In the Kitchen: Cherry Halo Pie

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s sour cherry season at The Manor! Well, it was sour cherry season — we finished picking the other day. As I write this, I’m listening to the birds chirping as they eat the last of the fruit still lingering on the tree. I’ve still got pounds and pounds of cherries to use, and I’ve been working away in the kitchen like mad for the past two weeks.

I had the troupe and apprentices over to teach them how to make old-school G-strings (instructions are in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming!) and served them this cherry pie, from the 1953 cookbook 250 Superb Pies and Pastries.

It’s very simple to make and the presentation is lovely. Bonus: you don’t have to deal with a top crust.

You will need:
Sugar, cornstarch, tapioca, salt, cherries, butter, heavy cream, and vanilla.

First, make a pie crust for a 9″ pan. The recipe I used is below, but you could use your favorite recipe or even buy a crust. I promise I won’t judge.

Mix up the sugar, salt, cornstarch, tapioca, and pitted cherries and pour into the prepared crust. Dot with butter. Bake at a high temperature for a short time then reduce the heat to moderate and bake until done.

Let the pie cool and the filling thicken.

Whip heavy cream to soft peaks, add sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff. Spread around the pie, leaving the center open, so it looks like a halo.

Judging from the amount left over (none!), this one was a winner.

Cherry Halo Pie
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart cherries, pitted
1 Tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1 recipe Plain Pastry
1 recipe Whipped Cream Topping

Mix sugar, salt, cornstarch, tapioca, and cherries together. Line 9″ pie pan with pastry, add cherry mixture. Dot cherries with butter.

Bake at 450F for 10 minutes; reduce temperature to 350F and bake 25 minutes longer.

Let cool. Spread 1 recipe Whipped Cream Topping around pie, leaving the cherries in center uncovered.

Plain Pastry
2 cups sifted flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
4 to 6 Tablespoons ice water

Sift flour and salt together and cut in shortening. Add water a little at a time until mixture will hold together.

Divide dough into 2 parts. Roll one out on a floured board. Line the piepan with it.

This makes two crusts. Since the pie only needs one, you can freeze the other piece of dough until you need it.

Whipped Cream Topping
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip cream until it make soft peaks. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until cream holds stiff peaks. If you have the time, chill your beaters and bowl before whipping the cream and always make sure your cream is cold. It will whip much faster if everything is cold.


M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 16 July 2019 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

In the Kitchen: White Bean Dip

Dear Constant Reader,

As the weather gets warmer, I’m thinking about picnics and backyard parties and this dish is perfect! It’s easy, so delicious, and even vegan and gluten-free. I also love it because I almost always have all the ingredients in my pantry, so it’s easy to whip up on a moment’s notice.

You need…

A can of cannellini beans, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, garlic, fresh thyme, olive oil, and salt & pepper.

Drain and rinse the beans. Smash the garlic with the side of a knife.

Toss the garlic into the food processor with the lemon juice and vinegar and roughly chop.

Add the beans, thyme, salt and pepper and begin to process into a thick paste.

While the processor is going, drizzle in the olive oil. Add a little water, if necessary, to bring it to your preferred dip consistency.

Let it rest at least 15 minutes before serving, or even better, overnight (in the fridge).

Serve with chips (I like pita) or crudites.

I made some the other day because I have SO MANY baby carrots in the fridge (I think there are like six pounds — most of which I was gifted with. Got any good carrot recipes?), and they go awfully well with this dip. Also, I was celebrating that I had thyme in my herb garden again (my previous plant died over the winter). You could use dried thyme, but it’s not as good.

I’ve also made this recipe with garlic scapes and it’s so good. If you’re lucky enough to acquire some, chop the scapes coarsely and use in place of garlic cloves.

Here’s the recipe!

White Bean Dip
1 15-oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, smashed (or 1/3 cup chopped garlic scapes)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few grinds of black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 cup olive oil
1-3 Tablespoons water, as needed

Toss the garlic into the food processor with the lemon juice and vinegar and roughly chop.

