Immediately surrounding Mrs. Musgrove were the little Harvilles, whom she was sedulously guarding from the tyranny of the two children from the Cottage, expressly arrived to amuse them. On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others. Charles and Mary also came in, of course, during their visit, and Mr. Musgrove made a point of paying his respects to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes, talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children on his knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece.
Plum Puddings have long been associated with the Christmas Season. In this recipe, as in most other “Plumb” recipes of the time, raisins take the place of the plums or prunes modern cooks would expect. Christmas pudding really came into its own in Victorian times, finally being immortalized in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
This recipe calls for a melted butter sauce; the flaming brandy sauce now so common was a later addition. It is also a lighter color than later recipes, with their treacle, molasses and brandy; it is meant to be served fresh, instead of kept for weeks and weeks like other versions. If garnishing with fresh holly, remember that the berries are toxic and best replaced or removed before serving.
Boiled Plumb Pudding
Shred a pound of beef suet very fine, to which add three quarters of a pound of raisins stoned, a little grated nutmeg, a large spoonful of sugar, a little salt, some white wine, four eggs beaten, three spoonfuls of cream, and five spoonfuls of flour. Mix them well, and boil them in a cloth three hours. Pour over this pudding melted butter, when dished.
Susannah Carter, The Frugal Housewife, or,Complete woman cook; wherein the art of dressing all sorts of viands is explained in upwards of five hundred approved receipts, in gravies, sauces, roasting [etc.] . . . also the making of English wines. (London: Francis Newbery, 1765)
454 g/ 1 lb Beef Suet, finely chopped
397 g / 14 oz / 2 ½ Cups Raisins
1 tsp Nutmeg
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
½ tsp Salt
180 ml / 2/3 cup White Wine
5 tbsp Flour, plus extra for dusting
3 tbsp Cream
60 cm x 60 cm /2 ft x2 ft muslin cloth and kitchen string
Set a large stockpot of water on to boil.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, wine, cream and nutmeg. Add in the suet and flour. When this is incorporated, add the raisins and continue mixing until a stiff batter is formed.
Thoroughly wet the cloth and dust it with flour on both sides. Lay this cloth across a mixing bowl large enough to accommodate all your batter. Spoon the batter into the center of the cloth and tie it up securely (with a little room for expansion) with kitchen string, being sure to leave long ends to hang the pudding in the water. The pudding should look like a ball wrapped in fabric.
Submerge the pudding in the boiling water by suspending it from a wooden spoon placed across the top of the pot. Boil vigorously for 3 hours, adding additional water as necessary.
Remove the pudding from the water after three hours. Allow it to drain in a colander and then store it in a bowl (to preserve its shape) overnight or for several hours before serving. Reheat before serving. Serve with melted butter.
Melted butter was perhaps the most common sauce to be served with any number of dishes. To make your own, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over a medium heat. Quickly whisk in 2-3 tsp of flour and remove the butter from the heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the sauce will separate, thus becoming “oiled”.
Excerpted from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.