Dear Barbara: I was watching a Christmas movie right before the holidays and they were talking about plum pudding. I’ve heard of it, of course, but what exactly is it? — Marilou from Lodi
Dear Marilou: Plum pudding was and is served in England. I don’t remember ever seeing it on a holiday menu here in the United States. Most of the English call it Christmas pudding now because it is usually made at the holidays.
Don’t let the name fool you; there are no plums in plum pudding! It has a lot of ingredients that a cake has, but people also add dried fruit, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, grated orange peel and whatever else they like. If you add too much fruit, it becomes a weird fruit cake.
It is not baked; plum pudding is steamed. You put the batter in a mold, or a small baking dish, and cover it with several layers of foil. Setting the mold in a larger pan, boiling water is poured in the larger pan until it reaches about half way up the mold. It is steamed over a very low heat for a long time. Four or five hours would not be unusual if you had a fairly large mold. If a fork is inserted in the pudding and it comes out clean, it’s done. Let it cool briefly and then refrigerate. Before you serve it, let it steam for about another hour so it is heated all the way through. There is usually some sweet sauce that is drizzled over the top.
Dear Barbara: I am to make two pies for a work potluck. Can I put them in the oven on different racks, or will one of the pies get done and the other won’t? — Kim from Lodi
Dear Kim: Some ovens are large enough to put both pies on the same rack. That would be ideal. If the oven is too small to do that, put one pie on each rack, but trade places with the pies about halfway through the cooking time. Move the bottom pie to the top rack and top pie to the bottom rack. By doing this, they should be done at the same time.
Dear Barbara: I have two sets of relatives visiting at different times but very close together. I was thinking about smoking a small side of salmon for appetizers. My idea was to cut the salmon in half before brining or smoking and use half for each group of visitors. How long can I keep the smoked salmon in the refrigerator? — Heather from Lodi
Dear Heather: If you are smoking it over direct heat, you can keep it five to eight days. If you are cold smoking the salmon by using just the smoke but no heat, the most you should keep it is one to two days.