Friday, December 16, 2011
"Oh! All that steam! The pudding had just been taken out of the cauldron. Oh! That smell! The same as the one which prevailed on washing day! It is that of the cloth which wraps the pudding. Now, one would imagine oneself in a restaurant and in a confectioner's at the same time, with a laundry nest door. Thirty seconds later, Mrs. Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre. Oh! The marvelous pudding!"
I’ve read about people who obsess over things. I’ve met them. I’m one of them. Now, I’m not talking obsessive compulsive disorder. I mean obsessing about getting something just right, down to the smallest detail. Even if you’re only doing it because…then you can say you did it.
People who make miniature models, for instance. Or recreate historic clothing, dying wool they spun themselves, weaving it or knitting it into something using only tools that someone would have had access to in whatever era they are imitating.
I tend to spend large amounts of time trying to get certain eatables just right. Baked beans kept me busy for years. I happen to like – but due to allergies can’t eat – tinned beans. It took me ages, but I can now make home made baked beans taste like Libby’s canned beans. Backwards, I know. It would be better to spend time (assuming I worked at Campbells or something) making tinned food taste home made. But there you have it. Three years, obsessing over beans.
I also remember a long stretch where I was trying to become queen of mashed potatoes. I didn’t quite succeed, but I think I attained princess status. That particular obsession also marked the first – and so far only – time I’ve ever given potatoes as a birthday present. Whipped and piped out onto parchment paper in swirled mounds and then frozen, to be eaten as required. And they were well received by Mademoiselle H., so keep your mocking to yourselves!
The most recent obsession has been steamed Christmas pudding. There was one recipe I really wanted to try – quite old and one might hope authentic – but the local beer place that had promised to sell me Barley wine when they made it next either never made it or just forgot to tell me. I wasn’t going to make the recipe if I couldn’t do it EXACTLY as written, so that recipe was off the list.
I made a few puddings with some success. They weren’t great, but they weren’t terrible inedible. The main problem was that they didn’t seem that different from the store bought kind I’d been tried a couple of years ago.
I think I finally have it. The proof being in the pudding – ha! – I won’t know for sure until we’ve tried it, but come on: the thing has 21 different ingredients. And that’s counting the bag of dried fruit as one ingredient, when there were actually several different types of fruit in the bag. One of the ingredients was listed as “mixed spice”. Again…obsessing…I researched to see if they was agreement on what spices went into “mixed spice”. There wasn’t. Of course there wasn’t! Some people said it was the same as pumpkin pie mix. Some used Mrs. David’s Spice blend (which again, I had to research to see just what was in that). In the end I made a list of what seemed the most common ingredients, and made my own blend. All that work and it was just one of 21 things to go into the pudding!
Once mixed, the batter needed to sit overnight. And then steam for six hours. It made enough for two, though, and I only had one pudding tin. So I steamed one, cleaned the steamer and steamed the other. 12 hours of water simmering. Fogged windows that haven’t cleared up yet, that will probably stay that way until spring!
But it’s done. I have two puddings. I only need one, and even that…don’t really need it. But I did it! I made traditional steamed Christmas pudding!