Hoosier Christmas Pudding

“Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
Christmas is a time for puddings rather than pies.  Christmas puddings remind us of Mrs. Cratchit and her great effort.  These kind of puddings are meant for special feasts. And indeed, my Hoosier Christmas Pudding, while not stirred in a pan as a traditional American pudding would be nor steamed in a bag as Mrs. Cratchit’s would have been, does take special preparation.
An hour away from your turkey or main meat being done is the time to make this Hoosier Christmas Pudding. The last hour of the turkey is when you start putting it together so you can pop it in the oven when the turkey is ready to come out and rest. 
Making this pudding is something I have missed for the last couple for years as I couldn’t get out to get it. So I substituted mincemeat pie. But this pudding is something that I grew up with in Southern Indiana and which folks here are very familiar: Persimmon pudding. My grandmother was the one who taught me how to make it. And it’s only the persimmons here, the American variety which are small and more intense in flavor, that will make the best pudding. 
 
I’ve only recently learned that possums love them.  We’ve had a bit of recently trouble with this predator, so maybe I’ve got a persimmon tree  (Instructions here on how to process persimmons from a tree) that’s popped here that I don’t know about. That would be wonderful as I haven’t harvested and processed persimmons on my own for some time. I had a neighbor once when I lived in Indy who let me harvest around her tree.  And that was fantastic! Nowadays, you have to scour the local orchards for some in their freezer.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have your own persimmon tree, Dillman farms and Wagon Wheel Custom Meats are two commercial outlets from Indiana who also carry persimmon pulp.
They say persimmons are the sweetest after the first frost but any time in November even as late as the beginning of winter is the time to harvest these treasures.  Just “field test them” for sweetness. Persimmons are either ripe and sweet or they are worse than a lemon for making you pucker from their sourness.
This is my grandmother’s recipe and it’s a rich and sumptuous concoction, worthy of a special feast.  So sweet it can be eaten entirely alone.  But if you must add something, plain milk or a nice custard sauce compliments this pudding.

INGREDIENTS

2 cup persimmon pulp
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 fresh duck eggs (or large eggs), beaten
1 tsp. soda
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 stick butter
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder

DIRECTIONS

Since you’ll be popping this in after your turkey is done, just turn the oven down 25 degrees from 350 to 325.
In a large bowl, beat the pulp, brown and white sugar, and eggs until thoroughly blended.  In a smaller bowl, add the soda to the buttermilk and stir until the foaming stops.  Blend into pulp mixture, then add in flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the the evaporated milk.
Melt the butter in a 13x9x2 baking pan, swirl the butter to coat pan and then pour the rest of the butter into the batter stirring well. Pour the batter into the pan and bake about 45 minutes, until set. Stick a clean knife in the center and if it remains clean when pulled out, its done.
The pudding will have risen slightly when you pull it from the oven.  But it should fall on its own to the level of a brownie.  That’s when it’s ready to serve.  If serving warm, serve with milk.  If serving after its been cooled, serve as is or with a custard sauce.
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