The Ladies' Tea Guild

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The new year approaches!

clipart from
Well, Christmas Day has come and gone, and I don't know about you, but I'm never ready for it to be over!  It's always a let-down to me, when all the preparation and holiday spirit is finished after one day; I much prefer the older tradition of 12 Days of Christmas!  It's not like there's not enough treats to last at least half that long, plus, I always run out of time to make all the things I wanted to make, and then I have the week between Christmas and New Year off from work, with some actual time to make things ... and no celebrations to make them for!  Thankfully, my family is spread out over the United States, and so we always end up having more than one Christmas celebration anyway, trying to see as many people as possible.  This year, I'm going to think of the whole time until January 4 (when I go back to work) as the Christmas season, still, and try to get in as much cooking and sewing as possible.

gluten-free Italian cuccidate.  Photo: Sierra Stearns.
I've made my Italian cuccidate and soft biscotti/giambelli, as well as some molasses spice cookies, and after Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we're almost out of cookies!  Time to make more.  I'll be making another batch of cuccidate, as well as a gluten-free/egg-free/cane sugar-free/cornstarch-free version for my aunt and cousin who will be arriving sometime tonight and who are on a very restricted diet.  I think I'll also try to punch up my gingerbread cake recipe; it's from my grandmother's cookbook from 1942 and has a wonderful fluffy texture, but it's very bland (wartime rationing!), and my mom talked about making a figgy pudding, too!  I have made one for my friends in the Victorian Christmas caroling group that I sing with every season (so that we know what we're talking about when we sing "Oh, bring us some figgy pudding"), and my parents said, "why don't we ever have figgy pudding?"  Well, it's not Italian ... and it's never been one of our family traditions ... but apart from boiling it for 4 hours (which is actually one of the shortest cooking times I've seen in a period recipe), it's not hard to make.

In looking through my historic recipes for the answer to a question posed in the comments on a YouTube video (about how old eggnog recipes are, on one of the 18th century cooking videos from James Townsend & Son -- highly recommended!) I found a series of Christmas recipes published in Godey's _Lady's Book_ from 1864.  Here is one that sounds doable in a modern kitchen:

A Very Nice Little Christmas Pudding for a Small Party, suitable to a young and happy pair who are just commencing housekeeping, are rather inexperienced, and can only invite three or four friends:

One ounce of candied lemon peel, one ounce of orange peel, six ounces of raisins, six ounces of currants, six ounces of best beef suet, six ounces of flour, 6 ounces of sugar, two eggs, a pint of milk, a small nutmeg, and a teaspoonful of salt. Stone the raisins, pick, wash, and dry the currants, chop the suet extremely fine, put them, with the lemon and orange-peel finely sliced, all together in your large dish for mixing, add the flour and sugar, and grate the nutmeg over all. Then beat up your eggs, and stir the milk gently into them. With this liquid wet all the other ingredients ; flour well a strong pudding-cloth, and, when you have thoroughly mixed your pudding materials, so that all is perfectly blended, and taking care not to make them too wet or to leave them too dry, put your pudding into the cloth, tie it tightly, and boil in a large pot four or five hours, taking care that the water boils ere the pudding is put in, and that it is kept on a quick boil during the whole time of cooking, and also that the pot is replenished with boiling water, as it frequently requires to be. 

Looks interesting, and not too huge!  Maybe I'll be able to make it! 


Bernideen said...

I love hearing the Christmas music will week! After all the preparations it would be sad to cut it off so quickly! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Oh yes, the Christmas music! I love the old carols. That's one reason why I love singing with the group of Victorian Christmas Carolers so much; we start rehearsing the music in October, so by the time Christmas arrives, I've been singing and hearing Christmas music for 2 months or more! But there are so many beautiful old carols that we don't sing, so I don't get tired of hearing it on the radio ...

Happy New Year, to you, to, Bernideen! And thank you for the Christmas card!

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)