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Who knows how National Plum Pudding Day landed in February but in my humble opinion there is no good reason why it shouldn’t be a year-round treat. Sure, plum pudding is a quintessential symbol of Christmas decadence, but the ingredients are typical pantry items and the preparation is extraordinarily simple. I guess the biggest reason that plum pudding never appears outside the holidays is that it really should ripen for a few weeks to be enjoyed at its best. I understand that the “plan-ahead” aspect of plum pudding will permanently relegate it to Christmas, that one time of year when we can justify cooking now for future enjoyment. That said, I knew there was a Plum Pudding Blog on the horizon and I made two.
If you read the Fruitcake post in December you already know that I am surrounded by raisin-haters. I hadn’t bothered to make my own plum pudding for the same reason I hadn’t made fruitcake for so many years… because it always comes down to my father-in-law and me to eat it all. However, I was inspired this year and made both.
My first big challenge was to find an appropriate vessel in which to steam the pudding. I was shocked to realize that pudding basins are a little hard to find these days. I eventually found one but it was huge! I ended up using a pair of ceramic loaf pans that I use for terrines. They were the perfect size, if not the traditional shape.
The second challenge was to find a recipe. The options seemed endless… some with currants, some with dates, others with prunes, some with treacle, others with brown sugar, some with citron, others with candied orange and ginger… you get the idea. I knew what I wanted my pudding to taste like and the one that made the most sense to me was from the 1995 Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes for Everyday (pg 418). Her recipe has both dark raisins and currants and is heavy on the orange notes, using both orange peel and candied kumquats. The recipe makes a 2-quart pudding, enough for 15 servings. I cut the recipe in half and cooked them in two half-quart pans. It was still too much for my father-in-law and me to polish off in one sitting but I was able to lick the bowl clean by New Years.
The third challenge was to leave the second pudding alone until now. It’s been pure torture to see it in the back of the fridge all this time. At last the day has arrived to peel open my last taste of Christmas until next winter.
Traditionally, plum pudding is set ablaze with a good dousing of rum or brandy and served with hard sauce. I am usually all over food with booze but I find that the hard sauce overpowers the pudding. I prefer mine with a little brandy spiked crème anglaise. It’s pretty close to the original but more subtle… like the difference between a framing hammer and a sledge hammer.
So here it is… a cold, rainy, mid-February night in Vancouver. After enduring a few hours in the cold to watch the Olympic torch relay come into Yaletown I poured a snifter of my best Armagnac and drizzled crème anglaise over a slice of steaming pudding. It’s so rich, so satisfying and so delicious….
All right, all right… I’m lying. It was neither raining nor cold… more of a pleasant spring evening. But the plum pudding was brilliant and the Armagnac so perfectly soothing that I think I’ll have to celebrate Christmas again in July.