Today, I taught Trapolin to make a steamed pudding. He was a great help doing the holiday baking, he”s been bugging me to learn and well we could use some comfort food around here, this week.
Puddings in their simplest form were a peasant food. Not everyone could afford an oven, but most people could come up with a fire and a pot. A black pudding was a medieval delicacy enjoyed when an animal had been recently slaughtered. The blood of the animal was mixed with cereal and spices and then stuffed in the intestines and boiled until it thickened, because the poor didn”t waste food. Technically haggis was a pudding, and probably prepared long before it was first published in MacIvers Cookery in 1773.
By the 17th century, these puddings had evolved to include a few more ingredients. Special bags were used for boiling the puddings and they might be main dishes or deserts. Pease porridge was a pudding according to food historian, Alan Davidson which “consisted only of pease, and a little flavouring: sugar and pepper, and sometimes mint, were commonly used.” The mixture was then put in a pudding bag and boiled in some water with the bacon it was to be served with. Eventually, the recipes evolved into the lovely desert I spent my afternoon making but for a good long time they were sustenance food. And here is where I will digress for a moment…
There is a comparison to be made between herbalism and steamed puddings. In its peasant form the practice of using healing herbs was simple self-care. Terribly poor people likely gathered their herbs, while people with a cottage garden might have grown wormwood along side some “caboges.” The cures were employed by people who could neither read nor write and didn’t have enough money to pay the village healer. It was these simple methods passed down through the generations which kept the poorest classes alive, not herbalists. Like pudding recipes, that concept evolved over the years.
The modern practice of herbalism, which finds its roots in the diagnostic methods utilized by Greek medicine, Chinese medicine or Ayurveda, belonged to the upper classes and learned people who could read the ancient texts and write new information down. Even the still-room books and the receipt books of the past were kept by the wealthy families and as such are not representative of the simple cures the peasants likely used, however they do illustrate the fact that every person had some common sense notion of how to deal with injuries and disease. The occasional entry credited as having come from the country folk, give us a bit of insight as to what their cures looked like, but for the most part many of the ingredients used in receipt books were beyond the financial means of the poor.
Today we have an unprecedented situation in which more people have access to the written word than ever before in history, yet we are more wildly dependent on “learned” experts than ever before. Few people have even given a thought to self-care, even though the means to do so in an almost “kingly” manner (by medieval standards) is less financially prohibitive than at any time in history-kind of like the ingredients for my pudding.
As I alluded to the other day, I started to learn herbalism because I have this deeply ingrained independent streak that will never be content to accept the limitations of the situation above. Of course I had to, as is customary for me as well, take it to extremes. It is also why teaching appeals to me, not because I want to be the “learned” expert imparting my wisdom, but because I want to make sure that every person who wants to learn has the chance to do so. If I pursue my masters, it will be with that goal in mind. And yes, these are the thoughts racing through my head today while I taught Trapolin to make a steamed pudding, so I will now return to that train of thought.
If you’ve never steamed a pudding, take a look a this video. Now you do needa small pan to use as a basin. I found mine at a thrift store likely because someone had no idea what they are. The only ones I could find on amazon were fancy things with lids and were quite expensive, you don”t need one of those. Any small baking pan or ceramic bowl will do. The capacity should be about four and one-half cups. Even a one pound coffee can will work.
Pecan-Maple Pudding with Custard Sauce
175 grams of softened butter
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp ground pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
175 grams golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
150 grams self-rising flour*
25 grams ground pecans
2 tbsp milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, mace or allspice whichever you prefer
Grease your mold with some butter. Now whisk together the maple syrup, tbsp of pecans and the vanilla. Pour them in the basin and tilt the pan around until the mixture coats the inside of the bowl. Mix together the butter and the sugar. Then beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the flour and pecans. Then beat in the milk. I have heard that this flour is a decent gluten-free self rising flour, or you can make your own. Spoon this batter into the mold and then wrap it up according to the video, I posted above. Put a large soup pot on with water in it and a smaller glass bowl inverted for the mold to sit on. (Alternately if you have a canner and a rack, you can flip the rack upside down in the canner.) Fill the pot until the water is half-way up your mold and turn on the heat. Bring to a bowl and steam for about an hour and a half. Insert a cake tester in the middle and it should come out clean. Invert the pudding on a serving plate, spoon a bit of custard over it and sprinkle it with nuts.
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
Heat the milk in the saucepan until it steams and mix 1/2 cup into your egg yolks. Stir this mixture back into the saucepan and stir briskly until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla. If clumps form, don’t worry on it just strain the sauce through a fine sieve. Eventually you will get the hang of it.
2 cups flour
3 tsp teaspoons baking powder
Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999