Plum Duff

plum duff

Normally I wouldn’t start a post off with a picture, but “Plum Duff” isn’t really going to tell you much all by itself. And the Wikipedia article will re-direct to “Spotted Dick” and then you’re REALLY going to need a picture. It’s a dessert, people. A lovely, delicious, traditional dessert created by people for whom the term “Spotted Dick” was a fond endearment.

For this recipe you’ll need a few specialty items. I always hate running across that in a recipe I perhaps haven’t read closely before starting out; “You’ll need a flugelhorn!”,  announces the author, brightly. “These days you can find one easily on Amazon!”.  So, advance warning, for this recipe you will need a pudding mold or basin with a lid or cover, a metal trivet to rest the mold on the bottom of a pot, either tall enough to enclose it, or close enough that a collar of aluminum foil will do the trick.

My Great Aunt Margaret’s Plum Duff

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups cooked prunes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons cold milk plum duff 1
  • Beat eggs well.
  • Dissolve brown sugar in hot, melted shortening and whisk in the eggs slowly, so they don’t cook.
  • Add cooked prunes that have been drained and mashed with fork*.
  • Sift flour and add. Dissolve soda in milk and add last.
  • Fill greased pudding mold 2/3 full, cover lightly and steam one hour over rack in large cooking pot.
  • * This used to be a very messy process – cutting the prunes with a sharp pair of sewing scissors, cooking and then mashing the results. Now we can throw the cooked, drained fruit in the cuisinart and have done with it.

    Now mix in the prunes, add the flour. . .

    plum duff 2

    And spoon the whole mess into the greased pudding mold. Now would be a good time to mention that the pudding is going to be a solid mass in the bottom of this mold after you’ve cooked it and allowed it to cool. It will look like it is solidly glued in there, but no – set the pan in very hot water for a few minutes and then invert over a plate. It should fall right out – if not feel free to repeat the process. It’s not like this stuff is fragile.

    plum duff 4To the left in this photo is my aluminum trivet, useful for keeping the mold off the bottom of the pot. It is stamped “1820 Cincinnati” on the bottom, so hey – an antique! I expect modern trivets would work just as well. Also, please ignore the Goya Black Bean Soup can. I’m not making anything from this product placement – the can was there for our supper of huevos rancheros later on that night.

    I didn’t think I had a photo of the pot with its aluminum collar, but here it is. Evidently I’d thought I’d blog my recipe for huevos rancheros, because there’s all the fixin’s, but thought the better of it. Everybody already has a favorite recipe for those.  But waaayyy in the back there you can see how to make your stew pot a steamer for your pudding mold.

    plum duff 5Steam the pudding at a low to moderate temperature for about an hour. You shouldn’t be able to hear it boiling madly, and check about half way through to see that the water level still comes close to 3/4 of the way up the mold.Add more hot (from the tap) water if you’re getting low. The temperature may drop below simmer for a minute but it’s not going to bother your Duff.

    Cool the pudding in the mold overnight in a cool place, then unmold it and decorate for the season. I used horehound, lavender and geranium because this is Thanksgiving and you can never tell when someone is going to eat the garnish – better to make it all edible.

    Now go check out all the interesting steamed dishes out there, like The Bitten Word’s Persimmon Cake (which they did w/o a pudding mold).

    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup melted vegetable shortening
    1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    2 cups cooked prunes
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    2 tablespoons cold milk
    1. Beat eggs well.
    2. Dissolve brown sugar in hot, melted shortening and add to eggs.
    3. Add cooked prunes that have been drained and mashed with fork.
    4. Sift flour and add. Dissolve soda in milk and add last.
    5. Fill greased pudding molds 2/3 full, cover lightly and steam one hour over rack in large cooking pot.
    6. Serve hot with Rum Sauce or whipped crea

    2 large eggs

    1/2 cup melted vegetable shortening

    1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

    2 cups cooked prunes

    1 cup all-purpose flour

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    2 tablespoons cold milk

    1. Beat eggs well.

    2. Dissolve brown sugar in hot, melted shortening and add to eggs.

    3. Add cooked prunes that have been drained and mashed with fork.

    4. Sift flour and add. Dissolve soda in milk and add last.

    5. Fill greased pudding molds 2/3 full, cover lightly and steam one hour over rack in large cooking pot.

    6. Serve hot with Rum Sauce or whipped cream.

    1. m.

    Our Hardy Ancestors, cont.

    fishing group coloradoFour generations go fishing. It sounds like the product of a random sentence generator.

    Why do I have a dozen pictures of us fishing? We probably went all of twice – to a beautiful resevoir where Frank and Wat often fished under the bright Colorado sky. We baited hooks  with orange roe that glowed like jewelry and got my fingers all sticky. After a long day we took  home a damp canvas bag of small brown trout.

    If you actually catch a fish you will need to read  pages 56 through 58 of the Institute Cookbook, where an extremely thorough description of cleaning, drawing, scaling and disemboweling your fish may be had, so there is no need of us repeating that here. Seriously, this is the only cookbook in my collection that uses the word “putrification” four times in one paragraph. And I had to look up “ptomaines” at Wikipedia. Now we will ignore your gutted fish, resting on it’s plank of ice in the cellar (to avoid tainting the butter in the icebox), and have a nice recipe for deviled crab that requires “cracker dust” instead.  Remember, as you read this, that the crabs being fried for 10 minutes at the end of this recipe have been boiled for half an hour at the beginning and then cooked “over a hot fire” for a little while longer.

