Flaming cousin pudding

As a child I remember traveling to my grandparents’ immense house in the woods. They were my father’s parents and were already in their 60s when I was born. These were hearty folks who had lived through the Depression and were fairly frugal. Along this line, their home was kept at around 60 degrees as a rule and the only really warm place was in front of the fireplace.

Now, this was not your ordinary fireplace but one that took a 3- to 4-foot log. To ward off the cold, I remember standing close to the fire and alternately heating my front and back. After awhile, that was boring so my sisters and I would heat up our backside until it was so hot we couldn’t stand any more heat, then we’d streak through the house and lay on the Persian rugs that quickly absorbed the heat.

After dinner our family would prepare for the Christmas pudding. We’d go around the house and turn out all the lights, the last set being the Christmas tree lights.

My father, who had been preparing the pudding by setting three sugar cubes and about eight ounces of 151 proof rum on it, would ask that the last light be extinguished as he put a long wooden match to the pudding. As the light went out, a wonderful cool blue flame could be seen engulfing the pudding.

My father would then use a long steel spoon to scoop up the rum off the plate and pour it over the pudding. This was done until the three cubes of sugar had been consumed, which usually meant having to add more rum to the fire when it ran low. After the flaming, the lights were slowly turned back on and the pudding was cut and served with a brown sugar sauce that tasted like penuche fudge that was still in liquid form. As a child, the rum was too strong, but that sauce was to die for.

When I turned 16, I took over the flaming responsibilities and, other than catching the tablecloth on fire and burning the eyebrows off my 5-year-old cousin when he got too close, it has been a lot of fun. I await each new year anticipating the bluish glow that reminds me of simpler times, when all I really had to care about was which side to heat first.

Christmas Pudding

1# moist sugar
1# raisins
1# currants
1# dates
1 nutmeg
1 tsp soda
1/2# flour
1# chopped kidney suet
1/4# lemon peel
1/2# walnuts
6 eggs – beat well
1/2 glass rum
1/2# dry breadcrumbs

Boil 6 hours in a floured pudding cloth that has first been dipped in coldwater. Let hang for 28 days then re-boil for 3 hours in the water saved fromthe first boiling. Place on large plate suitable for flaming, place 3 cubesof sugar on pudding, then pour 6 ounces of 151 proof rum over the top andlight. Spoon rum over pudding until the sugar is gone. Cut and serve with abrown sugar sauce. This recipe was brought from Newcastle upon Tyne by mygreat, great, great, grandmother.