This years holiday season is upon us (boy is that an understatement) and I am so far behind on baking that I am almost ready to throw my hands up in the air and force people to make themselves sandwiches for dinner until 2010. It hasn’t helped that I was horribly ill over the weekend, meaning that the two days I was to spend making biscotti and minced beef suet were instead spent in bed or on the couch under copious blankets, desperately trying to keep my, also sick, two year old entertained without actually expending any energy.
I am sufficiently recovered at this point to get moving on this holiday thing, however, and while I am still hovering alarmingly close to the box of tissue in the dining room, I suspect that by tomorrow things will be in full swing. A batch of shortbread has already been made and consumed and I am moving on to the rest of my list. Most importantly will be the plum pudding attempt.
Traditional Christmas puddings (and by traditional I mean British) don’t actually have any plums in them. They are in fact mostly raisins and beef fat. I have been looking forward to trying beef suet ever since my first successful use of home rendered lard. The only thing I have been lacking was a good recipe in which to use it. But no longer!
I took the recipe right out of the Joy, modifying it only slightly, and was met with great success. A full days worth of effort went into the production, but the results were more than worth it. Additionally, thanks to a large quantity of spirits, all leftovers will leave over until well into the new year.
The process for making a steamed pudding is more time consuming than labor intensive and while a pudding mold does make the end result quite pretty, it is not necessary. A glass bowl will do just as well as long as you have aluminum foil with which to cover it. You will also need a large pot with a rack in order to steam the pudding. I used my pressure canner and it performed fabulously.
2 2/3 c raisins
1 1/2 c dried currants
1/2 c dried figs, diced
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
8 oz finely chopped or ground beef suet
1 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/2 c Cognac
1/3 c cream sherry
Begin by chopping coarsely 1/2 of the raisins. Combine the remainder of the raisins, the currants and figs with 2 c water. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes then uncover and let simmer until the remainder of the water boils away. Set aside and let cool until room temp – about 2 hours.
While you are waiting for the fruit mixture to cool, you can work on your beef suet. Beef fat is unlike leaf lard (pig fat) in that it has parchment like layers which need to be removed. The easiest way to do this is to freeze the suet prior to working with it and prepare it while it is still cold. The fat will simply crumble in your hands, having a very wax like consistency, and you can pull the parchment-like sections away. Once you have culled the fat thusly, simply use your best chef’s knife to mince it until it looks a bit like sand.
Combine the flour and minced beef suet in a bowl, rubbing it together with your hands until the fat particles are just separated. Add the sugar and spices and mix until just blended.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and the spirits, then add this to the flour mixture. Stir in the cooled fruit and pour the batter into a well greased mold. I used lard to grease the pudding mold, and I used a generous quantity at that. Leave at least 1 inch of headspace for the pudding to expand.
Place the pudding in your canner (or other pot) and pour boiling water into it so it comes about 2/3 of the way up the side of your mold or bowl. For a 1 qt pudding, steam 4 to 5 hours. The above recipe makes two 1 quart desserts.
Garnish with some hard sauce (a concoction of butter, liquor and sugar) and enjoy. It should be noted this dessert is incredibly rich so proceed with caution.
Happy Holidays and enjoy 2010!