Catholic Recipe: Plum Pudding III
Also Called: Christmas Pudding
Plum pudding is a must for British families. On the first Sunday of Advent it is a good custom to make the plum pudding for the Christmas dinner, since it is better when it is allowed to age for some time (like fruit cake). Having all the family members take a turn at stirring the ingredients symbolizes "stirring" up our hearts to prepare them for Christ's coming at Christmas.
At the very first Sunday of Advent, we women hear the warning to get busy, "Stir up Thy power we beseech Thee, Oh Lord, and come." It is the time to hurry home and stir up your plum puddings. In England even today this is known as "Stir-up Sunday." The more you can stir a pudding the better. Each member of the family should come and give a good stir. Plum Puddings are deliberate affairs. It takes a bit of gathering and garnering before we begin.
Perhaps I could introduce our family to you while they collect the ingredients for the plum pudding. Mary, the eldest, with all the importance of her eleven years upon her, is telephoning her father to please bring home some raisins, currants, citron and almonds. These are things which won't grow on our Ohio farm. Ann, our nine year old, is a natural-born cook. She has been saving the orange and grapefruit peel for several days and now at last, after two par-boilings, the peel is bubbling beautifully in a thick tasty syrup. Freddie, our only boy, has been sent to the root cellar to fetch some carrots, potatoes and apples. I can hear him banging around among the tin cans in which we will steam the pudding. Kathy, who will soon be three, has her chubby fists full of suet and bread crumbs. She plans to put them on the bird tray, but they are making a fine Hansel and Gretel trail across the kitchen floor and out on the hall rugs. Christine, not quite a year, is crawling after an orange as though it were a golden ball.
Each year, as we assemble all the good things which go into the plum pudding, the children want to hear the plum pudding story. It is a tale which goes far back into pagan times when the Celtic god, Dagda, lived in the hills of Britain. Dagda was the god of plenty. When he saw the sun turn in its course to come closer to the earth with each lengthening day, he decided to hold festival. So he built a great fire under an enormous black cauldron called Undry. In the cauldron he placed the most delicious fruits of the earth and all other good things. There was meal and meat and fruit. Slowly he cooked it and spiced it and tasted it. Dagda was pleased with his plum porridge and he was ready to rejoice at the Yuletide.
The recipe was passed down through the years. When Christianity came, the recipe was not changed. The dish of honor, though, was dedicated, not to the sun, but to Christ, "the true light who comes to enlighten the world plunged into darkness. When feudalism came, the pudding was not changed, but it took a fat purse to pay for this recipe which included legs of beef, several beef tongues, fine bread, raisins of the sun, currants, prunes, lemons, nutmegs, mace, cloves, red wine and sack. When the nineteenth century came, the meat was cut to suet and the plums fell by the wayside. Even today the pudding stands resplendent, topped with its sprig of holly and blazing with burning brandy. In it the fruits of the earth bring all their luscious goodness to the birth feast of their King. But here this book must get down to business or you never will be finished by Christmas. In England the making of the Christmas pudding is quite a ritual. Family cooperation is well taught in the making of the pudding. Everyone lends a helping hand. At times a six pence or thimble or doll are stirred in, too — just for luck. So good luck to you with the list of proportions which follows.
Grind the suet and bread. Moisten with beaten eggs and orange juice. Add sifted dry ingredients. Grind fresh and candied peel with the raw vegetables. Add these to the batter. Stir in raisins, currants, citron and almonds. If the pudding is dry or lumpy, add wine or fruit juice. Pack in buttered tins, and steam.
Our grandmothers would steam their plum puddings for 8 or 10 hours, but I put mine in the pressure cooker at 15 pounds pressure for 80 minutes. After steaming, the pudding will keep indefinitely. Time only improves the flavor. I have kept some an entire year. If you have brandy, pour it over the top of the pudding to age — and your dessert for Christmas dinner is ready.Recipe Source: Cooking for Christ by Florence Berger, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 4625 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50310, 1949, 1999