Tomorrow night I am hosting a special dinner party — a 1906 Christmas Dinner in my 1888 home. My guests bid on this at a talent and time auction. I had decided most of the menu when I submitted the item for auction. However, I wasn’t sure about dessert. I decided early on that it had to be some sort of steamed pudding. Should I risk making something new or fall back on a tried and true recipe? I’ve decided to make Fruit Pudding tonight. If it turns out awful, well, I’ll have time to make something else. So here’s hoping that Mrs. J. H. Thompson of New York City knew her stuff and that this will be a great pudding recipe from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book.
This is the sort of recipe that doesn’t require any special mixing. All ingredients can simply be added in any order. However, it might be a good idea to mix the wet ingredients together and then the dry and add the various fruits to the dry ingredients before mixing everything together.
As usual I used the prepared beef suet available in the frozen food section of my local grocery store. Suet is a hard fat found around the kidneys. Some people know it as an ingredient in home-made treats for birds but it is also something humans can consume — most often in suet puddings. Suet is used for steamed pudding rather than lard, shortening or butter because it melts in a slightly different way apparently and seems to keep the puddings moist. I’m fortunate that I’ve had a tiny bit of experience with unpasteurized and unhomogenized milk so I’ve seen real sour milk. Pasteurized milk keeps longer so it doesn’t sour in the same way and it is also safer. I made my regular 2% milk sour by adding a teaspoon of vinegar to the cup of milk.
I added all the ingredients including the two ounces (two tablespoons) of peel and stirred well. I greased a pudding mold and spooned the mixture into it ensuring it was level. I put the covered mold into a pot of water and let it boil for 2 1/2 hours. When the time was up I removed the pudding mold and prepared to take a sample.
Mrs. J. H. Thompson has to remain a bit of a mystery. I have found the following J. H. Thompson in New York City in the 1905 New York State census. J. H. Thompson of Manhattan born 1875 turns out to be female, J. H. Thompson of Manhattan born 1840, J. H. Thompson of Manhattan also born 1875, plus John H. in the Bronx born 1852 in England. And yet I believe I have found the couple!!
John H. Thompson (age 53), born in England has a wife named Olive who was born in Canada along with their two daughters Olive and Kathleen. Their son John G. was born in the United States. John H. works as a railroad man while 46-year-old Olive is listed as a houseworker. The two daughters 22-year-old Olive and 20-year-old Kathleen are both teachers while John G is 16 and still at school. By the 1910 US census Olive is a widow. Her emigration date is listed as 1887. All three children are still living with her in the Bronx. I would like to find out more but access to this US census information requires paying a fee.
In order not to spoil the presentation of the pudding, I took a slice off the top of what will become the bottom when turned out of the mold tomorrow. The pudding is very moist and as expected has lots of raisins but the almonds are also noticeable. The recipe doesn’t include any spices and I debated adding some when mixing the ingredients. I decided to be true to the original recipe but my sample does lack spices. The pudding is very nice plain but I think it would be even better with some cinnamon or nutmeg added. It says I’m to serve it with hard sauce so I’ll make sure to put a bit of spice in the sauce. I hope my guests tomorrow will enjoy it too. My plan is to show it off flaming with a sprig of holly.
Mrs. J. H. Thompson, New York City
3 eggs, 1 cup sour milk, 2 cups of suet, 2 cups seeded raisins, 1 cup of currants, large spoon of black syrup, a pinch of salt, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 ounces mixed peels chopped fine, 1 teaspoonful baking soda, 1/2 cupful chopped almonds, 2 1/2 cupsful of flour; Put into pudding dish and steam from 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Serve with hard sauce.