|Harriet (JONES) NEWTON|
Till the time I was five years old, my Grandma Newton would send us a Christmas parcel which faithfully included the traditional tin of Crosse & Blackwell's English Style Brandied Plum Pudding. Christmas Pudding had been a tradition in Dad's household as a boy, his father's family being English farmers and his mother's Welsh coalminers. On Christmas night we would have steamed plum pudding with Grandma's hard sauce, which Mom would make strictly from the recipe, found in a handwritten letter in Mom's recipe tin.
I say the parcels came till I was five years old, because Grandma died tragically on October 19, 1966. She had already purchased and wrapped our gifts, and Grandpa mailed them off to us that December. Our tradition, however, continued all through my childhood.
When I went away to college, some friends wanted to share a Christmas dinner, and I was asked to prepare a traditional family dish. Of course, Christmas Pudding was our family's fondest tradition, so I made a plum pudding from scratch for the very first time that year.
Ever since I have made my homemade plum pudding with hard sauce . . . but I've changed it up a bit since those early days, and my hard sauce has become a little richer than Grandma's was. But here is the recipe I use today, ideally to be made the Sunday before Advent begins . . . but I've made it anywhere up to a week before Christmas Day.
The night before making your Christmas Plum Pudding, soak 1/8 c. each raisins and currants in 1/2 c. apricot brandy.
The next day: In a large bowl, sift together: 3/4 c. flour, 1/4 tsp. each baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; and 1/8 tsp. each ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Add: the raisins mixture, 1/8 c. chopped walnuts, a little fresh grated orange & lemon zest, 1/4 c. each carrots, raw potato and apple. Stir in: 1/4 c. finely minced suet, 3/8 c. milk, 1/8 c. dark molasses, and one egg, beaten. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart greased pudding mold (I like to use Crisco shortening). If you don't have a pudding mold: pour into a medium-sized greased Pyrex bowl. In both instances: cover with several layers of waxed paper. If using a pudding mold, close the top and secure the fasteners; tie a double piece of butcher's twine to the ring of the mold. If using a bowl, cover and seal well with a double layer of heavy duty foil, crimp the edges firmly around the edge of the bowl and tie securely with butcher's twine.
Place the pudding on a rack set in the bottom of a dutch oven. Carefully pour boiling water from a kettle two-thirds the up the side of the mold. Bring to a boil rapidly, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and boil gently for 4 to 4 1/2 hours, adding more water as needed. Remove from the heat, cool. I like to take my pudding from the mold and tie it up in cheesecloth soaked in apricot brandy. Store in the refrigerator, adding brandy as it gets soaked into the pudding.
My hard sauce is made by making a roux with 1/4 c. butter and 1/4 c. white flour, then gradually adding eggnog till it's the desired consistency. I like mine quite thick. I then flavor with apricot brandy and nutmeg. The pudding is steamed in a double boiler before serving, and the hot hard sauce is poured over the top of each serving.
I hope you enjoy our family's tradition . . .
a rich sweet to be savored but once a year.