Monday, December 24, 2012

A time for Tradition

I hope you'll indulge me a little, in this post with no toy soldiers.

The end of the calendar year is laden with tradition. Some folks celebrate various holidays, while others choose not to, but regardless of how you do it, you probably have a few things you always do, because you've always done them.

My family celebrates Christmas (despite not being religious at all), and one of the things my Dad has always done is cook a Christmas pudding (or six). I remember one of dad's old friends coming over each year, and the two of them would spend a bit of time in the kitchen, then head down to the garage to boil the Christmas puddings in an old "copper". That would take time, so they'd amuse themselves with a few beers and a lot a chatting about all sorts of things.

In the end, we'd have a lot of traditional Christmas puddings. One would be consumed on Christmas Eve at the aforementioned friend's place (with his family), and another one or two at Christmas lunch with my Mum's whole family (when there was only one for lunch it was a real race to get a piece as they'd disappear in a flash).

Well, I've celebrated the last 10 Christmases in the US, 12,000 miles from my old family traditions. Well, almost all of them. Mum and Dad would send me a Christmas pudding each year. Sometimes after three weeks in the care of two countries postal systems I'd need to cut a bit of mould off the pudding before we could tuck in, but they were always great. I'd take it along to the Christmas Eve dinner with my wife's family, and share it around (although there has often been a distinct lack of good custard).

Anyway...


This year I thought I'd save my parents $50+ in postage (those puddings can weigh a tonne), and I decided to make my first Christmas pudding. The somewhat disgusting looking stuff in the bowl above is the batter. The ancient recipe my Mum sent through called for raisins, sultanas, and currants. Here in the US, all of these things are referred to as raisins (of some description) so I had to make a few compromises. In addition to loads of dried fruit (which is soaked for 24-hours in rum, for those interested) the ingredients list is nice and simple: flour, butter, eggs, bicarb soda, and some lemon peel.


After mixing the ingredients and pouring them into the center of the pudding cloth, it was all boiled for 4 hours. This shot is of the pudding once it has been removed from the pot and left to firm up completely. It hung like this overnight. I remember some years when there would be up to eight of these hanging from the ceiling of the garage for a week or more.


When it came time to cut it open on Christmas Eve dinner (actually held a few days early this year), I found that a few of my adjustments had worked, others needed a tweak, but it was well received by my wife's family.

Sometimes traditions are not good, sometimes they do more harm. We should seek to remove them from our lives, particularly if they hold us back or prevent growth.

But those traditions that are, at their core, about love and family and growth, should be cherished and evolved and spread. One of my cousins back in Australia also decided to try her hand this year (and apparently she was a little more successful than I was) so for the first time in more than 40 years, Dad could relax a bit during December, without the worry of shipping deadlines, or working out how many orbs of delicious pudding the clan would devour on Christmas Day.

The torch has been passed... although I have a sneaking suspicion he'll make one anyway, just for those late night snacks ; )

To all I wish you a happy and healthy end of year period, with plenty of "family", either the one you were born into or the ones you've met along the way!

Cheers
Dave

PS. Toy soldiers should be back in the next post ; )

26 comments:

  1. Well said, happy holidays Dave, enjoy the pudding!

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  2. Happy holidays Dave! Pudding means something different to me though. I had horrible visions of gooey gelatinous stuff sent overseas. I wish I were in essex. ;)

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    1. Had a fun conversation about pudding yesterday which kind of pointed out that American "pudding" would really be called jelly, or terrible custard, anywhere else in the world ; )

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  3. What, no recipe? Please share the love Dave!

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    1. Nah, you'll have to figure that one out for yourself. You have all the ingredients, now you just need the ratios ; )

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  4. A very good read and a really nice tradition. All the best to you and your loved ones!

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  5. My dad has got into puddings in the last few years too. As I type, he's freaking out getting the spatchcocks and stuffing ready to take to my sister's place. Merry American Xmas Dave!

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    1. Sounds good to me ; ) Will you be around in February? I'm bringing the clan over for a couple of weeks.

      Cheers
      Dave

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  6. Dave, good to hear that you're picking up the torch. In Scotland we call these 'clootie dumplings', named after the cloot (or cloth) that they're tied in. Two years ago my wife (Californian) managed to get my gran's recipe from my mum. Good times. We found veggie suet (in the US: possibly shortening) to replace that of her recipe. Nice work on yours - the skin looks terrific! Andy

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    1. Thanks mate, I'm very happy with how that skin turned out. I was a little worried when I pulled it from the pot, but after hanging for a day it started to look the part.

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  7. Dave: back there in 'Murica, we call it fruit cake, and they're a gag gift.

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    1. Nah mate, this is quite different to fruitcake. I've had fruitcake before, and ths ain't it ; )

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    2. You could be right Dave, but they both creep me the hell out - my inlaws down here in Tassie try to feed them to me.

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  8. Merry Christmas Dave! Hope you and your family have a great one! I totally understand abotu passing the torch on traditions, and My wife and I, with the boy being 5 in a couple weeks, have decided it's high time to bring some of ours back as well.

    Mind you, yours looks a might tastier than mine... recipe? ;)

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    1. Cheers Tim, I hope you and yours had a good one yesterday! And no, no recipe ; )

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  9. What a wonderful family Christmas message Dave. To my son's amusement we still set ours on fire with Brandy but we don't have sixpences in the pudding anymore.
    Merry Christmas,
    Pat.

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    1. We've never set one on fire, but I do remember hoping to find a sixpence when I was a kid, as that could be exchanged for 50 cents in new money ; )

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  10. A very nice post. It is always cool to learn about holiday traditions in "distant lands" :) Just out of curiousity, what is for dinner down under on Christmas day? Here turkey or ham, in the UK I believe it is goose, but I don't know about Oz.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, and I hope Santa was generous to all this year.

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    1. I don't know that there's a "standard" dish for Christmas in Australia. Many have the "traditional fare" from the old country (UK) but many also have seafood feasts on the beach, as it's the middle of summer. So you're really free depending on what your family wants to do.

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  11. Great post Dave, very much enjoyed as your pud no doubt was!

    I always look forward to my dads homemade turkey stuffing.

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