Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nana's English Plum Pudding

Nana's Recipe Boxes
The other day I was cleaning out a drawer in the kitchen and came upon a collection of recipes that belonged to my maternal grandmother, Lillian Harrison Mills, as well as some of her cookbooks. The collection is mostly recipes she copied on index cards, and clippings from the Boston and New Bedford newspapers, some of which are so old that they're brown and very fragile. That evening I had a wonderful time going through them and remembering the things Nana made over the years, especially at the holidays. 

It wouldn't have been Christmas without roast beef, mashed rutabagas and Nana's English plum pudding, the really traditional kind that's made with ground suet. When Nana and Grandpa married right after he came home from World War I, she was taught how to make the pudding correctly by her English mother-in-law, which meant doing it (them) weeks in advance so that the flavors could develop. The pudding steamed for hours in a little oval mold that had a scalloped done, and the same one was used every year. It was served warm with two kinds of hard sauce, and because it was so rich, the servings were small. One kind of hard sauce was made with butter, vanilla and granulated sugar, and always placed in the same little round cut glass dish (which I still have), with a bit of nutmeg sprinkled on top. The other version was made with butter, vanilla and confectioners sugar, shaped into a rectangle and sliced at the table when the pudding was served. That one was my grandfather's favorite, but my brother Mark and I always wanted some of each.

Here's Nana's recipe:

"English Plum Pudding Best Recipe"

1 1/2 Cups Flour (All Purpose Sifted)
1/2 Teaspoon Ginger; 1/2 Teaspoon Cloves; 1 Teaspoon Nutmeg; 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon; 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 cup Sugar; 1 1/4 Cups Suet (Put Through Grinder)
1 1/2 Cups Seedless Raisins; 1/2 Cup White Sultana Raisins; 1 1/2 Cups Currants; 1 Cup Mixed Candied Fruit.
1/2 Cup Fine Soft Bread Crumbs
3 Eggs Beaten
3/4 Cup Milk

Sift flour, measure, add spices, salt & sugar, sift again.
Add ground suet, fruit and mix well.
Add beaten eggs & milk, mix well.
Grease mold & cover well. Flour and shake.
Steam six hours, adding boiling water as it boils out.

The only exotic ingredient is suet, which you should be able to get pretty readily (no substitutions!). Just give it a few pulses in the food processor if you don't have an old fashioned meat grinder. If you make the plum pudding now there's plenty of time for the flavors to develop before Christmas.

I've never attempted it myself, mostly because Nana's mold wasn't among her belongings, and it's essential that the plum pudding look the way I remember it. Every time I visit an antique shop I scout around for the mold, so there's hope that one of these days I'll be able to continue the tradition in her honor. Don't let a mold fixation stop you from attempting the recipe with any mold you've got, and if you do, please let me know how it turns out. Better still, save me a piece!

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