Bailey Tries… Mince Pies, Christmas Pudding and Plum Pudding
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I love British and Canadian culture for a few reasons. First, my grandmother instilled a love of the silly and ridiculous British comedies that always played on PBS on Saturday nights and now, these characters and moments remind me of lovely moments with her. Second, I love the Victorians and the traditions they left behind for their modern counterparts. Many of the most iconic British holiday traditions got their true stamp of favor during Victoria’s reign. Finally, my love of Avonlea and PEI includes a love for their culture and food. Add these three reasons to a sheer curiosity about historic domestic life and you know I’d eventually come around to trying mince pies, Christmas pudding and plum pudding.
This culinary journey began with the historic mince pies because you can’t watch a British Christmas documentary without hearing their strange history. Mince pies are made with mince meat which in modern times has no meat at all but in the Tudor times it was actually a savory dish with just a hint of fruit or sugar added. This is because those ingredients were incredibly expensive so you would just hint at the excess during the festive season. As the cost of these ingredients went down more and more were added until the only hint of “meat” still included was traditionally beef suet. So, what did I think? They reminded me of a stronger flavored Fig Newton which I don’t mind at all. However, they are very different from the flavors that typically adorn an American table during the holidays. And I must say that the curious history nerd in me wants to make a Tudor version now just to see…
While searching out my mince pies, I was presented with the well loved Christmas pudding. There’s something so lovely and cozy about a beautiful cannonball shaped pudding covered in cream and brandy with a sprig of holly for decoration but if I’m honest the first thought that comes to mind when I think of a Christmas pudding is the episode of “Are You Being Served?” when they have the atrocious canteen Christmas lunch that includes a pudding and brandy that won’t light but then goes up in flames thanks to Mr. Mash. I’ve seen Christmas puddings made many times so the flavor wasn’t surprising and reminds me of a warmed up fruit cake. Basically, if you like fruit cake, you’ll most likely enjoy this Christmas treat. My brother found it vile and I thought it would be better suited for breakfast.
Finally, I just had to get a plum pudding because of my love for all things Green Gables. Who can forget the moment Anne had to confess that a mouse drowned in the plum pudding sauce because she had been daydreaming about being a nun headed to take her vows? Luckily, Anne’s courage found her and she was saved from watching her beloved Miss Stacey eat mouse sauce. I have to say that this was the most curious of the three to me because in the South at least, we don’t seem to cook with plums all that much outside of a preserve or two. To me, this wasn’t that different from the Christmas pudding… just a little less variety mixed in. Once again, very fruit cakey and definitely different from the American experience. Puddings are just not traditional for us outside of a good, old-fashioned, sticky bread pudding and personally there is nothing better but I’m glad my curiosity has been satisfied with these treats for now but just give me a bit and I promise I’ll find something new to try because I just want to know...
Brandy Butter (Amazon)
Mincemeat Pies (Amazon)