I love the Christmas season, filled with the warmth of friends, family, surprises and good food. The old song vibrates through my mind at this time, loud, clear and joyously!
“The weather outside is frightful, and the fire is so delightful! Since we have no place to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”
Isn’t it true of this winter for most of us?! I’m totally ready to plunk myself down in front of the big ole’ fireplace in my parent’s home and never move again! With the snow gently frosting the massive evergreens outside, the horses munching contentedly on timothy hay in the barn while the dogs look on from their beds in the baled haystack…oh yes! We’re almost there!
Christmas should have good food. And a Christmas with traditional food is even better! As you may know, I’m intrigued by old recipes and cooking techniques. When Christmas time rolls around, this side of me flares up even stronger! As a gal who shouldn’t eat refined sugars and flours, I usually find myself in a bind during the holidays. From every corner people are shoving homemade cookies, fruit bars, donuts, cakes, pies and candies my way! I decline. The side effects aren’t worth the momentary pleasure.
But sometimes, I do want to share in the sweets. So I’ve concocted some of my own recipes. Whole grains, honey, molasses, dried fruit…do you see where I’m headed?
An Old Fashioned Christmas Deluxe
Its all in the Christmas pudding! A traditional holiday dessert in old English homes, these puddings were served with a hard sauce that consisted of rum, sugar and fruit from throughout the summer. Because they didn’t have a way to preserve soft fruits, as each came into season, folks of long ago would put down a layer in a special stoneware crock, topping it with rum and sugar. Because both rum and sugar are natural preservatives, Englanders could keep the flavor of those quick-spoiling fruits around until the Christmas season. Pudding sauce was a very special treat indeed!
While I don’t use that same rum sauce, I do enjoy eating my puddings with home canned goods, such as apricot, cherry or strawberry preserves. Delicious!
So what is a steamed pudding?
They are very dense, heavy cakes, usually sweetened with old-fashioned options such as molasses, honey or syrups. They were traditionally made with whole grains and dried fruit-lots of it! I can’t describe the texture of these puddings. Chewy, but not rubbery. Very moist, but not necessarily sticky. And to be sure, they carry no resemblance to our cakes of today! Yet they are a wholesome and healthier option than most of our modern-day options, are very frugal to boot!
How do You Cook Them?
Christmas puddings are cooked through a steaming process. Traditionally, women would wet a large cloth and then coat the topside in flour, making such a thick paste that water couldn’t penetrate through. On that pasted surface, she would plop her thick and sticky every-day bread batter. After tying the cloth shut, she would submerge it into the bubbling stew or soup that hung over the fire. As the next meal simmered over the fire for several hours, the pudding would cook throughout. In this manner, they provided bread for their homes. As bake ovens moved into the scene, steamed puddings began to disappear. There were better way (and more efficient) ways of doing things! If it wasn’t for the holiday tradition, perhaps the pudding would have been lost altogether.
Thanks to Christmas traditions, it was kept alive!
In today’s modern world, a pressure canner is the most efficient way to make your puddings! It significantly cuts back on boiling hours. It is possible to jimmy-rig a system without a pressure canner, but it takes 3-4x as long to steam!
Frugal Christmas Pudding
- 1 C grated potato
- 1 C grated carrot
- 1 1/2 C spelt flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Measure out powders and place in a mixing bowl. With the peel intact, grate potato and carrot. Stir into flours until vegetables are coated.
In a second bowl, measure out the following:
- 1/4 C coconut oil
- 1/4 C blackstrap molasses
- 1/3 C honey
- 1/2 C canned plums
- 1/2 C home-dried raisins
- optional: another 1/2 C dried fruit of choice
Whip together oil, molasses, honey, plums and dried fruit. Pour into grated vegetables and mix well. Grease a 2 quart baking bowl and dust with flour if deemed necessary. Spoon your thick batter into it and smooth off the top. It won’t rise much in the steaming process!
To Pressure Cook:
- Place 2-3 inches of water in the bottom of your dial gauge pressure canner.
- Place your pudding in its oven-safe baking bowl in the bottom. Make certain the rack is in place.
- Take a large piece of waxed or parchment paper, fold and place over the top of bowl to keep pudding dry.
- Put the lid on canner, seal and turn heat to high.
- Once it begins venting, set your timer for 10 minutes.
- When your timer goes, place the weighted gauge at 5 lbs and reset timer for 45 minutes.
- When time is up, turn off heat and allow pressure canner to return to 0 lbs of pressure.
- Remove the lid, being sure to lift the far side first so hot steam is released away from you.
- Move the paper aside and lift your pudding with oven mitts.
- The top will be moist, but you’ll know its done when the pudding has begun to pull away from the sides of the mold.
- Let cool before attempting to release from its mold.
- To release, run a knife around the edges, place the serving plate on top of the pudding’s mold, then flip upside down.
- Just before serving, pour a pint jar of preserves over the top, then cut into pie-shaped wedges. Serve with more preserves!