Add the beans, thyme, salt and pepper and begin to process into a thick paste.

While the processor is going, drizzle in the olive oil. If the dip is too thick, add water to the right consistency.

Let the dip rest at least 15 minutes before serving, or even better, overnight.

Serve with chips or crudites.

Published in: on 22 May 2019 at 11:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! It sure is cold out there! I mean, Boston is nowhere near as bad as the Midwest, but it’s still No Fun At All. Here’s a tip to help you get through the day.

Eat a good breakfast.

Your mother was right! Don’t skip breakfast, especially when you’ve got a busy schedule. My favorite breakfast food is delicious, filling, good hot or good, has room for creativity, and is super easy to make — overnight oats.

At its simplest, overnight oats are just equal parts old-fashioned rolled oats and liquid. Don’t use instant oats because you’ll end up with mush. Don’t use steel-cut oats because they won’t soften enough. For the liquid you can can use milk (of any sort), fruit juice, or just plain water.

Put your oats and liquid in a container with whatever toppings and seasonings you like, cover, and stash in the fridge overnight. In the morning, eat. It’s that simple.

In the evening, I pour a half cup of oats and a half cup of liquid in a Pyrex container (as seen to the right), then add my toppings. I pop the lid on, stick it in the fridge, and ignore it until morning. I prefer my oats warm, so I microwave them for a minute or so (hence the glass container). But you can grab them right out of fridge and dig in.

Topping the oats is where thing get fun. You can add fresh or dried fruit, nuts, seeds, spices, fresh greens or herbs. I know oatmeal often has sweet toppings, but give savory oats a try.

A few suggestions:
Mina’s standard
Oats and water, pinch of salt. Toss some frozen mixed berries on top. In the morning the berries are thawed and when I nuke the oats, they turn into fruit compote. Sometimes I add a dash of natural cocoa powder for a hint of chocolate. It’s not sweetened, so only use it along with fruit, unless you like a bitter-tasting breakfast (just ask me know I know…)

Autumnal oats
Use apple cider for the liquid and add chopped apples, toasted walnuts, and dried cranberries. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon.

Savory sesame oats
Make the oats with water and add a splash of soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil. Top with sesame seeds and chopped scallions.

Almond Joy oats
This one is basically dessert.
Make the oats with milk. For true decadence, use chocolate almond milk (personally I think it’s a bit much). Top with toasted shredded coconut, toasted slivered almonds, and a few dark chocolate chips. If you warm this one, the chips get all melty and ooze through each bite.

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 1 February 2019 at 2:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

In the Kitchen: Christmas Pudding, part 3

Dear Constant Reader,

Earlier in the year I showed you how to make and steam a Christmas pudding. Now that your pudding is good and aged, it’s almost time to serve it!

Take your finely-aged pudding out of its aging container and unwrap it from the cloth. Get your pudding basin and butter it well, then slip your naked pudding into it. Wet the pudding cloth, wring it out, and tie over the top of the basin with your pudding string just like you did before. Steam the pudding for an hour or two until it’s heated through. You really can’t overcook it; just make sure the water never boils away.

Traditionally Christmas pudding is served with hard sauce. It’s not called “hard” because it has booze in it (although it does), but because it can’t be poured. You’ll have to scoop it onto your warm slice of pudding where it will melt into a puddle of deliciousness.

To make hard sauce, you need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup superfine sugar
2 Tablespoons booze

Superfine sugar, also called bar sugar and caster sugar (in the UK), can be a little hard to find. If you can’t scare up any, use confectioner’s sugar (I don’t care for it because it’s got cornstarch added) or grind up granulated sugar in the food processor. Straight granulated sugar will make your hard sauce gritty.

For the booze, use whatever you’ve been aging your pudding with. In my case, that’s rum. Usually dark rum, but my pudding drank it all.

Cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the booze. It’s that easy! Keep the hard sauce in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Now to serve the pudding aflame!

