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One of the best parts of the holiday season is—let’s face it—the food. But for many Americans, eating certain holiday foods is more about tradition than satisfying one’s taste buds. As part of KSMU’s ongoing series, "Sense of Place," Jennifer Moore spent the morning with one Ozarks woman who decided to share her grandmother’s old Missouri recipe for plum pudding.
Bustling around her kitchen in Republic, Wilma Goddard reminisces about Christmas of 1998. It was her mother’s last Christmas. Goddard was expecting both her mother and uncle for Christmas dinner.
"She was in her latter 80s, and he was a year younger. And they were coming for Christmas. And I told them they each could have one thing that they remembered from Christmas that they really especially liked. And mother said she wanted the plum pudding," she says.
Lucky for us, Goddard agreed to show us how to make it. She pulls out an old yellow spiral notebook.
"This is Grandmother's recipe--and I'm not sure if this is her writing or my mothers. But it's for a Jell-o Plum Pudding, and they made it at Christmas time. And it was something that didn't need refrigeration after it was set up. We kept it on the screened-in back porch," she says.
Moore: So what are we gonna do first?
Goddard: Okay, we're going to put some raspberry jell-o in hot water.
TRACK: In goes one cup of hot water, one package of raspberry Jell-o mix—she says her grandmother used a similar gelling agent. Then there’s one half teaspoon of cinnamon and a fourth a teaspoon of ground cloves.
“This is the cinnamon…woops! We really have cinnamon.And then it’s three fourths of a cup of Grape-Nuts…"
In go the Grape-Nuts. Goddard says in the early days, her grandmother might have used a wheat cereal. Add a cold cup of water and pinch of salt if you like, and then, throw in the star ingredient:
GODDARD: Three-fourths cup chopped dried prunes. Sometimes they're called plums, but it's all the same. And then three-fourths a cup of raisins, and a full cup of chopped nuts, black walnuts--because that’s what she had, and that's what she used.
Lastly, the recipe calls for one-fourth cup of finely chopped citron. Goddard says since citron is hard to come by, you can use mixed candied fruit, like that found in fruitcake.
Goddard: Okay, I’ve mixed all of our ingredients in here, and I’m just going to refrigerate this.
The plum pudding is refrigerated overnight. It’s a beautiful pink color, with a crunchy texture. The pudding itself is not very sweet, but it’s served topped with whipped cream. Goddard remembers whipping by hand the cream from the dairy cows on her grandmother’s farm.
Goddard says ever since her mother requested the dessert on her final Christmas, the Plum Pudding has taken on a special importance.
"It was special to me, because Mom already had Alzheimer's. And it was hard for her to communicate and to remember. But she remembered old things best," she said.
Goddard estimates that her grandmother’s recipe for Plum Pudding dates back to the late 1800s or early 1900s.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.