Right now I'm working on what I hope will be the last chapter in the book before I submit to the publisher. My own palate leans toward the savory, so this chapter on sweets has been difficult going. I think I'm on a roll now though, with 3,000 words down so far.
I was very fortunate to stumble across a recipe from Sarah Annie Clark Hale, who married my great great grandfather Alma Helaman Hale. Before I say more, let me just make this preface. Puddings in the 18th and 19th century were a food group of their own. I think puddings probably showed up at half of all suppers. Puddings come in an incredible diversity of styles, shapes and flavors. Most of us are familiar with custard puddings (think blancmange or creme' fraish). Some of us still have a bread pudding or carrot pudding at Christmas time. A few of us have even tried haggis, that Scottish pudding steamed or boiled in an intestine. Of course Yorkshire pudding still has a solid place in the UK.
Sarah's pudding is a plum pudding, typical for Christmas or fancy winter occasions. When we say plum pudding, we always mean raisins. Sarah's pudding comes from the old-school tradition of mixing up a batter with eggs, flour, breadcrumbs, etc., and then boiling it in a cloth bag for hours. More modern recipes call for steaming in a specially made pudding tin, or even baking it in a ceramic dish. With no further ado, here's Sarah Hale's plum pudding.
"English Plum Pudding
2 bowls flour, 1 bowl suet, 1 bowl raisins, 1 bowl currants, 1 teacup sugar, ½ teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg; a little salt, 2 heaping teaspoons baking powder, 6 eggs. Mix to a stiff batter with milk. Boil 5 or 6 hours in a heavy cloth bag. For the bag use a heavy cloth about 27 inches square wrung out in warm water. Flour the inside well and pour on the batter. Pull up the corners and tie with a strong string leaving just enough room for the pudding to rise. Place upside down in a kettle of boiling water on a rack, so it wont burn on the bottom and keep boiling and fully covered with water in a covered kettle the entire time. Add more boiling water if needed during cooking."
These sweet, spicy winter puddings were often served with a sauce. Sarah also left us her sauce or "dip" recipe:
"2 cups sugar and ¼ pound butter, 1 quart of water and boil until all dissolved. Thicken as for gravy. Flavor with brandy or lemon extract. As a variation, carmelize sugar and butter and just before serving add 1 cup whipped cream. Leave out flavoring."
Well... you should probably be making a more plain flour pudding at this summer season, something more like a yorkshire, but I was so excited about this one I just had to share it.