Place the pudding on a serving platter, preferable one with a bit of a lip. Gently warm 1/2 cup of booze in a sauce pan. Turn out the lights in the dining room and place the pudding platter on the table. Get your camera ready. Pour the warm booze over the pudding and light the vapors with a long match. Voila!

When the flames go out, slice and serve with a generous spoonful of hard sauce.

Here’s last year’s pudding and the proud cook.

If you make Christmas pudding, I want to hear about it!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 19 December 2018 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

In the Kitchen: Cherry Bounce

Dear Constant Reader,

It seems you all like my cooking posts best (at least according to my site stats), so I’ll endeavor to give you more!

This latest recipe is very vintage — it dates back to at least the 18th century! As you, dear Reader, know well, early summer brings cherries to The Manor and a desperate attempt to use them and preserve them. This year I was determined to try Cherry Bounce, a cordial popular in colonial days. It was said to be a favorite of George Washington.

Cherry bounce is made with cherries (or any stone fruit, though you’d have to change the name…), sugar, and liquor. Washington liked his with brandy, but you can also use rum or whiskey or vodka. Each adds its own characteristics to the bounce. Sometimes the fruit is used whole, sometimes it’s pressed for its juice. You can also add spices or even fresh herbs. For a lower proof, add some water. I’ve seen so many variations.

We used a very simple recipe that’s much like my Christmas fan dance: Sugar Rum Cherry. I wanted to use rum, as it’s very New England and also my favorite spirit. I decided not to add any spices as I feared the results might taste like cough syrup (based on an unfortunate experiment with raspberry cordial once).

Take a big glass jar with a lid. Add a pound of sugar and then a little rum to dissolve. Add a pound of cherries and mash them a bit. Pour a quart of rum over it all. Let it sit in a sunny place for a week, then store in a dark place for at least a month. Strain the liquid and pour into bottles.

We made two versions, each with 2 pounds of sugar, 2 pounds of cherries, and a 1.75 L bottle of rum. The first was a white rum and we put the cherries in whole and then bashed them around with a spoon after the rum was added. The second was gold rum and we bashed the cherries into the sugar with a potato masher before adding the rum.

We let the jars of bounce sit for a week in the pantry and I would stir them every day to make sure the sugar stayed in solution and further bruise the cherries. Then we stashed them in a cabinet for about 2 months. I strained out the cherries and poured the bounce back into the jars. The white rum bounce is pretty clear, but the gold, where the cherries were crushed, has a lot of sediment. I need to find some attractive bottles to decant the bounce into. When I bottle it, I’ll strain it too (coffee filters work well for that).

So, how does it taste? Very good. It’s intensely cherry. I think the white is actually more cherry-flavored than the gold. The gold has more of a boozy taste. And they’re both quite strong. It’s a nice dessert tipple to be drunk out of wee glasses. I’m sure some creative sort could come up with a cocktail that uses cherry bounce.

I was going to toss the cherries, assuming they had given up all their cherry goodness and no longer tasted like anything. However, upon sampling, they still taste like cherries and very much like rum. I pulled out all the whole ones and froze them. They’ll be great over ice cream. Maybe I’ll even flame them like cherries jubilee.

Martha Washington’s original recipe, if you want give it a try:
Extract the juice of 20 pounds well ripend Morrella cherrys. Add to this 10 quarts of old french brandy and sweeten it with White sugar to your taste. To 5 gallons of this mixture add one ounce of spice such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmegs of each an Equal quantity slightly bruis’d and a pint and half of cherry kirnels that have been gently broken in a mortar. After the liquor has fermented let it stand close-stoped for a month or six weeks then bottle it, remembering to put a lump of Loaf Sugar into each bottle.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 9 October 2018 at 11:02 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

In the Kitchen: Bedroll Special (1952)

Dear Constant Reader,

In my collection of mid-century cookbooks, I’m most fond of a series by Robert H. Loeb Jr. I’ve already shared a recipe from Wolf in Chef’s Clothing, his cookbook for men. Now here’s one from Date Bait: The Younger Set’s Picture Cook Book (1952)

Despite the name, it’s mostly recipes to impress your friends and your parents. There’s a lot of reliance on packaged foods (this is the 1950s after all!), especially cake mixes. The first chapter is snacks to keep in your icebox for the hungry midnight raider. I made Bedroll Special, a pinwheel sandwich.

