But I'm digressing here; what I'm getting at is that I have read an awful lot of older Canadian cookbooks, and I know all the usual inhabitants therein. This is one of them. In fact, this one shows up in the 1877 Canadian Home Cookbook, and it was still showing up in cookbooks published in the 1960's, although by then it was presented more as a historical curiosity than as something many people would want to make. CULINARY LANDMARKS had 25 pudding recipes. This was 3 of them. (The editing in CULINARY LANDMARKS was absolutely classic: there wasn't any.) The thing is though, the recipe survived that long for a reason - it's pretty darn good. It's not quite as rich and complex as a Christmas plum pudding, but it's fairly similar and some people would say that it being a little lighter is a good thing.
Here's one version of the original recipe:
"1 Cup brown sugar, 1 cup suit, chopped fine, 1 cup raw potatoes, grated, 1 cup raw carrots, grated, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup currants, 1 teaspoon soda sifted in flour, 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and cloves, flour to make a stiff batter. Steam 3 hours. "
Most of the versions I've seen vary a little from each other, but this is fairly typical. Mrs Hawkins, by the way, does not mean that you should start shredding your navy pinstripe; she means that you should use the fat found around the kidneys of cattle, or as it is also known, suet.
I've made some changes, of course, and I don't just mean elaborating the instructions. The first thing I did was to ditch the suet. Good suet is hard to find, and frankly I'm not sure why you would want to. It's noticably solid at anything lower than steam-bath temperature, and I've heard some pretty astringent commentary about how it sticks to the teeth, and leaves a long-lasting tacky film on them. This is not from some namby-pamby modern eater such as myself, but from my Great-Aunt, who as someone who grew up in the large, poorish, rural household of a clergyman, was accustomed to eating what was put in front of her and liking it. She didn't care for suet though, and I can't say I blame her. A plain vegetable oil works just fine. I also add a grated apple, which is something that showed up in later versions of this pudding.
2 hours 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
I made this pudding at the same time as I made Boston Brown Bread, and so my steamer was quite full. I could not get the lid on, with items on both tiers of the steamer, so I sealed it as best as I could with foil, which worked very well.
1 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 cup flour (I used half buckwheat and half brown rice)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I used rye crackers)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup raisins
1 cup grated carrot (1 medium-large)
1 cup grated apple (1 large)
1 cup grated potato (1 medium)
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
Butter a 6 cup pudding mold, or 3 500-ml wide mouth canning jars.
Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Peel the carrot and grate it. Wash and grate the apple to the core. Wash and grate the potato. Add these to the dry ingredients with the oil. Let the mixture sit for 15 or 20 minutes.
Divide the mixture equally between the canning jars, or press it gently but firmly into the single mold. Cover the mold or jars with parchment paper and foil, and hold it in place with string, or the outer rings for the jars. Put the puddings into a large steamer with water coming halfway up jars. If the steamer does not have a lid, seal the top with foil.
Bring to a boil and boil for 2 hours. Check regularly and top up the water with more boiling water if it is needed. (The water level can drop, but don't let your pot boil dry - disaster!)
These kinds of puddings are often made in advance and re-heated. I find the microwave best for that; otherwise you are essentially re-steaming them for another hour to get them hot through to the middle, whereas 5 minutes in the microwave should do it, at least for the smaller ones. However, unlike traditional plum puddings, this was meant to be eaten promptly. Because of the use of fresh vegetables, it will not have the keeping qualities of plum pudding.
Serve the pudding with a pudding sauce - my favourite is hard sauce, which is basically a butter cream icing made with lots of booze - or with custard.