ENGLISH PLUM PUDDING WITH HARD SAUCE

No special method needed here - this traditional New England-style pudding is steamed in a kitchen towel! [see*Note in paragraph below if you prefer to make the pudding in a mold, or in individual molds or dishes]. The addition of cranberries makes it sparkling - perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas - and a little bit piquant; or, you may use chopped, tart apples instead of cranberries. It’s amusing to know that “Plum Pudding” virtually NEVER actually contains plums! [*Note: pudding may be steamed in a well-buttered bowl or mold (depending on the size of the container, this recipe may require two molds) or even in individual cups, molds or ramekins – any of these filled no more than 2/3 full. Directions for the cooking method using molds follows the recipe.] *See other Steamed Pudding recipes, by searching our recipe archives!

SERVES 8
2 1/4 cups, breadcrumbs
(made from stale white, French, Italian or egg bread – just tear up stale pieces of bread and process in food processor to make crumbs)
1 cup, sugar (may be partly brown sugar, if desired)
2 cups, currants
1 cup, raisins
1 1/2 cups, cranberries (or substitute chopped, peeled tart apples)
1/2 cup, candied orange peel
1/2 cup, candied lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon, ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon, ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon, freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup, chopped pecans [Optional]
8 ounces, veal (beef) suet – ground or chopped very fine
(see Cook’s Note below)
5 large eggs – beaten well
1 1/2 cups, good brandy
2 tablespoons, unsalted butter
HARD SAUCE – if desired (recipe follows)

[COOK’S NOTE: Order suet from your butcher; it is the delicate fat surrounding the beef kidneys - white and flaky. Suet gives this pudding a rich, distinctive flavor as it dissolves during the steaming and moistens the pudding. To use: Freeze the suet overnight. Then, while it is still frozen, chop it very fine for use in the recipe. 8 ounces of suet - by weight - will measure 2 cups finely chopped.]

In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, sugar, the various fruits and spices, (the pecans, if desired) and the finely chopped or ground suet (see note above). Toss until well mixed. Stir in the eggs and brandy; mix well.

Coat the center of a clean, white kitchen towel with the butter, covering about half the surface of the towel. Line a bowl with the towel, buttered side up; the edges of the towel should drape over the sides of the bowl. Spoon the pudding into the towel.

Gather the ends of the towel, just above the pudding, and tie it closed with string (making a “bag” of pudding).

Fill a large pot with enough water to completely cover the pudding. Bring water to a boil, then set a plate in the bottom of the pot, and gently drop the “bag” of pudding onto the plate. The pudding will float a little bit. Lower the heat to allow water to simmer gently. Cover the pot and simmer for 4 hours. [Add more simmering water if needed to keep the pudding submerged.]

Remove finished pudding from the pot.

To serve immediately: dip the towel in cold water, then gently remove it.

To serve later: leave the towel on the pudding, and refrigerate. At serving time, immerse the pudding in boiling water for 20 minutes to heat it thoroughly, then dip the towel in cold water and remove it.

Serve warm with unsweetened or very lightly sweetened whipped cream, or creme fraiche, or vanilla ice cream or hard sauce (recipe follows)

NOTE: If using a mold, a bowl, or individual cups, molds or ramekins (instead of the “bag”), cover the mold(s) with their lids, or with buttered aluminum foil – secured (tightly) by tying string around the circumference of mold(s).

Place bowl, mold or other container on a rack in a large lidded pot (make sure the pot is large and deep enough to hold the pudding container when pot is covered). Add water to the pot to come halfway up the sides of the pudding container(s). Bring the water to a boil, cover the large pot tightly, and reduce the heat to allow water to simmer gently. Steam for about 4-5 hours. (Smaller molds may require less cooking time, larger molds may need more time.) Check for doneness by inserting a skewer into the center of the pudding; it should come out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Remove steamed pudding(s) from the larger pot, allow to stand for 10 minutes, or until pudding shrinks away from the sides of the mold – then unmold by inverting onto a serving plate. (Pudding may be left in the mold, if desired, until serving time – it will stay warm that way for several hours.)

Pudding(s) may be kept in refrigerator, wrapped in a brandy-soaked cloth – or frozen. To freeze, wrap thoroughly cooled pudding in foil. Reheat thawed pudding (still foil-wrapped) in 325 degree oven for 45 minutes or until hot through. Or cloth-wrapped pudding may be reheated in the top of a double boiler.

HARD SAUCE
Makes 1 cup5 tablespoons, unsalted butter
1 cup, powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon, vanilla

Cream the butter (beat with flat paddle until creamy), then slowly add the sugar, beating well until creamy and pale yellow in color. Add the vanilla and blend in. Refrigerate until needed. Serve cool – but not chilled.

VARIATIONS:
Brandy or wine hard sauce: add 2 tablespoons, brandy – or 3 tablespoons, Sherry or Madeira wine (vanilla may be omitted)

Lemon Hard Sauce: add 1 tablespoon, fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest (omit vanilla if desired)

Raspberry Hard Sauce: add 4 tablespoons, raspberry jam


Recipe for pudding (towel-method) and hard sauce, adapted from The American Baker by Jim Dodge with Elaine Ratner (Simon and Schuster)