You need bacon, eggs, mayonnaise, butter, olives, and a loaf of unsliced bread.

Start by hard boiling the eggs and cooking the bacon. Chop the eggs fine and crumble the bacon. Mix with mayonnaise.

Then comes the tricky part. Cut off all the crusts, except the bottom one, from the bread. Then cut two thin slices lengthwise from the top. The only unsliced loaf I found at my nearby supermarket was Italian bread which turned out to be too irregularly shaped and squishy to make thin, even slices. I got rather raggedy results, which I ran over with a rolling pin to make flatter and more even. If I do anything like this again, I’ll get an unsliced sandwich loaf from our local Irish bakery.

Spread each slice with softened butter, then spread with the mayo mixture. Get close to the edge. At this point in the recipe you were supposed to go over it with a rolling pin, but I didn’t want to get goop all over mine and the slice was already pretty flat.

Place olives in a row along one short end and then roll the bread up. Wrap each roll in a piece of wax paper and twist the ends to make a little sandwich bonbon. Stash in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, take the rolls out of the fridge and unwrap them. Slice cross-wise into rounds (a serrated knife works well for this). You can cut the ends off first if they’re not so tidy. Pile the rounds onto a serving platter. The cookbook had a little banner that said “You’re For Me”, which you could cut out, glue to a toothpick, and plant in the middle of the stack of sandwiches before replacing them in the fridge for your midnight snacker to find.

Instead of a lovely platter, I put them in a tupperware so they wouldn’t dry out and to make them easier to transport to rehearsal. My presentation is often less than elegant.

They’re pretty good. My taste testers were quite positive. The filling is completely unseasoned, so the salty, briny, and smoky flavors from the olives and bacon were necessary.

Bedroll Special
2 eggs
2 slices bacon
3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
Stuffed olives
Softened butter
1 loaf unsliced bread

Hard boiling the eggs. Let cool. Cook the bacon until crisp and drain. Crumble bacon into a bowl and mix in mayonnaise. Chop eggs fine and add to mixture.

Cut off all the crusts, except the bottom one, from the bread. Then cut two slices 1/8″ thick lengthwise from loaf.

Spread each slice with softened butter, then spread with the mayo mixture. Get close to the edge. Roll bread with a rolling pin to flatten.

Place olives in a row along one short end and then roll the bread up. Wrap each roll in a piece of wax paper and twist the ends securely. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, take the rolls out of the fridge and slice (a serrated knife works best) cross-wise into rounds. Pile the rounds onto a serving platter. If not serving right away, keep under a damp tea towel to keep the bread from drying out.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 11 September 2018 at 11:50 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,

In the Kitchen: Mocha Marlow (1953)

Dear Constant Reader,

It’s been rather hot so far this summer. A perfect time for icy-cold treats! The other day I made some delicious mocha marlow. “Marlow?” you ask, “What’s marlow?” Like its equally obscure cousin mallobet, it’s a frozen dessert made with a marshmallow base. I’ve definitely dated this style of dessert back to the 1920s (Clara Bow contributed a recipe for Vanilla Marlow to a 1929 movie star cookbook), but it may go further back to the earlier days of ice boxes. These desserts were still being made into the midcentury, but seem to have then died out completely.

Both marlows and mallobets are made with melted marshmallows. Marlows get their fluffiness from whipped cream, while mallobets (marshmallow-sherbet) contain stiffly beaten egg whites. You don’t need an ice cream maker for these concoctions, which was part of the appeal, I think.

I made this marlow on a terribly hot day and I must confess that cooking everything over boiling water was torture, but the end result was worth it.

