7th January 2011, on the menu today...
Christmas Pudding (Homemade)
As dark as night and jam-packed with fruit, Christmas pudding deserves the homemade treatment to be fully appreciated. However, with it being so rich and lacking the sweetness of other puds, I can understand why many people opt for an alternative. Personally I adore Christmas pudding and love the tradition of pouring flaming alcohol over it before indulging in a large wedge of the stuff with some homemade vanilla ice cream and rum sauce.
Christmas pudding is a dense, dark and rich offering with a slightly sticky texture that yields easily to the bite and is accented by the plump juiciness of dried fruit. Paired up with rum sauce and the sweetness of vanilla ice cream, the flavours are balanced out perfectly in my opinion.
History (As per the Wikipedia entry):
The plum puddings association with Christmas goes back to medieval England with the Roman Catholic church's decree that the "pudding should be made on the twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, that it be prepared with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honour the Magi and their supposed journey in that direction". Recipes for plum puddings appear mainly, if not entirely, in the seventeenth century and later. Their possible ancestors include savoury puddings such as those in Harleian MS 279, crustades, malaches whyte, creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets. Various ingredients and methods of these older recipes appear in early plum puddings.
Features of these recipes were combined or refined in ways that could have yielded plum pudding recipes. For example, combining the stirred custard with sippets makes it into a fool, a contemporary of early plum puddings, which is very similar to a pudding. Some early custard tarts, such as the crustade lumbard in Harleian MS 279, are only unlike plum puddings in that they are held together by a pastry crust and not by crumbs or meal. Malaches whyte, another kind of pastry, has a filling of eggs, bread crumbs, and butter, but no plums. So a fully developed plum pudding recipe could be derived from the above list of possible ancestors by some recombination. This is not to say that there were not other ancestors, only that there need not have been any.
Although it took its final form in Victorian England, the pudding's origins can be traced back to the 1420s, to two sources. It emerged not as a confection or a dessert at all, but as a way of preserving meat at the end of the season. Because of shortages of fodder, all surplus livestock were slaughtered in the autumn. The meat was then kept in a pastry case along with dried fruits acting as a preservative. The resultant large "mince pies" could then be used to feed hosts of people, particularly at the festive season. The chief ancestor of the modern pudding, however, was the pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction originating in Roman times. This was prepared in a large cauldron, the ingredients being slow cooked, with dried fruits, sugar and spices added. In the 15th century, Plum pottage was a sloppy mix of meat, vegetables and fruit served at the beginning of a meal.
In 1714, King George I (sometimes known as the Pudding King) requested that plum pudding be served as part of his royal feast in his first Christmas in England. A recipe for "plum porridge" appeared in Christmas Entertainments in 1740. As techniques for meat preserving improved in the eighteenth century, the savoury element of both the mince pie and the plum pottage diminished as the sweet content increased. The mince pie kept its name, though the pottage was increasingly referred to as plum pudding. Although the latter was always a celebratory dish it was originally eaten at the Harvest Festival, not Christmas. It was not until the 1830s that the cannon-ball of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly, made a definite appearance, becoming more and more associated with Christmas. In 1747, London food writer Hannah Glasse had given a recipe for Christmas plum porridge, but it appears that East Sussex cook Eliza Acton was the first to refer to it as "Christmas Pudding" in her cookbook.
Have you considered...?
As far as steamed puddings go, homemade Christmas pudding must be one of the healthiest given the fact that it is full to the brim with fruit and contains very little added sugar.
Fellow food bloggers: