It was my mother’s custom to make Christmas pudding1 every year. The process started in October when she’d buy massive amounts of dried fruit, red wine and Jamaican white rum. From the basement she would lug bottles filled with old fruit and top them up with new fruit and liquour.
One year in August, the local WalMart had a clearance sale on dill pickles. My mom bought six (as much as she could load in the cart) gallon-size bottles of pickles. There was never any intention of eating the pickles. She just wanted the bottles to store her fruit.
Of course that was a bumper year for Christmas. We had gallons more fruit than my mother had capacity to make cake. Still, she baked what she would and continued to top up the jars with new fruit and wine.
When my mother died, I inherited it all. In her pantry I found jars and jars of black gold – luscious raisins and currants, syrupy sweet and plump with fragrant wine. Each jar was labeled in my mother’s neat script, noting the contents and year of last topping.
The Christmas cake of my childhood is a Jamaican style ‘black fruit cake.’ It is a steamed pudding, dense with fruit and candied peel and dredged in rum. Typically it was made in November and aged until Christmas, with frequent dousings of alcohol. Thin slices were served at every Christmas social and small, one or two pound cakes, exchanged as gifts. December was a month of excess and by New Year’s, there’d be stacks of pudding all over the kitchen table. In January I would have had enough. No more pudding, please! Ever.
Still, every year around this time, when Christmas preparations are at their peak, I feel nostalgic about Christmas pudding. I’ll check out the stock of my mother’s pickle jars and contemplate making cake. Last year I did make it.
This year, I realised too late that I had less than one cake’s supply. I scraped out what I could, washed the jar and topped it up with new fruit and wine.
Below my mother’s neat script, I wrote my own label.
I will make pudding next year.
Toronto, Canada. December 2019
1 A word on nomenclature. In Jamaican and British parlance ‘pudding’ is another name for cake or dessert in general. Hence Christmas cake & Christmas pudding is the same. In the US ‘pudding’ refers to a custardy, Jello type dessert. Christmas pudding is not that.
Today’s post is brought to you by: Friendly Friday’s Challenge: Christmas Preparations AND Lens Artists Photo: Nostalgia.