Start by cutting 16 marshmallows into quarters. It’s easiest to use kitchen shears or a knife dipped in hot water. Don’t substitute mini-marshmallows because you’ll end up with the wrong ratio of cornstarch (which coats the outside of the marshmallows) to marshmallow.

Set a saucepan over boiling water and melt the chocolate. Then fold in the marshmallows and a cup of strong coffee and a pinch of salt. I don’t drink coffee so I never have any just hanging about. I made instant espresso instead. Keep folding the mixture.

When the marshmallows are about half melted, take them off the heat and keep stirring until they completely melt. Make sure everything is well combined and let it cool. I stuck the pan into a bowl of ice water to help it cool down faster on such a hot day.

Then whip cream until it’s stiff and fold into the cooled mocha mixture and add toasted nuts. I think toasting nuts before using them is always a good idea; they just taste better. The first time I made this I used slivered almonds since that’s what I had on hand, but hazelnuts add a lovely Nutella flavor. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like bits of stuff in their ice cream, you can certainly leave the nuts out.

Spoon the mixture into a container — I recommend a metal loaf pan — cover it, and stick it in the freezer. When it’s about half frozen (use your best judgement), give it a stir.

It will take a couple of hours to firm up enough to serve.

Mina’s Mocha Marlow

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
16 marshmallows, quartered
1 cup strong coffee
pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup chopped toasted nuts

Melt chocolate over boiling water. Add marshmallows, coffee, and salt. Fold mixture continuously over and over until marshmallows are half melted. Remove from heat and continue folding until mixture is smooth. Cool. Whip cream. Add whipped cream and nuts to mocha mixture. Pour into metal loaf pan, cover, and freeze until firm, stirring at least once.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 16 July 2018 at 2:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

In the Kitchen: Ailes de Poulet a la Diable

Dear Constant Reader,

I’d like to share this old* family recipe with you. Ailes de poulet a la diable is French for “deviled chicken wings”, basically chicken baked with a delicious coating of mustard and breadcrumbs.

Recently I made Angie Pontani’s chicken tenders (you should too; they’re so good) and they reminded me of this dish. Think of these wings as a more sophisticated, yet messier, take on Angie’s tenders. It’s going to keep you in the kitchen for an hour, since you need to do something to the wings every 15 minutes or so

You’ll need chicken wings, bread crumbs, chicken broth, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper, butter.

I’ve made this with both whole wings and the cut-up sort. If they’re whole, tuck the wing tip behind the other wing end, to make sort of a heart shape. It’s tidier and you can fit more in your baking pan, if you alternate which end is up. I actually prefer the whole wings, but the cut up ones are less messy.

Fresh bread crumbs are great for this, but I often use the kind that come in the canister. I’ve never tried it with panko. Let me know how it is, if you do!

I’ve used home-made chicken broth, canned chicken broth, and even mix-it-with-hot-water bouillon. I really like Penzy’s Chicken Soup Base for the latter. It’s not as salty as the little cubes and has much more flavor.

Grey Pupon used to be my favorite Dijon, but I discovered it has added sugar, so now I use Maille.

Preheat the oven. Salt & pepper the wings while melting the butter in your baking dish. I just put the butter in the baking dish, pop it on a stove burner, and let the butter melt. Roll the wings around in the butter before cramming them into the baking pan skin side down.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Blend together some chicken broth, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. I just mix them all in the measuring cup and pour over the wings. Sprinkle with half the bread crumbs. Turn the wings and bake another 15 minutes.

Turn the wings again and bake another 15 minutes.

Add the last of the chicken broth and sprinkle with the remaining bread crumbs and bake for 10 minutes more.

Have lots of napkins ready. I suppose there might be a neat and elegant way to eat these wings, but I’ve never found one (and you know if I can’t eat it elegantly, it just can’t be done).

Here’s the recipe:

Ailes de poulet a la diable
3 lb. chicken wings
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup chicken broth, divided
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup bread crumbs, divided
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

Season chicken with salt & pepper. Melt butter in a large baking dish. Add wings and turn to coat. Place wings skin side down and bake 15 minutes.

