Catholic Recipe: Plum Pudding
Also Called: Christmas Pudding
We have come at last to the plum pudding — "like a speckled cannonball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of a half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top." For after all there is no other such Christmas dessert. One could write poetry — in fact, many have — on this subject, and one could also rhapsodize in prose.
A plum pudding is, even at its simplest, a matter of many ingredients and of preparation far in advance. One of us remembers how it was made by an English grandmother. First came the buying of bowls, new each year and of various sizes, for many of the puddings were destined as gifts to relatives and friends: a big family got a big pudding, the small family a small one. Everyone was called on to help in the preparation, in the cutting up of the orange peel and lemon, the seeding of the raisins and currants. For this latter work the children of the family were pressed into service, and were offered an inducement: for every ten raisins the child got one for himself.
The ingredients were mixed in a vast yellow bowl used only for that purpose — very little flour but vast amounts of fruit and, to moisten, brandy and whiskey and ale. Over each white bowl went a new piece of unbleached muslin. The huge wash boiler was brought from the cellar, heaved to the top of the range and half filled with water. When it boiled, in went the puddings. There they tumbled about for hours, sometimes clicking against each other in their exuberance.
A few square inches of this pudding was all that even the most venturesome trencherman dared consume at a sitting. To us no other has ever tasted like it, not even the darkest and fruitiest plum pudding from the South. Grandmother Payne's recipe has been lost, but here is one almost as good.
Seed and cut up the raisins but do not grind them. Wash and dry the currants. To the fruits add all the dry ingredients and the suet together, and moisten with the well-beaten eggs and the brandy. Butter and flour a piece of unbleached muslin, put the pudding in the cloth, and tie it up tightly. Put in a large pot of boiling water and boil for seven hours, adding boiling water if necessary. Remove from the cloth, pour a cup of warmed brandy over the pudding, stick a sprig of holly in the top, and set aflame as the pudding is being carried in.Recipe Source: Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951