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11.25.2014

Guest Post from Author Cindy Thomson

Today we have a special treat - a guest post from Cindy Thomson.  Cindy is the author of the recently released Annie's Stories and its prequel Grace's Pictures.  Today Cindy shares a little about the special foods that play such an important part in a traditional Irish Christmas.  

With a month until Christmas Enjoy this gift from Cindy and be sure to check-out 
Cindy's live Facebook Christmas party on Monday December 1st 
5:00pm - 7:30pm EST  http://on.fb.me/1wTigIz!

Giveaways, chats, and guests are on the schedule!

Trim, County Meath Ireland from Flickr credited William Murphy
Trim, County Meath Ireland from Flickr credited William Murphy

Why is it holidays seem to revolve around food? Possibly because sitting around a table to eat is the best way to bring families together for conversation and good times. I used food in my latest novel, Annie’s Stories, to evoke a sense of home for Annie who was searching for that place after her life was disrupted. (You can find some of the recipes from that novel here.)  http://cindyswriting.com/2014/07/06/early-20th-century-recipes-from-annies-stories/

Since my stories feature Irish characters, and much of what I’ve written centers on Ireland and Irish culture, I’d like to share some traditional Irish Christmas recipes with you.

Christmas dinners traditionally feature a roasted goose. Turkeys are a more recent substitution. Other dishes included three types of potato dishes: roasted, boiled, and mashed. You might also find roasted parsnips, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. For desert you’d have plum pudding. On St. Stephen’s Day (Dec. 26) you would serve Irish Spiced Beef.

If you’d like to learn about some Irish foods like mash, bread sauce, and celeriac, check out a post I did for the Irish Fireside. http://irishfireside.com/2013/12/16/christmas-dinner-irish-style/

Plum Pudding is no quick dish to make. Perhaps that’s why there are traditions about the family helping. Below is a recipe I copied. I’ve never made this myself. I’ll stick to cookies. But if you’re adventurous, go for it. I’d love to hear how yours came out. (You can contact me through my website www.cindyswriting.com)

Christmas Pudding from Flickr, credited: Peter Hilton
Christmas Pudding from Flickr, credited: Peter Hilton 
Traditional Christmas plum pudding recipe

By CHEF MICHAEL GILLIGAN, Irish Central Staff Writer.

10 eggs
1 cup white flour 

4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons nutmeg
4 ounces chopped almond pieces

1 grated apple
1 pound light brown sugar 

1 medium carrot, grated (this optional ingredient probably crept into the recipe 
    during WWII when fruits was in short supply) 

Rind and juice of an orange and a lemon

3 pounds raisins use some currants, some yellow, and some sultanas. The more 
    variety in fruits, the better the pudding. 

8 ounces candied cherries or natural dried cherries

24 ounces bread crumbs

12 ounces candied peel (candied pineapple chunks, citron, mixed peel)

1 pint of Guinness
5 tablespoons of hard liquor 

1 pound butter or finely minced suet if preferred

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub the raisins and other fruits with the flour and spices. The flour adheres to the stickiness of the fruits and gives the pud a nice even texture.

Cut the butter into fine pieces and mix well with the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl mix the liquid ingredients. When the liquids have been well stirred, add them to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Mix all together very well.

The batter should be a bit loose, a little thicker than a cake mix. If it’s dry like bread dough, add more Guinness.

My mother would grease a big square of unbleached muslin and pour the pudding into this, tying off the top with string. In these modern times, heat-proof bowls are an acceptable substitute for the cloth bag method...and much easier.

Line the bowl with parchment paper; fill to within an inch of the top of the bowl. Cover the batter with parchment paper and use a lid for steaming. Sealing the top of the bowl with foil will work if there is no self-lid for the bowl. Fill the pot in which you are steaming the pudding to just below the top of the pudding bowl and gently boil for at least 12 hours. I use the slow cooker for this and it works very well. Depending on the size of the bowls used, you may get about three puddings from this recipe. I triple it and get at least a dozen quart-sized puddings. (Big family!)

When the pudding has cooled, remove it from the bowl, dribble brandy (or any other whiskey-type stuff) over the top of it, letting as much sink in as possible. Seal the puddings in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. (Don’t let the aluminum touch the pudding as there is a reaction that dulls the foil and I suspect this is not good for the pud or the people eating it.)

Let it sit for as long as possible before serving. Three or four months is not too long. Occasionally dribble the pudding with a shot of the spirit of your choice: brandy, whiskey, bourbon, etc.

Traditionally, the pudding was steamed again for an hour before serving. There are two possible methods: Remove the wrapping, return the pudding to the original bowl, and steam again for an hour.

Turn it out on a heat-proof serving plate and proceed to the lighting process that follows the brandy butter recipe---or---unwrap the pudding, place it on the serving platter, and microwave for 10 minutes at 50 percent power. The microwave method, though obviously not traditional, works exceptionally well, and has become traditional in my family!

Brandy Butter (Hard Sauce)

1 cup butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar

1/2 cup brandy (or whiskey, Irish or otherwise)

Soften butter. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until it’s fluffy. Slowly add an equal amount or more of confectioner’s sugar. You will see that the mixture changes texture. 
Slowly add the brandy after this textural change in the sugar/butter blend. Beat further until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Spoon the brandy butter into serving dishes and chill until firm. When turning the mixture into the serving dish, finish off the top by swirling it into a circular pattern with the bottom of the spoon for a decorative effect.

Garnish everything with Holly in berry if you have it.

To light the plum pudding, pour a generous cup of Christian Brothers Brandy (none other!) on top. There’ll be a little puddle on the plate. That should light pretty easily and the blue flames will creep up the sides.

Douse the lights in the dining room to bring in the pudding to the acclaim of all at the table. Don’t be disappointed if the flame is out quickly. That’s how it goes.

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Cindy Thomson is a writer and an avid genealogy enthusiast. Her love of history and her Scots-Irish heritage have inspired much of her writing, including her new Ellis Island series with Tyndale House Publishers. Cindy is also the author of Brigid of Ireland and Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland, and is co-author of the baseball biography Three Finger: The Mordecai Brown Story. In addition to books, Cindy has written on a regular basis for numerous online and print publications and is a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Cindy and her husband have three grown sons and live in central Ohio. 

Visit her online at www.cindyswriting.com or on Twitter: @cindyswriting.