Blend mustard and Worcestershire sauce with 1/3 cup chicken broth. Pour over chicken and sprinkle with 1/3 cup bread crumbs. Turn wings. Bake 15 minutes.

Turn wings again. Bake 15 minutes.

Add remaining chicken broth. Sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs. Bake 10 minutes.


M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

*and by “old”, I mean I’m the second generation to cook it. My family does not have a long-standing culinary tradition.

Published in: on 4 June 2018 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

In the Kitchen: Christmas Pudding, Part 2

Dear Constant Reader,

Last week I showed you how to make a fruity, boozy Christmas pudding. Today we’re going to talk about how to steam it and store it.

To steam the pudding, you’ll need a pudding basin, a pudding cloth, and a pudding string. Fortunately, none of these are too difficult to acquire. You’ll also need a big pot, large enough to hold the basin.

A pudding basin looks like a bowl. In fact, you can use a mixing bowl. The important parts are that it’s heat-proof (mine are ceramic) and it has a lip where you can tie the pudding string and it won’t slip. For this recipe you want a 6-cup basin. There are also metal pudding molds, which can make for a more decoratively-shaped pudding.

The pudding cloth is a big piece of plain, undyed cotton fabric, well-washed. Mine is a square of unbleached muslin. Flour sack towels also work well.

Lastly, the pudding string is just some sturdy cotton kitchen string.

Grease the inside of your basin well, then spoon the pudding batter into it. The pudding should be below the rim of the basin.

Wet your cloth with hot water and wring it out. Some say to also flour the wet cloth to keep the pudding from sticking to it, but I’ve found it just makes a mess.

Place the cloth on top of the basin and tie the string just under the lip to hold the cloth in place. I used a slipped reef knot to make a secure knot that can be untied easily when it’s wet (which it will be).

Now take opposite corners of your cloth and tie them together over the top of the basin. Repeat with the other two corners. You now have a handle.

Now it’s time to steam! You’re going to place the pudding in a pot of boiling water, with the water coming at least half way up the basin, but no more than an inch or two from the top. It’s tricky maneuvering a heavy pudding into boiling water, so I’ve found the best solution is to use a pot with a pasta insert.

I fill the pot with the insert in place, check the water level by putting in the basin, then take the insert and basin out, and start boiling the water. Once it’s boiling I gently lower the insert with basin into the pot. If you don’t have this kind of pot, use the cloth handles to carefully and gently lower the pudding into the boiling water.

Cover, lower the heat, and let the water gently boil for at least 2 hours (more won’t hurt — I’ve seen recipes call for five hours of steaming). You’ll need to replenish the water from time to time as it boils away, so keep a teakettle handy. Make sure the water you add is boiling and that you don’t pour it onto the pudding itself.

After a couple of hours, take the pudding out. Either just remove the insert or use the cloth handles. Be very careful! Everything is going to be steaming hot and wet.

Take off the string and cloth and test the pudding for doneness with a long skewer. The skewer should come out clean. Let the pudding cool a bit in the basin, then turn it out onto a rack. Let the pudding cool completely.

Now we age it. You’ll need your pudding cloth again, and your alcohol of choice, and a container in which to age the pudding. I use a food-grade plastic bucket with a lid that I got it from my local ice cream shop — I think it used to hold marshmallow topping.

Wrap the pudding in the cloth and put it in the container. Pour 1/4 cup booze over the pudding. Cover your container. It doesn’t have to be an air-tight seal — in fact, it shouldn’t be. Put it someplace cool and dry until Christmas. I keep mine in a cabinet in my unheated pantry. If you don’t have a pantry or a cellar or similar, you could keep it in the fridge.

Once a week, flip the pudding and feed it another bit of booze. I know some people who use a pastry brush to gently coat it with alcohol. I’m lazy and just pour a splash of rum on top and let in run down the sides. You don’t even need to take the cloth off.

