I had a lot of spirited feedback to my Thanksgiving recipe for roasted peacock. Apparently you all can’t wait to run out and celebrate by cooking up a giant bird and serving it in its own feathers. Well, this is the week to do it!
Another fine Christmas tradition dating from the Regency era–and there aren’t all that many–is plum pudding, or Christmas pudding. Regency merrymakers didn’t have Christmas trees or elaborate gift-giving rituals; we can thank Queen Victoria and the German traditions of her husband Prince Albert for those legacies. But plum pudding is oh-so-English, and has been around for centuries. Want to make one? Here’s how.
First, start about a month before Christmas. Oops! Ok, you can have yours in January.
Two clean pieces of muslin, each about a yard square
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon nutmeg
12 oz. milk
juice of one lemon
1/2 cup brandy
A pound each of:
suet (this is the hardened fat that is usually put out in winter for woodpeckers to eat) (I KNOW)
currants (true currants are very uncommon in the US, so look for Zante raisins instead)
sultanas (sort of like what we’d call golden raisins, so feel free to use those)
Cut up your suet into little pieces, then cut in the flour and bread crumbs. Mix in your eggs, spices, and dried fruit, and add as much of the milk as you need to bind it all together.
Wet one of your muslin squares, rub it with flour on both sides, then dump the pudding mixture onto it. Tie up the ends of the cloth, hobo-knapsack-style, almost as tightly as you can (leave your pudding a little room to grow).
Using the tied ends of the cloth, hang the pudding from a dowel or long spoon over a kettle of boiling water. Essentially you will be steaming it. Keep it over the boiling water for five hours, replenishing the water if it ever starts to evaporate.
When you’re done boiling it, wrap the other muslin square around the whole delightful bundle, put it in a bowl or on a tray for neatness’s sake, and douse it all with brandy. Then put it in a storage room or pantry where it will be undisturbed, and check on it every few days. If it ever seems dry, pour some more brandy on it.
What you’ll wind up with at the end of the month will look something like potting soil. I know this because I was once given a Christmas pudding as a gift by an ex-boyfriend.* I suppose if you eat some–which I now regret to say I did not–you will become so full of joie de vivre and eau de vie that you will thoroughly enjoy every bite.
This recipe makes about 9 pounds, so invite your friends! N.B. I have not tested this recipe, or any other recipe involving suet.
For extra fun, you can stir some trinkets into the pudding. This is a Victorian tradition rather than Regency, but it’s all in good fun. The person who gets a trinket has a particular “fortune” for the coming year–or life, if they re extra-lucky.
Wishbone=a wish will be granted
One caveat when hunting down trinkets: be sure you don’t use any copper or brass items, because they’ll give you some nasty food. Stick to silver. (I would say, “or plastic,” but I have no idea how that would hold up to 5 hours of boiling.)
*He is not an ex because of the Christmas pudding, I should add.