Stirring up memories
Only on Christmas—traditions continue
December 17, 2003
is all about family traditions. Gloria
Coppinger shared some of hers with me.
Now I’ve asked Gloria to share them with you as my guest columnist.) Christmas
has always been my favorite season, as for many other people. Since I was an only child, and my
grandparents lived only twenty miles away, every Christmas while I was growing
up was spent in Donalsonville at “Grannie’s house.” [Grannie was Julia Bryant
Chandler.] For five years I was the
only young child, but after that, Mother’s brother had three sons. That made it more fun.
was always a big thing for our family.
Grannie’s kitchen was full of good things, and the aroma was
heavenly! I don’t recall having turkey
at Christmas, but we very likely did.
The meat I remember particularly was fresh pork ham—Grannie either
boiled it in an enormous pot, or she baked it in the oven of the wood stove. When it was almost done, she took it out,
trimmed off the skin, leaving a layer of fat on the top. Then she took her fire poker, which was a
piece of heavy flat metal with a handle formed on one end. The other end she put into the firebox of
the wood stove until it was red-hot, the she used it to score a diamond pattern
in the fat of the ham. She baked the
ham long enough to lightly brown it.
prize memory is her plum pudding, which we had every Christmas, but ONLY on
Christmas. She started several days
before “drying “ bread to make the breadcrumbs that her recipe called for. Before she actually started putting the mix
together, she had to peel and boil enough potatoes to make the cup of mashed
potatoes. She had to talk some butcher
into giving her suet (beef fat), which had to be grated or ground in her food
chopper. (My Daddy was a butcher, but
he didn’t grind suet in his sausage grinder!!)
After the plum pudding ingredients were mixed, Grannie very carefully
tied it all up in a clean cloth and dropped it into a big pot of boiling water
for about three hours.
she prepared a hard sauce of confectioner’s sugar, butter and a very small
amount of cream—there was no rum in Grannie’s hard sauce! When the plum pudding was taken out of its
big pot of water, it was kept warm until time to serve it. Then the string was cut, the cloth peeled
off, and the pudding cut.
are many questions I regret I didn’t ask Grannie, and where the plum pudding
recipe came from is at the top of the list!
It is unlike the ones you usually see.
It doesn’t have candied fruit and peels—only raisins, currants and dried
figs. My guess is that it may have been developed or altered after the Civil
War when Grannie’s family, like many others, was very poor.
its origin, it is a big part of our Christmas dinner still, and we all love
it. I have made the family’s plum
pudding ever since Grannie became unable to do it, and now my daughter, Barbara
Sontoro, helps. Hopefully, if I become
disabled, she will carry on!
though, we can use packaged breadcrumbs, instant mashed potato flakes and
pudding molds—which is a mixed blessing.
When I am scrubbing that greasy mold, I think it might be easier to peel
off a cloth and throw it away.
necessary food at our house at Christmas is cinnamon rolls. Grannie made these too, but they weren’t
reserved especially for Christmas. I’m
not sure how many generations of our family have made these rolls at Christmas,
but now my granddaughters help make them, so that is five generations.
Barbara and the girls don’t usually get here until very near Christmas Day, I
make the dough a day or so before they arrive, so that it is ready for Rebecca,
who is a senior at Brown University, and Claire, who is a junior at University
City High School in St. Louis, to form into cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls for
Rebecca started helping with the cinnamon rolls, Claire was so small that she
stood in a kitchen chair and pinched off pieces of the dough not yet rolled and
placed then in a greased muffin tin, four to a cup, to make the dinner rolls.
She still helps make the dinner rolls, and the cinnamon rolls, too. This is done on Christmas Eve. We do it in time to join the crowd at Willis
Park for carols with the Bainbridge British Brass Band. After that, we make quick visits to deliver
the cinnamon roll gifts to friends.
Then, usually we go to St. John’s Episcopal Church for their late
evening service. Of course, we hurry
home in time for Santa Claus to come.
family has shrunk, but our traditions remain the same and are important to each
Grannie Julia Chandler’s Plum Pudding
1 1/2 cup suet, grated
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup currants
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup figs
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup syrup
soda in a small amount of water. Mix
all ingredients. Tie in a cloth and
drop into boiling water. Simmer for 3
hours.* Serve hot, with hard sauce made of butter, confectioner’s
sugar and a little cream.
*Our changes for one
pudding mold: 1 cup suet, 2 1/3 cups
flour, 2/3 cup currents, 1 cup raisins, 1/3 cup figs, 1 1/3 cups bread crumbs,
2/3 cup sugar, 2/3 teaspoon cinnamon, 2.3 teaspoon allspice, 1/3 teaspoon salt,
1/3 teaspoon soda, 1/2 cup syrup. Since
we use a mold instead of dropping it into water in a cloth, we also add about ½
cup orange juice or other liquid.
you, Gloria for sharing your special Christmas. We’ll see you at the Christmas Carols in the park.
Do you have family
traditions to share?
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network