Sunday, October 28, 2007

Christmas Pudding

My sister's post on her blogsite Rockbridge Times about the preparation of the 2007 Christmas Pudding is wonderful. Here is my take on this joyous and fun event.

For weeks Mom has talked about making the Christmas Pudding as we gathered the main ingredients and reviewed the recipe. The plan was to assemble the family at the house on Arapahoe this weekend and under her watchful eye and tutelage, we would incorporate the remains of the pudding from years past into the new batch. All would take a stir of the mix and make a wish as we prepared the pudding for either immediate steaming or marinating in rum for a few more days. Sadly, a week ago Mom fell, broke her hip, and has been hospitalized as she slowly recovers from a significant physical and emotional setback. Mom didn't have a problem with us going ahead with our plans and although she probably would have liked to be there, she felt we were well prepared to go it alone. She was right.

We had a great time; Mary Margaret, Mary, Queta and myself as dusk turned into early evening at the Arapahoe house yesterday. We enjoyed several blackberry mojitos to get us in the mood and then set to work at assembling the wild and wonderful ingredients that go into this pudding. Queta chopped the nuts, MM and I combined the wet and dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl (including the suet which Denny so patiently ran through the old metal meat grinder the day prior), and Mary recorded the event with photographs. We incorporated the bits of old pudding (blackened by years of steaming and time) and by the time we were finished, it smelled divine. There were lots of laughs and jokes along the way.

This pudding will not go into the steamer until all in the Seattle family have a chance to stir the mixture and make a wish. We will follow tradition and include four generations when we recruit both Mom and Dad and the little ones (Charlie, Kelan, Lauren, and maybe even tiny Lucy with some help) to stir the pot. My grandmother Della Bain would be proud to see her family keep the magic alive. I truly believe that this is how we honor our ancestors as we live out traditions and remember through stories the details of their lives.

A bit of research on the history of Christmas pudding intrigued me. According to good sources, this seasonal dessert originated in England with most recipes passed down through the generations. The pudding is steamed after it is prepared, laden with dried fruit, nuts and yes, suet. The pudding develops a very dark color owing to the brown sugar and long cooking (steaming) time. The mixture can be flavored with dark beer, brandy or as in our family, dark rum. I learned that traditionally these puddings were made four to five weeks before Christmas, on a Sunday known as "Stir-up Sunday". In fact, in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, a passage reads: "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen".

In our family, after the pudding is packed into decorative metal molds and steamed for 6-8 hours, it is stored in the freezer until Christmas when it is re-steamed, unmolded, placed on a holiday plate, and ignited with rum 151 and a match. The flaming pudding is brought to the table with lights dimmed and we are once again, delighted by what I like to call the "mystery and magic" of the season. The foamy yellow sauce is poured over individual servings of the pudding and for many, the sauce is the only part of the dessert they enjoy. Christmas pudding is definitely an acquired taste but one that has had me hooked from my mid twenties on. There is nothing quite like the taste of Mother's Bain's excellent "Plum Pudding", even though there are no plums in the recipe!

I hope that the younger generations will carry on this wonderful tradition long into the future. Cheers!

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