Traditional plum pudding is a must for the holidays

Plum, suet, or Christmas pudding - no matter what you call it, this rich and delicious pudding has for centuries been a traditional English dessert for the holiday season.

No two recipes for plum pudding are ever quite alike because families proudly serve their own version of this elegant pudding according to recipes handed down from great-grandmother to grandmother.

One tradition demands that 12 plum puddings be made during the Christmas season. It was once considered good luck to eat a plum pudding on each of the 12 days of Christmas and to make a wish on the first mouthful of each day.

One ingredient is essential in the preparation of a plum pudding - patience. Not only must a host of fruits and nuts be chopped and measured, but the steaming process can take three to six hours.

But for anyone who relishes the superb flavor of a true Christmas pudding, there is no question that the effort involved in its creation is well worth it.

Here is a recipe for plum pudding that has been in our family for five generations. Every holiday season, I can recall my grandmother, and later my mother, spending a morning preparing the ingredients for this delectible pudding.

By afternoon the mouth-watering aroma of the steaming pudding would fill not only the kitchen, but the entire house.

Puddings can be steamed in specially designed molds, or they can be prepared in bundt or tube pans, in coffee cans or, for individual puddings, in custard cups or jelly jars. A sheet of wax paper should always be secured to the top of the mold, even if the mold is designed with a lid. The wax paper prevents moisture from the steaming process from falling directly onto the pudding and making it soggy.

The pudding mixture should fill about two-thirds of a well-greased mold. Then the mold, after being covered with the wax paper, should be placed on a rack in about 11/2 to 2-inches of water in either a deep well cooker or a large saucepan.

The pan should be deep enough and have enough width so that the steam can circulate freely around the mold. The rack is essential to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pudding.

When the steaming process is done, the mold should be removed immediately and the wax paper carefully taken off. A knife inserted in the side of the pudding will let in air. Don't actually unmold the pudding until ready to serve at the holiday feast. Plum Pudding 3 eggs 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup molasses 1 cup milk 2 cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cloves 2 teaspoons cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1 cup raisins 1 cup currants 3/4 cup citron 3/4 cup candied orange and lemon peel 1/2 cup maraschino cherries 1 cup bread crumbs 1 cup ground suet 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Beat eggs with sugar. Add molasses and milk. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and spices. Add to egg mixture. Mix in fruits, nuts, bread crumbs , and suet. It will be a very thick mixture. Pour into a greased 2-quart mold or two 1-quart molds. Cover with wax paper. Put in pan of hot water and steam for 3 hours. Be sure that water level in steamer does not drop too low. Hard Sauce 1/3 cup butter 1 cup brown sugar 2 tablespoons of orange juice.

Cream butter, add sugar, and gradually stir in orange juice. Can be forced through pastry tube or served by dollops on pudding.

Thin Sauce

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons orange juice

Combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in boiling water and then boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon and orange juices.

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