 egg in separate bowl until creamy. Stir egg and 1 tsp. vanilla extract or 2 Tb sherry into creamed sugar and heat over boiling water stirring constantly until warm and thick as heavy cream. This makes enough for 6.