Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Jamaican Christmas Pudding

Nothing makes us yearn for home and family like a recipe that has been handed down for generations. That is why when my friend Debra told me that she was teaching her church group in Dallas how to make her grandmother's Christmas pudding I jumped at the opportunity to ask her for the recipe. I am excited beyond all belief at this share.....I remember this pudding so well!  I know all thoughts of Christmas are well and truly out our minds now that the New Year is here but believe me this is a recipe you will want to bookmark for a special occasion as it is truly and indulgent treat.

Season's Greetings to everyone. I am doing a "guest blog" for Wizzy this week -which might on some level imply that I am a blogger with my own blog just around the corner for BLDP, just jumping in while the season is right. However in the interest of full disclosure I must confess right off the bat -I am NOT a blogger, nor a photographer. So with those confessions out of the way, and hopefully your indulgence -let's proceed shall we?

My Mom, who Wizzy has mentioned on this blog - is a self described Jamidadian- a transplanted Jamaican, living in Trinidad. So of course, our house was a bit of an oddity when I compared notes with friends at school and neighbours. Most of those differences faded away as our house became a truly Jamidadian house. However, Jamaican Christmas Pudding was one thing that never received the Trini touch. 

In Trinidad over the holiday season, it is a time for celebrating family and friends. You can expect friends to drop by all December long. You paint the curbs, the front walls, clean top to bottom and prepare the house for lots of through traffic. Some visits are long and go all into the night and some are just a a brief moment to touch base with someone you don't see that often -but you exchange a hug, have a drink and eat some Christmas cake. It is storied that for each different piece of cake you eat, you will receive a month of good luck in the coming year - so visits abound! 

At our house my Mom made both a cake and pudding as the recipes are two halves of the same coin, both starting with a full crock of dried fruit that have been soaking in rum and cherry brandy since June or July. My mom's recipe made 4 large cakes/puddings and she grew up making 2 cakes and 2 puddings from the one recipe. Each time someone would come to the house my Mom would ask "Would you like some cake or pudding" and the answer was always "Yes please. Pudding please".  It didn't take my Mom long to start making 3-4 puddings. 

You must be wondering what is the big difference between a Christmas cake and a Christmas pudding. Surely it must be a hugely dramatic production to make a pudding instead of a cake. The differences are slight and subtle, yet the end result is dramatically different - a contradiction, I know. The differences are one of texture because the pudding is steamed and of alcohol content because the pudding is steamed covered and the alcohol does not cook off as it does with a cake and just to be sure, the pudding is "fed" every couple of days with rum or brandy and served with a hard brandy or rum sauce. 

It is a rich treat, served in small slices between friends, as you pause from the hustle and bustle of the season to take the time to visit with each other -often with much merriment and mirth.

Grandma Mae's Jamaican Christmas Pudding
Yield: Four 8-9" cakes

1 lb raisins
1 lb currants
1 lb prunes
1/2 lb dates
1/2 lb mixed peel
1 bottle cherry brandy/prune wine (note: Cherry Brandy is a Caribbean wine that has less than 10% alcohol and isn't truly a brandy)
1/2 lb cherries
1 lb dark brown sugar
1 lb butter
1/2 lb flour
1/2 lb bread crumbs 
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup rum
1 dozen eggs (8 whites and 12 yolks)
Rose Water (can be tricky to find -use an English brand -not a Japanese brand)

Method Grind raisins, prunes, dates and mixed peel. Add currants (whole). Soak in liquor ( for 1 -18 months typically. Although my recent batch had been soaking for 6 years!! )

Find a baking tin with a tight fitting lid. I use those decorative tins from the craft stores as this is a low temperature affair and the pans are well lined. Grease the pans with butter. Line the bottom with wax paper - being sure to bring it up the sides a bit. Double line the sides by folding a long piece of wax paper in half and placing it creased side down in the tin. And then line the bottom again. And then grease and flour the lined pans. 

Cream butter and sugar. 

Finely dice cherries -they should be smaller than the currants!! 

Add 2-3 caps of rose water -add it until the butter and sugar smell like rose water. 

Beat 8 egg whites with a lime peel until very stiff. Don't use a mixer as the lime peel needs to be removed and the mixer tends to chew it up.

Add 1 dozen egg yolks -one at a time to the whites

Add 1/2 cup of rum

1 tsp of vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon -sprinkled across the top of the mixture

Fold in the butter and sugar

Add cherries and fruit and mix in gently

Add browning until the batter is a rich dark brown colour -being careful not to make the batter too thin.

At this stage you may need to make adjustments. The batter is the right consistency when a wooden spoon stands up in it -fully vertical without help. Because the fruits soak for various lengths of time, and browning is sometimes thinner than other times the exact amounts my vary and you may need to add a bit more flour/breadcrumbs mixture -but not much. I seldom have to do this because I have very rich smelling rose water and I would rather have a lighter coloured cake, so I'm very stingy with the browning if it is too thin. 

Use a saucer to pan the mixture into prepared pans -a ladle would work too, but using a teacup saucer is much faster. Whatever works for you but do not just pour it from the mixing bowl! 

Place a piece of wax paper of the top of the pan and press the lid down to seal the pan with the batter.

Bake in an oven at 250* with a water bath/pan full of water in the oven (do NOT place the pan in the water) -for 2-2 1/2 hours. Be sure to check the water every 45 mins or so to make sure it hasn't dried out. 
It is done when it springs back and the pudding has pulled from the sides

When it comes out pour 1/4 cup of sherry or brandy over the top of each pudding and replace the lid. 
It is stored at room temperature -adding more sherry or brandy every week or so. 
And to serve it -cut off a small portion and serve with a hard brandy sauce -which is basically just butter, fine granulated sugar and a bit of sherry or brandy. 

Cooks note: This makes a TON of pudding/cake. Typically I soak a whole recipe of fruit but bake a half recipe of  pudding at a time. If making to give as gifts the this will yield approx six 6" cakes