Puddings should age for a minimum of a month. I’ve aged them for as long as a year and a half. As long as you keep them somewhere cool and keep feeding them alcohol, they’re going to be fine.

Once we get closer to December, I’ll tell you how to prepare your delicious pudding for serving, how to make sauce, and most importantly, how to flame it!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 28 February 2018 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

In the Kitchen: Christmas Pudding

Dear Constant Reader,

You may have seen the title of this missive and thought “Mina, Christmas pudding? Christmas is like a year away. Can’t you read a calendar?” Fear not, O Reader, for this pudding wants to be made well in advance and aged like a fine wine or cheese. The longer it sits, the better it tastes. The last pudding I served had been aging for about 16 months and was just amazing.

Now, one does not *have* to age a Christmas pudding — there are Victorian recipes for puddings to be made and eaten right away — nor does one even have to use alcohol for an unaged pudding (the temperance movement, you know), but those are not the kind of pudding we’re going to make.

This pudding is going to be steamed and will require some specialized equipment, which I shall discuss in another missive.

You need a vast array of ingredients (so many I couldn’t get them all in the shot), thusly:

Flour, bread crumbs, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, mace, various dried fruits, nuts, lemon, eggs, suet, and booze.

The most important ingredient is suet. Suet is a white fat from around beef kidneys and has a very neutral flavor. Any other beef fat (aka tallow) can have a kinda meatish taste. I’m told there is vegetarian suet out there and some people have used vegetable shortening in steamed puddings, but I don’t know how well it ages.

The suet should be grated. I find it’s easiest to freeze it and then grate it with a food processor. If you’re grating by hand, keep it cold, so it stays firm. If it starts to get mushy, put it back in the fridge for a bit. Once I’ve grated a batch of suet, I split it into 4-ounce portions and freeze them until I need them for pudding.

Equally important is the booze. I use rum, but you could also use brandy or bourbon, really whatever brown liquor you prefer. You need this for the aging process. Also for the flaming, but that’s quite a ways away.

Combine the flour, bread crumbs, sugar, salt, and spices in a big bowl. I make my own bread crumbs, but you could use purchased plain crumbs.

Add the fruit and nuts. I use a mix of raisins, golden raisins, currants, dried cranberries, dried sour cherries (from my tree), and candied citron. Sometimes I add candied orange peel, but I didn’t make any this Christmas, so I didn’t have any to hand. You could pretty much add any dried fruit you liked, as long as it was cut into little bits, about raisin-sized. You’ll want 5-ish cups of fruit. For the nuts, I use slivered almonds, but you could substitute your favorite nut, chopped into bits. Toast the nuts for better flavor.

Peel the lemon and chop the zest finely. Add to the batter. Hang on to the rest of the lemon.

Toss the fruit around in the dry ingredients until they’re coated. This will keep the fruit from clumping up and sticking together.

Add the suet and mix it in. Lightly beat the eggs and mix them in. Juice the lemon and add the juice and then the rum. At this point it’s going to be easiest to mix with your hands.

Your pudding batter is ready to be molded and steamed! Steaming is a bit of a process and deserves its own missive. I’ll cover that next week.

Here’s the recipe I use. It’s not based on a specific historic recipe, although I was inspired by Kathleen Curtin‘s workshop at Plimoth Plantation and the book Lobscouse and Spotted Dog.

Christmas Pudding
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each ground mace, nutmeg, and ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup dried currants
1 cup rasins
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
1/2 dried cranberries
1/3 cup candied citron
1/3 cup candied orange peel
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 oz. suet, finely grated
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup rum

Combine the flour, bread crumbs, sugar, salt, and spices in a big bowl.

Add the fruit, nuts, and lemon peel.

Toss the fruit with the dry ingredients so they’re coated. This will keep the fruit from clumping up and sticking together.

Add the suet and mix it in. Mix in the lightly beaten eggs. Add the lemon juice and then the rum. Mix with your hands.

Stay tuned for the next step!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 21 February 2018 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,