    6 crabs, 1 hard-boiled egg, 4 Tbs butter, ground nutmeg, 1/2 C heavy cream, salt and cayenne, 1/4 tsp sweet marjoram, cracker dust

    Put the crabs into hot water, add salt and boil for thirty minutes. Cut the meat into small pieces, add the hard-boiled egg, cream, butter and seasoning and cook for a few minutes over a hot fire, thickening the mixture with cracker dust. Fill the shells, dip them in the raw egg, beaten, then in cracker dust; place in a hot oven or drop into boiling fat and fry until deep brown.

    Don’t try this at home.

    Our Hardy Ancestors II

    twin-lakes-68

    You know what all these guys had in common? (Well, besides a gene pool and a fish dinner.)  They all liked cake. And, they all liked bacon. These “Hardy Ancestors” posts are dedicated to recipes that had their best days a lifetime ago, with my great-grandfather (an HA if there ever was one)  at the far left on the sofa. Days when food was abundant if you didn’t mind the lack of variety, and work was hard and long enough that you didn’t. And then there was dessert.

    My father liked a “planned dessert”. I don’t think my mother had ever heard of such a thing growing up, but it was an ongoing topic of discussion at the dinner table all their married lives. A planned dessert implied something thought out and prepared long before the meal: apple pie, butterscotch layer cake or bread pudding studded with raisins and served with hard sauce. The category did not include ice cream, store-bought cookies or instant pudding. Occasionally there would be a recipe that would satisfy both husband and wife – the perfect blend of yin and yang for ingredients, formality and ease of preparation. I give you:

    Cinnamon Bacon Sponge

    1 egg, beaten, 1/2 C sugar, 1/2 C molasses, 1/4 C melted bacon fat, 1/2 C boiling water

    1 tsp soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 and 1/8 C flour (a heaping cup)

    Mix the bacon fat with the boiling water. Stir, and when slightly cooled add the egg and sugars. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Place into a greased 8 x 8 pan an bake 35 to 40 minutes at 350. Serve with whipped cream.

    I like to add chopped apples or raisins, and I use the pan drippings from our best pepper bacon for extra kick. Bon appetit!

    Röschti

    Röschti is Swiss peasant food; a potato cake as big as your favorite cast iron pan. It is the perfect late summer comfort food, wholesome and nourishing, utilizing the first waxy new potatoes and fresh herbs without ever turning on the oven. Actually, it’s 66 degrees out there at 10:15 p.m. EST so turning on the oven doesn’t sound so bad at the moment.

    I’m going to come right out and tell you, first off, that this is only how I make  Röschti.  Do a little research and you’ll find hundreds of variations – add mushrooms, peppers, sour cream or eggs, serve with scrambled eggs, cook crumbled bacon in the pan to start, boil the potatoes first or not, bake it or steam it – a potato cake by any other name, etc.

    Use the best potatoes you can find. This is a wonderful dish made with Grade A fresh potatoes, and a very mediocre one made with shriveled refugees from the root cellar.

    3 lbs (or thereabout) tasty, waxy, smooth, heavy, lustrous potatoes. You think I’m kidding but I’m not. Today I used Yukon Gold, fresh from the potato bunker and, yes, they met the standard.

    1 stick butter (you might not use all of it, time will tell)

    2 Tbs olive or vegetable oil

    1/4 C fresh herbs (I use flat leaved parsley and chives, but the sky’s the limit here.)

    1/2 C grated  Gruyere or whatever you like. Use more if your potatoes are dry.

    Sea salt, fresh ground pepper

    rosti-prepCut the potatoes into manageable pieces and boil them until JUST tender. Don’t over cook. Cool for four hours or overnight.

    HAH. I know you’re not going to do that, or perhaps I’m reflecting, because I never do. I have a day job. So drain the hot, hot potatoes and use a clean pot holder to hold the pieces against a nice old four sided grater over a plate. Mine is old enough and sharp enough that I get an annual tetanus shot, just for using it.

    This is going to wreck your pot holder, so consider investing in one of those new-fangled silicone items that would just rinse clean instead of getting potato all over the rest of your laundry.

    Grate about 1/3 of the potato and dump it in a bowl.  Add some cheese, herbs, salt and pepper. Alternating the layers makes it easier to mix the ingredients without squashing the delicate potato shavings, like this. Repeat until all the ingredients are together.

    rosti-mixHeat a cast iron or nonstick (eww) skillet with deep sides and add the olive oil, 3 Tbs butter (no fear). Dump the mixture in and press it down with a spatula or potato masher.

    Now, the whole point of  Röschti is the deep gold crust. This is achieved by cooking over a medium low heat for 12 minutes or so per side. Don’t chicken out, and don’t make this dish for company your first time out (long story).  When you think the first side is done, loosen the sides with your spatula. Take a heavy plate just slightly larger than your pan and, using pot holders, flip the  out on to the plate. I like to turn off the burner while I do this (long story).

    Check your crust. Is it brown and crispy? Would it make your Swiss ancestor (we’ve all got one, they got around) proud? If not, don’t worry, you can flip it again after we do the other side.

    Clean the crusty bits out of the pan (you can cheat and place it back on the cake – I won’t tell). Add 2 more Tbs of butter and turn the burner back on. Pick the plate up and slide the cake back down into the pan. Go make salad or something.

    Repeat the above after 12 minutes. If the crust is acceptable on both sides, simply keep it on the plate and serve in wedges. My personal favorite is to serve with a large green salad and Campari and soda all around. And blueberry pie for dessert.

    I meant to get a picture of the finished dish, but by the time I got the camera together, this is what it looked like. Sigh.

    rosti-finish