One of my favorite holiday movies is the 1984 version of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” with George C. Scott. The film shows Christmas Pudding made by Mrs. Cratchit and illustrates it’s importance to a successful holiday meal. The historic dessert like many desserts before began as more of a main dish made with meat and contained plums as a sweetener.
By the 17th century the dessert incorporated itself into a religious tradition, and finally became a sweet dish served at the end of the meal with a generous splash of flaming brandy on top. Traditionally it’s preparation was a family affair with each person taking turns stirring, making wishes and maybe ending up with a coin in their helping of pudding afterward, that they could keep for themselves with good luck for the coming year. Made with molasses, and suet *the hard fat like substance rendered from animal fat, sugar, and spices it brings excitement and smiles to everyone settled around the table. It is not for everyone but certainly is worth a try.
Another historic holiday dessert is fruit cake which started as a fruit and nut bread with different versions of it around the globe and dating back as far as ancient times. Through the years honey and spice were added and it evolved into our beloved fruitcake. Making fruitcake is something of an art and can take anywhere from weeks to months to properly prepare. The key to a successful fruitcake is controlling moisture. This is not something I am ever likely to attempt, but if you have, please comment and let me know about it.
Figgy pudding is another grand traditional holiday dessert as in “Oh bring us some figgy pudding” as stated in the carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. It is thought to date back as far as the 16th century prepared in the same manner as Christmas pudding but it can also be boiled or baked. It’s beginnings included ingredients like crushed figs, currants, bread, and various spices and evolved into a sticky circular shaped dessert topped with a brown sugar based sauce.
In honor of English Christmas holiday desserts, Mincemeat Pie must be mentioned. According to Wikipedia, it’s origins date back to the 14th century when English crusaders returned from the Middle East with recipes that combined meat with fruit and spices and eventually lead to the creation of English Mutton pie. Today, many recipes only use beef suet or simple vegetable shortening. What wonderful dishes and completely unique to the United Kingdom. Just tasting them is like entering a transport hub to the great olden days of traditional England. Happy Holidays and “God bless us, everyone!”
Addendum: This is a recipe from a fellow blogger that has a special twist to it. It is a Polish style fruit cake made with tea. Absolutely splendid! I also included a link to another Christmas cake recipe that steps beyond the ordinary.