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The Christmas Pudding
Copyright (c) 1994 by Liz Waters

"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
quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top."              

Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol"

And so, the crown jewel of the holiday meal is brought to the table in Charles Dicken's
classic tale of Christmas . . . Yes, how many times over the years have we read these
words and felt Mrs. Cratchit's pride in bringing the piece de resistance  to the table, and
yet never truly experienced a Christmas pudding? It is imperative to the Victorian meal,
and if you have never tried one, now is the year to do it! With this recipe (and the
illustrated assembly instructions in GIF format elswhere online) you have all the tools
you need to bring this treat to your family!

But first, a little history and trivia. To the British, any sweet can be called a pudding, and
the earliest sort of British puddings were similar in form to the British boudin or Scots
haggis - created of meat and meat by products and cooked more times than not in an
animal's stomach.

 However, as time progressed and society evolved, extenders were added to the meat in
the form of grain products, and the stomach was replaced with a cloth bag and
eventually a pastry crust. By the sixteenth century, sugar was being added and the meat
was disappearing. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, a pudding was typically
sugar, flour, suet, fruit, spices and eggs. This is the form that has survived as the
Christmas pudding or the plum pudding. Some recipes require baking the pudding
quite a bit in advance of Christmas, but that is not the case with this recipe which is good
from the very day it is made up.

If you don't have a pudding mold, you can fake things out by pudding a sheet of heavy
duty foil inside large ovenproof bowl and greasing it generously. Tie it tightly around
the edge with a string. However, most cookery shops have the molds at this time of the
year, and they certainly make an elegant product!

Whatever sort of container you use, grease it generously...and I do mean generously and
then sprinkle with a bit of granulated sugar. Be sure to chop the suet quite fine and mix
it in with the fruit in a large flour. Use a bit of the flour to dredge these items so they
don't clump up in the bottom of the dish but distribute nicely throughout the pudding.
You will then add the dry ingredients, mixed together, the liquid ingredients and then
the bread crumbs. Use nice fluffy bread crumbs - grind them yourself from some nice
homemade bread for the best result. Last you will fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites
and then spoon into your mold, pressing down to fill in any pockets, but not using a lot
of force. You just want your pudding to fill in all the spaces nicely.  Remember to only
fill the mold to about 2/3 full so the pudding has room to expand as it cooks. Clamp
down the lid tightly or tie on a top piece of foil snuggly. Use string, not rubber bands -
they will, of course, melt.
Put a trivet in the bottom of your steaming kettle, so the mold doesn't rest on the
bottom of the pot. You want the water to circulate all around the mold, not just around
the sides. Long slow cooking is needed to melt the suet before the flour particles open up
to receive the fat. If it cooks too quickly your pudding will be hard. Once the steaming
period ends, remove the mold and lift the lid carefully. Let it stand for a moment or two
 so the steam dissipates. This will lessen the chance of the pudding cracking when you
unmold it onto your serving tray. To do it up right, heat brandy and carefully ignite it to
pour over the pudding, and do your Mrs. Cratchit number to the ooh's and ah's of your
crowd.

Plum Pudding

butter
granulated sugar
1 cup chopped suet
1/4 pound golden raisins
1/4 pound raisins
1/4 pound currants
1/4 pound cran-raisins (if available-if not use more currants)
1/4 pound chopped citron
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground mace
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 eggs, separated
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1/4 C brandy
1 tsp.  vanilla
1/2 C dry bread crumbs
Brandy
Generously butter a 2 quart pudding mold and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine chopped suit, raisins, currants, cran-raisins and citron in a large
bowl. Stir in about 1/4 cup of the flour.
Combine the remaining flour with the nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, salt and sugar. Stir
into the suet mixture.  Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl. Add the cream, vanilla and
1/4 C brandy. Stir into the suet mixture and then fold in the bread crumbs. Beat the egg
whites until stiff and fold into the suet mixture. Spoon mixture into the prepared mold,
pressing down lightly. Put the lid on the mold and clamp down tightly. Place the mold
on trivet in kettle. Add boiling water to within 1 inch of the top of the mold. Cover the
kettle and place over high heat until steam begins to escape. Reduce heat to low and
steam for six hours, adding boiling water as needed. Lift mold from kettle. Remove lid
and let excess steam vent. Unmold onto a serving platter. Heat 1/4 cup brandy in small
saucepan. Ignite and pour over the pudding just before serving.  If you are going to hold
the pudding for a time, cool completely, sprinkle with brandy and store, well-wrapped
in a cool place. Before serving, return pudding to mold and steam for two hours. 
Makes 12 servings.

Serve alongside the pudding hard sauce or senior wrangler sauce.

Hard Sauce

4 oz. unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla**
heavy cream or milk to consistency.

** you can add lots of other things to this: grated orange rind and a tsp. of the juice;
grated lemon rind and a tsp. of the juice; strong espresso coffee; a bit of brandy or brandy
flavoring; a bit of rum or rum flavoring. 

Soften the butter and beat into it the sugar. Add flavorings and enough heavy cream or
milk to solidify the mass. Pack into a mold that has been lined with Saran wrap and
chill. Unmold on a plate to serve.

Senior Wrangler Sauce (Brandy Butter)

3 oz. unsalted butter
4 tbsp. superfine sugar
3 tbsp. brandy.

Cream the butter until completely white in color. Beat in the sugar a bit at a time,
beating constantly. Then add the brandy a bit at the time, taking care that the mixture
does not curdle. It should be white and foamy. Pile up in a pretty mound on a serving
plate to harden. Alternately, you can line an 8x8 pan with Saran wrap and pack the
butter into it. When it hardens, cut into cubes and pile in a pretty bowl.






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